December 26, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

In 1979, the second Webster Presbyterian Church had seen better days. The first church building only lasted four years and was detroyed by a hurrican in 1900.  Though this sturdy structure had fared much better, the congregation had grown and constucted a new building in 1960.  Now in disrepair, ministry leaders were planning to tear the old church down.  The church needed a savior, a dynamic and forceful hero who could remove obstacles and make things happen. Things like moving the church to a new property, turning it into a museum, and financing its upkeep with an annual fundraising festival.

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The nearly forgotten hero of this story, Maggie DeNike, died in 2003 at the age of 92. Through her efforts, the old Webster Presbyterian was transformed into the Bay Area Museum.  The old church was purchased from Webster Presbyterian, cut into two peices, and carefully moved 6.5 miles down Nasa Road 1.  One side was restored with church pews and new stained glass.  The other remained as a stage, and flexible meeting space.  DeNike convinced Harris County commissioners to accept the building as a museum representing the history of the Bay Area, including significant events in the US space program under NASA.

Now located within the Harris County Clear Lake Park, the old church structure serves as welcoming events center and has become a popular location for weddings. DeNike helped start the Lunar Rendezvous Festival. This annual event is held each Spring and has grown to include number of activities and sponsorship opportunities. The Bay Area Museum continues to receive major funding from the event.

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The old Webster Presbyterian Church sometime before the move and after the 1940 addition.

Visiting the property 36 years later, I was impressed with the upkeep. A tended garden around the building adds to the quality of the location. Compared to the more recent Bay Area Community Center, a hulking brick structure adjacent to the site, the Museum is appealing and intimate. The move and restoration appear to have made no compromise with the historic details. Though I was curious about the central tower.

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Historic images on the Webster Presbyterian Church’s website provide more information. I looks like the tower in the middle used to be a tower on the side. A major addition in 1940 mirrored the original chapel to form a fellowship hall. Together, the two spaces serve as a community meeting venue. And it does appear to be an ideal place for a very intimate wedding.

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Webster Presbyterian Church in 1901, prior to damage to the steeple in 1908.

Bay Area Museum, Located in Clear Lake Park at 5000 NASA Road 1 in Seabrook, Texas

Adaptive Re-use/ Preservation / Adaptive Reuse/ Historic Preservation