Digital Solution for Preservation Sake

An historic but unused church in the Heights might be saved from the wrecking ball. Preservationists hope to convince owners of the property that the sanctuary could be converted into something that generates income. Pat Hernandez has the story.

Immanuel Lutheran Church on Courtlandt Street in the Heights was built in 1932. It was replaced by a newer structure about 30-years later.  Ken Bakenhus was baptized there and now serves as president of the church's governing body.

"Well, the facility has been vacant for over  twenty years and, we haven't used it anything more than storage during that time and, it's actually been on the books as far as the church records to be demolished for over twenty years. It's just been one thing after another over that time period that's kept us from demolishing it, whether it be financial reasons, or somebody requested look into possible uses for it."

He says the Gothic structure will likely be torn down next summer unless feasible plans to save it are proposed.

David Bush:  "You kind of have to come inside to really appreciate it. Its an impressive building outside, but when get in here with the beams, and the light coming through the stained glass, you can see what it could be."

David Bush is with the Houston Preservation Alliance. He says there is genuine interest in preserving the structure.

"People from the Heights Association who have been involved, people in the neighborhood are  really very concerned about the building. Its not just the congregation, it does impact the whole neighborhood."

But the church's Ken Bakenhus says any presentation must be substantial.

"I can't even speculate what may come up, because people have talked about all kinds of things, whether it be art museums, or use it for receptions, recitals. You know, there's possibilities there, but it's gonna be tough getting it past the voters and the financial aspect of it. The hardest part to face is the money."

In the meantime the structure is being preserved through the use of High Definition Scanning Documentation. Richard Lasater is president of Smart GeoMetrics, which documents cultural and historical sites all over the  world.

"If unfortunately, they end up tearing it down, then it will be a very highly detailed, accurate record of the building, and where it was located, and how it fit into its surroundings."

PH: "And if, whoever's gonna own  this in the end, this documentation, they could probably use it, maybe to build another one, exact scale, or what?"

Lasater: "It's actually true. If its you know, five years from now, or five hundred years from now, you can build  almost an exact duplicate of what was here."

You can see the process used by Smart GeoMetrics at their website at www.smartmm.com.

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Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...