Members of historic Black church demolished by city want $70K ‘demolition lien’ dropped

“They charged the church for knocking the church down.”

HOUSTON – Members of a historic African-American church that was demolished by the city of Houston nearly 13 years ago are hoping they can convince the city to cancel a large debt connected to that demolition.

Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church was established in 1915 in the heart of Freedmen’s Town.

In 1940, the pastor and congregants built a new church at the intersection of Ruthven and Valentine streets.

When bricks began falling from the structure in May 2008, city of Houston inspectors deemed it unsafe and demolished it.

“They did not give us a chance to try to fix it. Physically it hurt, it was just like seeing a part of you destroyed,” said longtime member and church trustee Lue Ammon Williams.

Williams said the city then issued a lien on the property.

“They charged the church for knocking the church down,” she said.

That bill is now more than $70,000, money the church doesn’t have.

“The church didn’t do anything seriously wrong and for the city to impose tens of thousands of dollars in liens makes no sense. What the city should be doing is investing not punishing,” said attorney David Kahne, who is working with the church along with the Rutherford B. H. Yates Museum.

A fundraising flyer asks Mayor Turner to “correct the error of (a) past administration.”

Bill White was mayor of Houston at the time of the demolition. The city did not release any information regarding the lien when asked by KPRC 2 on Wednesday.

“Please remove the lien. With God’s help we are going to rebuild. We don’t know what all we will have to go through but with God’s help our plans are to rebuild the church again,” Williams said.

Donations can be mailed to: Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church PO Box 130422, Houston, Texas 77219-0422.

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