Cemetery Swap: Emanu-El Gives Land to Ex-Slaves

Love Field concession deals, the wet/dry petition, and a certain tense zoning battle weren’t the only things on the City Council’s agenda on Wednesday. No. 18 on the addendum was an item abandoning 10,581 square feet of unused Campbell Street (just west of Central Expressway off Cavalry Street) to Temple Emanu-El in exchange for the dedication to the city of more than six times as much land a few yards away.

What’s Temple Emanu-El doing swapping small parcels of Uptown real estate with the city? The temple wants the abandoned stub of Campbell Street for the adjacent Emanu-El Cemetery, which was established in 1884 and inters many famous Dallasites. The plans for the teensy bit of land aren’t huge, says Mike Lowenberg, chair of Temple Emanu-El’s Cemetery Committee. Most likely, there will just be security office for night watch. A picture of the street:

The much larger portion Emanu-El gave away (the temple will continue to maintain the land–mowing, trash clean-up, etc.) wasn’t used by the cemetery. An archeological survey at the beginning of the decade indicated it is already the resting place for 800 to 1,200 bodies–ex-slaves.

Fittingly, the parcel will become part of the adjacent Freedman’s Memorial Cemetery, uncovered when an archeological survey carried out prior to the reconstruction of Central Expressway uncovered the Civil War-era remains of former slaves. The 1.4 acres is actually included in the historic area dedicated to Freedman’s Cemetery when it still belonged to Emanu-El.

“We can’t use that land and it really should appropriately be attached to the Freedman’s Memorial,” Lowenberg said.

The proposal was rejected by the Park Board in 2002, but Lowenberg said that was because it was still in its nascent stage and too many details had to be worked out. Wednesday’s approval of the land swap represents the better part of a decade of working with the Park Board, city staff, the Landmark Commission, the Texas Historical Commission, and others.

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