Bethel Baptist Church in Houston

Photo of Bethel Baptist Church in Houston, Texas
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz
Photo of Bethel Baptist Church in Houston, Texas
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz

Bethel Baptist Church

801 Andrews Street, Houston, Texas, Montrose 77019
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Located in one of Houston’s rougher, but rapidly improving neighborhoods still in the shadow of downtown, most people never saw this building because of the weeds that grew up around it. The church was on an abandoned yet stately on a street so dilapidated that the cobblestones were visible through beneath the decades-old asphalt. The people who have lived in this neighborhood all their lives sometimes sleep outside on the porch in summer because their clapboard shacks lack air conditioning which would merely seep out through the holes in the walls and roofs if they had it.

Once a place of worship, Bethel Baptist Church offered refuge to feral cats, flocks of birds, and the occasional junkie before being burned down in early 2005. Though entering was taking your life in your own hands, it was often admired from the outside. The church stood tall and proud offering surprisingly little sidewalk space for a building of its time. Much of the stained glass was in tact until the fire, though the roof was not.

Originally constructed near the Freedmantown district, established as a haven for former slaves. The fire came as the area was being redeveloped as town homes and fake loft buildings.

Quick Facts
    > Bethel Baptist Church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
    > 1889 - The original Bethel Baptist Church is erected.
    > 1900 - The "Great Storm" that killed six thousand people in Galveston knocks down the original church.
    > 1997 - The last church service is held in this building.
    > July, 1999 - KHOU Television (channel 11 and 31) reports that Bethel Baptist Church may be torn down. Engineers have determined it will take $100,000.00 to save the building, and local church groups don’t have that kind of money.
    > January 24, 2005 - The church burns to the ground. The fire is ruled arson. Older residents claim that developers paid someone to burn it down so the land could be developed into more townhomes. But KHWB Television (Channels 38 and 39) reports that the fire was set by a homeless squatter.
    > February 4, 2005 - The man police say is responsible for burning down the church is arrested in a drug bust just yards away.
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