Three years after breaking ground, Emancipation Park in Houston’s Third Ward is set to re-open in January.
The historic park, located at 3018 Dowling Street, was founded by former slaves in 1872. They originally purchased the land for $800 so they could have a place to celebrate Juneteenth.
One of the founders was Reverend Jack Yates. His great-granddaughter, Jacqueline Bostic, still lives in Houston.
“The total cost was not a lot of money for us today, but it was to them,” Bostic said. “It was the only park African-Americans could go to in the City of Houston once it became a city park.”
A lot has changed in the area since then.
Some historic homes have now been replaced by modern townhomes. Soon, the historic park will boast state-of-the-art facilities.
People who live in the area say the progress is good, as long as Third Ward doesn’t lose its character in the process.
“There’s a lot of change. We’re trying to work together so we reap the benefits of that change without any detrimental effects to the long-term residents, and we want to preserve the history and culture of the neighborhood,” said Edward Pettitt, a Third Ward resident and member of the Emancipation Economic Development Council.
The new-and-improved Emancipation Park will have a community center, recreation center, swimming pool, picnic area, baseball field, tennis court, basketball court, play area, performance space and visitor center.
But most importantly, it will be a gathering place for neighbors -- old and new.
“We can hardly wait for it to open. Even though for years it may not have been utilized by the full community. Hopefully they can understand that working together, they’re able to produce a park where everyone in the City of Houston will be able to enjoy,” Bostic said. “Certainly the community should be proud of its park now that it’s being brought up to standards.”
A non-profit, called the Emancipation Park Conservancy, will maintain the park once it opens.
A rededication ceremony will be held at the park on Nov. 12, followed by a grand re-opening in January.