Civil War cemetery not found on HISD property (updated)
Remember that little uproar last year about HISD building new school buildings on land that supposedly contained a Civil War-era cemetery?
Well, that didn't pan out:
HISD hopes to soon begin construction of the new Gregory-Lincoln Education Center for about 750 students after an extensive archeological study found no graves on the site.
The largest archeological effort in Texas history to focus on an African-American urban community turned up “no solid evidence of a cemetery or human remains” at the 4th Ward site. HISD is asking the Texas Historical Commission for permission to go ahead with the long-planned construction of the school in the wake of the archeological study of the area between Saulnier, Gray, Taft and Genesee streets.
HISD hired archeologists who collected oral histories and conducted ground penetrating radar searches of the area. The firm of Hicks & Company, under the guidance of African-American archeological expert Dr. Fred McGhee, spent a month digging 55 trenches and test units over 10 city blocks in search of graves and other artifacts. Reports from the community had suggested there might be a Civil War era cemetery in the area.
None of archeological work found any solid evidence of a cemetery or graves. Although a number of historical features were found that “will help enrich the story of the community during the early part of the twentieth century,” the trenching “did not uncover any archeological remains that warrant further archeological investigation or that are eligible as a State Archeological Landmark,” according to the preliminary report from Hicks & Company.
UPDATE: Jason Spencer has the story for the Chronicle and he notes that funding for the new school is uncertain right now:
Archaeologists have found no evidence of a Civil War-era cemetery for freed slaves on the Fourth Ward site for the new High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, but financial problems might doom the construction project anyway.
A nonprofit group called HSPVA Friends signed a contract with the Houston Independent School District in 2003, agreeing to pay $15 million of the $30 million cost. So far, HISD officials said, the group has raised little money.
"To the best of my knowledge, they haven't raised any money of any significance," said Richard Lindsay, HISD's senior project executive. Lindsay told school board members the controversy over the school site crippled the group's fundraising efforts.
Jerome Simon, a member of the HSPVA Friends board, didn't dispute Lindsay's assessment.
He said it's too early to tell whether the group will be able to come up with the $15 million.
UPDATE 2: An emailer notes that there is more than one school to be built on the land. HISD has the money for the school it is building -- the Gregory-Lincoln Education Center. It's the The HSPVA project that is still uncertain, depending on HSPVA's ability to raise the funds to match HISD's contribution. Thanks for the clarification!