Emancipation Park (Houston)

Coordinates: 29°44′09″N 95°21′55″W / 29.73583°N 95.36528°W / 29.73583; -95.36528
Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Emancipation Park and Emancipation Community Center are located at 3018 Emancipation Ave in the Third Ward area of Houston.[1] It is the oldest park in Houston,[2] and the oldest in Texas.[3] In portions of the Jim Crow period it was the sole public park in the area available to African-Americans.[4]


In 1872, Richard Allen, Richard Brock, Jack Yates, and Elias Dibble together bought 10 acres (4.0 ha) of parkland with $800 ($19542.22 in 2013 inflation-adjusted dollars).[5] The men, led by Yates, were members of the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church and the Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church.[6] They did this to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States.[7] As the owners lacked funds to keep the park open year-round, it was originally solely used for Juneteenth celebrations.[8] The park received its current name in 1872.[9]

The City of Houston received the park in 1916 as part of a donation;[4] the city converted it into a municipal park in 1918.[5] From 1922 to 1940 it was Houston's sole park for African-Americans, since the city government had declared its parks racially segregated in 1922.[10] Many concerts, musical performances, and Juneteenth celebrations were held in Emancipation Park.[6]

During this period, the park constructed a recreation center, swimming pool, and bathhouse, designed by prominent Houston architect William Ward Watkin. The buildings have been used for after-school and summer programs for children, community meetings, and classes for youth and adults.[11]

The park fell into disrepair in the 1970s after wealthier blacks left the Third Ward during the integration process.[12] By 2007 it had stopped hosting Juneteenth celebrations.[13]

In 2006, Carol Parrott Blue and Bill Milligan, natives of the Third Ward, formed "Friends of Emancipation Park" in order to revitalize the park.[14] The board was established in March 2007. On November 7, 2007 the Houston City Council declared the park a historic landmark after it voted unanimously to do so.[15] Carol Alvarado introduced the resolution.[16]

In 2011, the city government planned to establish a capital campaign to install new facilities at the park. It spent $2 million in its own money and secured $4 million in funding from the local government corporation OST/Almeda Corridors Redevelopment Authority as well as $1 million in funding from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.[17] In 2012, Mayor of Houston Annise Parker made requests for donations in order to secure additional funding.[18] The renovation project had a cost of $33 million. Groundbreaking occurred on Saturday, October 26, 2013.[5]

In 2016, the City of Houston Planning Commission passed a resolution to have Dowling Avenue, a street bordering Emancipation Park named after Confederate soldier Richard W. Dowling, renamed to Emancipation Avenue.[19] In January 2017, Houston City Council voted unanimously to legally designate Emancipation Avenue.[20]

In 2017, $33.6 million worth of renovations and new developments were completed to modernize the park.[21] Also, Juneteenth and other black-centric celebrations were brought back to the park.[22]

In 2019 it became a UNESCO Slave Route Project site.[23]


The community center includes an indoor gymnasium, a weight room, and meeting rooms. The park has an outdoor basketball pavilion, lighted sports fields, lighted tennis courts, a swimming pool, a playground, and picnic areas.[24]

A swimming and recreation complex with an attached bathhouse was built in 1938 and 1939. William Ward Watkin designed the structure.[4] The basketball court was added in the 1970s.[5]

The 2010s renovated facilities were designed by a North Carolina black architect, Phil Freelon. Mimi Swartz of Texas Monthly described him as "arguably" the "most prominent" American black architect.[3] The new facilities include a playground, a swimming pool, and a performance hall.[3]

There is a historical marker that was dedicated in 2009.[25]


  • Blue, Carroll Parrott. "Emancipation is a Park" (PDF). Houston History Magazine. 9 (3): 15–19.

Reference notes

  1. ^ "communitylist1.gif Archived 2007-03-03 at the Wayback Machine." City of Houston. Retrieved on April 13, 2009.
  2. ^ Blue, p. 18.
  3. ^ a b c Swartz, Mimi (October 2015). "Green Acres". Texas Monthly. Retrieved 2017-03-04.
  4. ^ a b c "Third Ward's Emancipation Park designated historic landmark". Chron. Hearst. 14 November 2007. Archived from the original on 2 March 2017. Retrieved 9 July 2022.
  5. ^ a b c d "Emancipation Park to receive $33 million renovation". Chron. 28 October 2013. Archived from the original on 2 March 2017. Retrieved 9 July 2022.
  6. ^ a b Wood, Roger. Down in Houston: Bayou City Blues. University of Texas Press. ISBN 0292786638, 9780292786639. p. 82.
  7. ^ Turner, Allan. "UH exhibit focuses on Third Ward history, people." Houston Chronicle. March 23, 2011. Retrieved on March 24, 2011.
  8. ^ Blue, p. 15-16.
  9. ^ Blue, p. 15.
  10. ^ "Emancipation Park WRITTEN HISTORICAL AND DESCRIPTIVE DATA." Library of Congress. Retrieved on March 3, 2017. p. 8 of 11.
  11. ^ "Houston City Council Meeting Agenda, November 7, 2007" (PDF). City of Houston. p. 98/246. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  12. ^ Gray, Lisa (2013-11-01). "Friends of Emancipation Park hope renovation revitalizes neighborhood". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2017-03-04.
  13. ^ "Emancipation Park No Longer Home to Juneteenth Celebrations". Houston Chronicle. 2007-06-18. Retrieved 2017-03-03.
  14. ^ Blue, p. 17.
  15. ^ Friedburg, Jennifer (2007-11-19). "Emancipation Park designated a protected historic landmark". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2017-03-02.
  16. ^ "Houston City Council Meeting Agenda, November 7, 2007" (PDF). City of Houston. p. 4/246. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  17. ^ Moran, Chris (2011-09-21). "Big plans for Emancipation Park". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2017-03-03.
  18. ^ Moran, Chris (2012-06-19). "Mayor will seek donations to make over Emancipation Park". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2017-03-03.
  19. ^ Begley, Dug (2016-10-28). "City planners approve ditching Dowling Street for Emancipation Avenue". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2017-03-03.
  20. ^ Kinney, Morgan (July 18, 2017). "What Happens When You Change a Street Name?". Houstonia.
  21. ^ "Community celebrates $33.6M makeover of Houston's Emancipation Park". 17 June 2017.
  22. ^ Hardy, Michael (17 June 2017). "In Houston, an Original Juneteenth Celebration Site Reborn". The New York Times.
  23. ^ Rice, Jen (2019-05-09). "7 Houston Landmarks Earn United Nations Historical Designation". Houston Public Media. Retrieved 2019-05-11.
  24. ^ "Emancipation Community Center." City of Houston. Retrieved on April 13, 2009.
  25. ^ Gonzales, J.R. (2009-06-22). "Marker dedication at Emancipation Park". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2020-06-09.

Further reading


External links

29°44′09″N 95°21′55″W / 29.73583°N 95.36528°W / 29.73583; -95.36528