St. Paul’s gift to the city — the Bankston Green — that also honors our retired senior minister, Dr. L. James (Jim) Bankston, and his wife Sandy, will be dedicated on Sunday, September 14. The service will be held at 12:15 p.m. on the Green at the corner of Main Street and Binz, across the street from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
This project has been designated to receive the Landmark Award in the 30th Annual Mayor’s Proud Partners program of Keep Houston Beautiful. Additionally, St. Paul's is a member of the Museum Park Neighborhood, whose "Museum Park Blooms" project has been recognized with an Honorable Mention.
As sited by architect Alfred C. Finn, the sanctuary allowed for a “front yard” on the corner of Main Street and Binz/Bissonnet. Over the years that yard has been used in various ways as the surrounding properties were developed.
In the summer of 2011, a labyrinth was installed on the yard to provide a place for spiritual seekers to walk in prayer and meditation. Modeled after the 13th-century labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral, this path is used by modern day pilgrims seeking guidance and centering in their lives. Coinciding with this development, the church also established a Museum Walk Task Force to work with surrounding organizations to integrate with the overall plans for the Museum Walk/University Crossing/Main Street Project. As plans were coming to fruition, the then-senior minister of 19 years announced his retirement; thus the space was named the Bankston Green in honor of him, Rev. Dr. James L. (Jim) Bankston, and his family.
With wheelchair access, wider walkways, seating, seasonal shade, and enhanced lighting, the Bankston Green has transformed St. Paul’s “front yard” into a space even more inviting for the spiritual seeker as well as Museum District tourist. This beautiful, accessible urban park tied into the city’s Museum Walk provides opportunities for reflection on a busy corner of the St. Paul’s campus and the city – where an estimated 1.5 million visitors traverse annually.
In addition, flood prevention was improved with the installation of a 24-inch retaining line.
Planning committee members were Dottie Burge, Camille Cunningham, Vic Driscoll, Judy Leatherwood Smith, Sherry and Roy Ogburn, Karen Peck, Dick Rentz, Richard Spaw, Rev. Tommy Williams, and Rev. Gail Williford. Merriman Holt, represented by Jim Powell, was the architect, W.S. Bellows the contractor, and SWA Group the landscape architects.