Constructed in 1875, Antioch Missionary Baptist Church is among Houston’s first brick structures built and owned by African Americans. Located in the historic Fourth Ward section of downtown (known as Freedman’s Town following the Emancipation Proclamation), the church is surrounded by high-rise development at a busy intersection. In the 1980s, SWA Group led by James Reeves, as part of the firm’s work at the adjacent Allen Center, developed designs for the triangular 1.8-acre parcel lying to the east of the church. Funded and maintained by Century Development Corporation as a public park, the parcel was donated to the City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department at the end of the decade.
Providing relief from the nearby streets, an elevated lawn is bounded on two sides by rows of mature evergreens spaced at generous intervals. At the park’s center, a circular granite monument commemorates the significance of the site. Facing the church, the west side of the elevated lawn steps down to a paved plaza via a terraced, concentric pattern of alternating concrete seat walls, perennial plantings, and lawn. Retaining walls extend from the seating elements to the adjacent sidewalks, terminating on axis with circular planting beds. Informal groves of live oak add to the play of light and shadow in the park. Scattered memorial plantings, custom fencing, and a shaded parking area complete the design. The church was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, and SWA Group received the American Society of Landscape Architects’ Merit Award in the Design category for Antioch Park in 1986.