As if Houston’s iconic Third Ward isn’t historic enough, one of its oldest institutions was recently designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.
Boynton Chapel Methodist Church (2812 Milby St., Houston, 77004), founded in 1880, has been designated as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, the most significant distinction the state can bestow upon a historic building.
“We are so excited to share with the community and with our family, friends and other stakeholders and partners that in August Boynton received the Recorded Texas Historical Landmark based on the architectural and historical significance of Boynton,” said Pastor Linda Davis who has been leading Boynton for the last seven years. “This is one of the highest landmarks you can receive. There are only 85 or 86 organizations in the Houston area that have received this particular landmark designation.
Davis and the Boynton congregation received much-appreciated help in the process.
Walker Shores, a University of Houston student volunteer who has since graduated, helped Boynton Chapel obtain City of Houston Protected Landmark status in 2021. Sam Osemwingie, another UH graduate, helped Preservation Houston make the church a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.
Davis is a second-career pastor, with a background in labor and employment law. Before accepting her calling, Davis served as a legal administrator opening up law firms throughout the U.S. for labor and employment law firm boutiques.
“I always knew that God called me to ministry but didn’t know in what capacity,” said Davis, who served in a number of roles for her home church in Detroit, including as a youth ministry and women’s ministry director. She was also appointed associate pastor, a role she fulfilled while working full-time at a law firm.
“I then ended up going to seminary. Once I completed seminary, I started pastoring full-time.”
And Boynton and its surrounding community have been the better for it.
Not only has Davis become a respected community leader and change agent, and chair of the Emancipation Economic Development Council’s Faith in Action Workgroup, she has steered Boynton to becoming a powerhouse in providing much-needed services to people in Third Ward and beyond.
In 2019 and 2022, Boynton partnered with three other Methodist churches in the Third Ward community and the Texas Dental Association to bring a free dental care clinic to Emancipation Park.
“We transformed the park into a dental clinic where we had 80 dentists that participated and over 600 volunteers from all across the city. And we served over 547 people with free dental care that first year receiving in-kind donations of almost $600,000,” said Davis.
For the past three years, Boynton has also run an afterschool program at nearby Blackshire Elementary School, providing free music lessons to pre-school – fifth grade scholars.
The designation is not merely a nice feather in the cap of the church, placing Boynton in the state’s permanent recorded history, it offers the fellowship accept to funding and other perks that can be difficult for non-governmental organizations like churches to access.
“Number one, it means that our church has the opportunity to receive some state tax credit via a program that’s been around for many years that I knew nothing about, when you have a historical building. Number two, it opens up doors for historical buildings to receive grant funding from different organizations, whether they’re state or federal entities. And it really helps a lot by having this marker so that you can receive that grant funding,” shared Davis.
The church also has another intersection with history. Boynton’s current structure, built in 1957 and opened in 1958, was designed by a history maker in his own right, the late John Chase, Texas’first licensed Black architect. This is important because a building’s landmark status stems not only from its age but also its architecture, design team and overall congregational story.
“It’s just so encouraging to know that we are still looking at Mr. Chase’s history and his legacy so many years later,” added Davis, who will gladly run down the long list of city, state and national change agents who called Boynton their spiritual home, including the legendary Christia Adair, a voting rights and civil rights advocate; Madgelean “Mama” Bush, a civic figure who oversaw Third Ward’s Martin Luther King Jr. Center; and Dr. Forde B. McWilliams, one of the state’s first Black veterinarians.