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Arts & Culture

San Antonians Can Now Share Their Ideas For Historic Downtown AME Church Site

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Bri Kirkham
/
Texas Public Radio
Construction of the San Pedro Creek Culture Park hit a snag last year when unearthed building foundations, including the remains of the St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church, which dates back to the 1870s.

Members of the public can now share their thoughts on what to do with a historic church in downtown San Antonio. That site sits just south of Houston Street where it crosses San Pedro Creek. The San Pedro Creek Culture Park — a 2.2 mile, 4-phase linear park — hit a snag last year when construction unearthed building foundations abutting the creek project. Work was stopped to ascertain exactly what had been found.

The foundations revealed several buildings with different iterations: a soap factory, Alamo Ice Company, Alamo Brewing Company and the remains of the St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church, which dates back to the 1870s.

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Bri Kirkham
The St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church dates back to the 1870s. The church was also the founding institution of the first African American school in San Antonio.

Deborah Omowale Jarmon of the San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum said preservation of the site is important for several reasons.

“African Americans, first of all, we're just not (only) on the East Side of San Antonio. Additionally, St. James is the second oldest African church here in San Antonio,” Jarmon said.

San Antonio’s East Side is considered the place with the city’s most obvious Black roots, but the church is west of downtown.

“To give people a sense of we were here, we have been here. That's important. St. James was also the founding institution of the first African American school in San Antonio,” Jarmon said.

She also cited particular difficulties that African Americans here have in finding their roots.

“And that is one of the challenges with the history of people of color. Because we didn’t have the resources to write our own histories, so much of it was passed down orally,” Jarmon said. “And so now we’re having to recreate that so that there is a sense of purpose, to the community, to our children, to our children’s children.”

Development of the site was put on hold until it could be decided how best to proceed. There will be two virtual meetings to gather public input by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Thursday, Feb. 4 and Tuesday, Feb. 16.

People can also submit ideas in writing to DLL-CESWF-SPCIPComments@usace.army.mil until March 8. More information can be found here.

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