The historic Oakwood Cemetery Chapel was constructed in 1914 to function as a mortuary chapel. Designed by Austin architect, Charles Page, the historic Gothic-revival chapel is located within Oakwood Cemetery, a City of Austin Historic Landmark, registered Historic Texas Cemetery, and National Register of Historic Places site. In the subsequent 103 years since its construction, the historic building suffered from uneven foundation settlement and deferred maintenance. Funded under the 2012 GO Bond funding for Cemeteries and the Historic Preservation Fund, PARD rehabilitated the building for use as a visitor’s center and space for memorial services. The chapel reopened in 2018 and is programmed by PARD’s Museums & Cultural Divisions in partnership with the Cemetery Operations Division as recommended by the Historic Cemeteries Master Plan.

View Oakwood Cemetery Archeological Monitoring and Exhumation (Vol. 1) & Bio-Archeological Report (Vol. 2) (PDF, 14MB)

Oakwood Cemetery Chapel: Community Engagement Report (PDF) 

All Together Here: A Community Symposium for Discovery and Remembrance Press Release (PDF)  

"All Together Here," a community symposium

Day 1: Discovery
October 9, 2020, 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Day 2: Remembrance
October 10, 2020, noon to 5 p.m.

View Symposium website for more information

Oakwood Chapel image after rehabilitation and restoration

Project Description

Rehabilitation of the Chapel was completed in August 2018. The project included:

Structural stabilization of foundation Surface drainage improvements ADA site access improvements, including creation of one parking space behind Chapel and new sidewalk

 

The Chapel now hosts programming under the Museums and Cultural Programs Division as recommended by the Cemeteries Master Plan. View more information on current programming here.

Oakwood Chapel construction drawings

  • Rehabilitation of single unisex restroom
  • Mechanical, electrical, lighting overhaul
  • Restoration of interior and exterior finishes, including doors, windows, masonry, roof, plaster, etc.

 

Archeological Process Background Information

In 2016, during the rehabilitation of the Oakwood Cemetery Chapel, archeologists monitoring construction discovered human remains below where the chapel was built. Careful exhumation of these rediscovered individuals proceeded, and, under the Antiquities permit obtained by the Texas Historical Commission, the remains were transferred to bio-archeologists at Texas State University. The Texas State University burial context was provided by a non‐invasive analysis of the physical remains, which often provides demographic data, including race and ethnicity, gender and approximate age. In some cases, physical remains can also inform about cause of death and aspects of lifestyle, such as physical health, levels of nutrition or stresses endured. Further, artifacts may reveal aspects of material culture and possibly the cultural significance for those buried in this section. The process does not provide information about the individual identities of the people who were discovered.

The analysis of the remains, which date to the mid to late 1800s, is complete and the report is below. The report was developed by the archeological contractor for the Oakwood Chapel project, Hicks & Company Environmental/Archeological Consultants, and their sub-consultant, the Forensic Anthropology at Texas State University. The reports were also reviewed by the Texas Historical Commission.

Volume 1: Oakwood Cemetery Archeological Monitoring and Exhumation Report (PDF, 13 MB) Volume 2: Oakwood Cemetery Bio-archeological Report (PDF, 1 MB)

Next Steps in Archeological Process and Community Connection

Reinterment

The next step in the process will be the reinterment of the burials within Oakwood Cemetery. PARD has executed a contract with Weston Solutions and their subconsultant, Amaterra Environmental, Inc., to provide professional archeological services associated with the next phase of work, which includes reinterment, community and educational outreach, and memorialization. While the timeline will likely be delayed due the COVID-19 public health emergency, PARD and the consulting team will work to identify areas in the vicinity of the chapel for the re-interment of remains as recommended by stakeholders in the 2017 community engagement process. PARD will communicate the reinterment plan to City Council and cemetery stakeholders.

Commemoration and Remembrance

Following the reinterment, PARD will undertake a number of activities related to public outreach and commemoration. Some activities may be constrained due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. These activities include:

"All Together Here" An educational symposium (October 9 and 10, 2020) for the public to further explore the lives of the people who have been rediscovered and reinterred. The symposium will allow community members to hear from expert archeological and bio-archeological professionals to provide context for the findings and allow for community conversations about future commemoration and interpretation.

Remembrance ceremony to honor the individuals who were rediscovered and reinterred in Oakwood Cemetery.

Permanent memorial that explains the exhumation and reinterment and honors the individuals who were rediscovered in this process. Gravestones and interpretive markers will be erected to interpret the graves of those reinterred as well as the unmarked burials that were located during the process but were able to stay in place.

Digital exhibit interpreting the findings will be developed for display at Oakwood Cemetery Chapel.

- Interpretive plan for the historic “Colored Grounds” as recommended in the Historic Cemeteries Master Plan. The report that will be derived from this process will help inform the opportunities to better honor and interpret this historically significant section of the cemetery.

The commemorative process offers an opportunity for reflection about a past injustice while honoring the people who were rediscovered during the Chapel rehabilitation.

Additional Information Regarding Archeological Process

Mar. 6, 2017: Memorandum to May and City Council (PDF)

Mar. 25, 2017: Community Meeting: Presentation at Community Meeting and Community Comments (PDFs)

Apr. 27, 2017: Oakwood Chapel Rehabilitation Project and Archeological Investigation Staff Report and Recommendation for Discovered Burials (Apr. 27, 2017) (PDF)

May 1, 2017: Memorandum sent to Mayor and City Council (PDF)

Dec. 13, 2019: Memorandum sent to Mayor and City Council (PDF)

Feb. 5, 2020: Memoranda sent to Historic Landmark Commission, African American Resource Advisory Council, Human Rights Commission, and Parks and Recreation Board (PDFs)

May 14, 2020: Memoranda regarding release of final reports sent to Mayor and City Council, Historic Landmark Commission, African American Resource Advisory, and Human Rights Commission (PDFs)

Oct. 9-10, 2020: "All Together Here" Community Symposium

Oakwood Chapel Ribbon cutting from August 24, 2018 with Mayor Pro Tem Tovo, Council Member Ora Houston, and PARD Director Kimberly McNeeley