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Archaeological Assessment, Including Mechanical Subsurface Testing, of the Gillette Tract, Houston, Harris County, Texas
Texas Historical Commission
On behalf of Alliance Realty Partners, LLC (Alliance), CRP/AR Gillette Owner, LP, CRP/AR Gillette Venture, LLC, Maxwell Real Estate Group, Inc., the City of Houston, Texas, and Coastal Water Authority, SWCA Environmental Consultants (SWCA) conducted archaeological investigations to confirm the presence/absence of unmarked graves or other cultural resources within the Gillette Tract in Houston, Harris County, Texas. The investigation was conducted in support of Alliance’s compliance with the Texas Health and Safety Code Section 711 and the Texas Administrative Code (TAC) Title 13, Texas Historical Commission (THC) Chapter 22 Cemeteries (13 TAC §§22.1–22.6). All investigations were conducted in accordance with THC standards, the Antiquities Code of Texas, and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) (16 United States Code [USC] 470) and its implementing regulations. Work was conducted under Texas Antiquities Permit No. 7122.
Alliance seeks to purchase and potentially develop the 10.5-acre Gillette Tract from the City of Houston and Coastal Water Authority. The tract is located near the intersection of Allen Parkway and Gillette Street in Houston, Harris County, Texas. Prior to purchase of the Gillette Tract, Alliance was informed of the potential for unmarked graves along the eastern edge of the tract, adjacent to the former Allen Parkway Village (APV). Previous investigations of APV, in the vicinity of the former Third New City Cemetery, identified numerous burials in an area immediately east of the Gillette Tract. As such, Alliance contracted with SWCA to determine the presence or absence of unmarked burials or other cultural remains within the 0.5-acre study area of the Gillette Tract, immediately west of the previously identified APV burials.
SWCA’s investigations included background archaeological literature and records review and a review of the property history, in addition to a mechanical subsurface investigation within the 0.5-acre study area. The study area is bound by San Felipe Park to the north, the established property line to the east, the historic high bank of a former gully to the west, and to the south of the established southern boundary of the former Third New City Cemetery. The northern 2.5-acre portion of the Gillette Tract (formerly San Felipe Park) was previously surveyed by Moore Archaeological Consultants and no unmarked burials or other cultural remains were identified.
Since the late 1830s/early 1840s, the Gillette Tract has evidenced significant alteration. Much of the tract was originally occupied by a gully, the high edges of which were mined as a source of clay for a nearby brick works in the late-nineteenth to early-twentieth century. The gully was eventually filled with debris and rubble from the City of Houston waste incinerator in the 1920s to the 1940s. In the early- to midtwentieth century, the southeastern corner of the tract along West Dallas Street, between Bailey and Wilson Streets, as well as the northern 2.5 acres, was developed for residential use. In the mid- to latetwentieth century, residential structures on the tract were demolished and City of Houston services, including a motor pool and filling stations, occupied much of the tract. The 2.5 acres to the north was developed into a city park (San Felipe Park) and the southeastern corner was converted to a paved lot.
Overall, the current investigation documented significant alterations to the ground surface resulting from the long history of development within the tract. The field investigation found no evidence of graves, grave shafts, grave goods, or other cultural materials or features associated with the Third New City Cemetery within the study area. Based on the negative findings of the current investigation, it is SWCA’s opinion that the potential for unmarked graves on the Gillette Tract is negligible. Further, without limiting the prior conclusion, it is SWCA’s opinion that the potential for the occurrence of significant, intact archaeological deposits within the 10.5-acre Gillette Tract is negligible.
It is important to note, however, that no method of archaeological testing is considered adequate to ensure the identification of all potential cultural resources that may exist in a given area. In the event of any unanticipated discoveries during development, specifically the identification of human remains or related grave goods, all construction should immediately cease and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the Harris County Medical Examiner, and the THC be notified to inform them of the discovery.
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