In late November 2016, archeologists discovered small bone fragments and several gravestones below the worksite’s soil. Construction was immediately halted. PARD staff informed City leadership of the discovery, including District 1 Council Member Ora Houston.
Built in 1914, the chapel was constructed in a racially segregated section of the cemetery. This section has no formal platting and few remaining grave markers. All construction remains halted at this time. Archeologists currently estimate burials at 25 locations within the Chapel's footprint.
See a graphic handout of the site conditions here.
The City recognizes the significance of this discovery and the importance of working closely with the community to move forward in a dignified manner. Council Member Houston’s office, together with the PARD project team, plans to share information about the findings and discuss possibilities for the burials and construction project.
A draft report was developed by PARD in advance of the public meeting on April 11, and PARD collected additional feedback on the content and recommendation of the report for a 10-day period through April 21.
The final draft of 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. The report includes all submitted public feedback, and is available here:
PARD plans to initiate a parallel public process to develop appropriate means of interpretation and commemoration for all discovered burials at the project site. This process will work closely with representatives of the communities most thought to be impacted. To share feedback or submit questions, please use the contact information below:
The Oakwood Cemetery Chapel was constructed in 1914 by Austin architect, Charles Page. It sits within the 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 will complete a full rehabilitation of this historically significant structure.
Rehabilitation of the Chapel will include:
Structural stabilization of foundation
Surface drainage improvements
ADA access improvements
Rehabilitation of single unisex restroom
Mechanical, electrical, lighting overhaul
Restoration of interior and exterior finishes, including doors, windows, masonry, roof, plaster, etc.
Once restored, the building will be programmed in conjunction by PARD’s Cemetery Operations and History, Arts and Nature Divisions as recommended by the COA Historic Cemeteries Master Plan.
Construction drawings for the Chapel
Construction work on the Chapel will not affect pedestrian or vehicle access into the Cemetery, however, the limits of construction in the vicinity of the building will be cordoned off with fencing.