Historic church reduced to rubble

May 17, 2008 5:21:35 AM PDT
What was a historic landmark to some and a nuisance to others is now a pile of rubble this morning. PHOTOS: See images of damage

Demolition crews have finished tearing down Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church in Houston's Fourth Ward. The city ordered what had been a vacant building to be torn down after one of its brick walls collapsed Friday morning.

Dozens of people gathered to watch. Some were there to see decades of memories come crashing down.

Ironically, plans were underway to renovate the 89-year-old building. For weeks, there were reports of bricks falling from the church building. Friday morning, the walls gave way. Debris spilled onto the streets. For a lot of the neighbors, the collapse was only a matter of time and on Friday, time ran out.

"The church has gotten worse and worse through the years because I've taken pictures every year to take the appraisal district to show them this is my neighborhood. Why are you shooting my taxes up?" said neighbor Carmen Laffey. "And I've won every year."

For all the disrepair, underneath it is a rich history. Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church was founded in 1919. By virtue of that and being in a historic district, it had national register status.

"I do find it very, very sad because we're losing a piece of our history," said congregation member Lou Williams. "It's the building that our ancestors built with their bare hands."

The church had been vacant for some time. The congregation was worshipping elsewhere until renovation grants could be obtained.

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