The Oakwood Cemetery was established as a city cemetery in 1839. The Oakwood Cemetery Chapel was created 75 years later for funeral and memorial services on site. The cemetery is evidence of change, and over time the Chapel fell into disrepair. After an award winning cemetery master plan was approved in 2015, bond money funded the historic building's restoration and preservation. The Chapel was completed in 2018.
The Oakwood Cemetery Chapel was constructed in 1914 by Austin architect, Charles Page. It sits within Oakwood Cemetery, a City of Austin Historic Landmark, a registered Historic Texas Cemetery, and a National Register of Historic Places site. In the subsequent 100+ years since its construction, the building has suffered from uneven foundation settlement and deferred maintenance. Under the 2012 GO Bond funding for Cemeteries, PARD completed a full rehabilitation of this historically significant structure.
An Unexpected Discovery
During the rehabilitation of the Chapel, it was discovered that the Chapel had been constructed over grave sites. The City of Austin reached out to the community for their response, and worked with archaeologists to examine the site. The staff report includes a departmental recommendation to exhume, reinter and memorialize as many of the discovered burials as possible in close proximity to the Oakwood Chapel, each to be identified with individual grave monumentation.
There will be a reinterment and community memorial service in the future when the bio-archaeology report is complete, as well as a detailed digital exhibit by the Oakwood Chapel.
Jennifer Chenoweth, Museum Site Coordinator