Museum site for Sugar Land Heritage Foundation to be announced Preservation of city’s past on historic grounds
While some may say there’s no sugar in Sugar Land since the Imperial Sugar Factory is no longer in operation, life here continues to be sweet. That includes the connection to a legendary past that has made way to the city’s phenomenal future. Sugar Land Heritage Foundation (SLHF) Executive Director Dennis Parmer heads the historic preservation effort of the rich and unique history of Sugar Land intended for future generations. He’s dedicated seven years towards that end with many preservation projects underway to celebrate the history of the city. And now, he’s has some exciting news to share. In about a month, he told the Star that an announcement will be made about the selection of the museum’s permanent location, but at the moment he’s not telling. It should come as no surprise that it will be at the historic sugar refinery site in the same general area, where the 2008 established, non-profit SLHF which will oversee it, has been temporarily housed. It has been operating for a while now at the sugar factory’s old Engineering and Personnel Building on Kempner, next to the iconic 1925 Char House.
Parmer shares how the impetus for SLHF was the 2003 closing of the Imperial Sugar refinery, which had operated continuously since the mid 1800s. “Many organizations began to work together to ensure that the priceless artifacts and the history of the site were preserved,” starting with the City of Sugar Land and he credits “the talented (former) economic development city staff, Joe Esch and Regina Morales,” for much of the leg work under the direction of the city manager, the Imperial Sugar Company, Cherokee Investments and the Johnson Development Corporation, all determined to help create the heritage museum for the benefit of the public. “We came as a spin off from city council,” said Parmer, who also formerly served on city council and as mayor pro tem.
Operational funding for the SLHF and museum, however, does not come from city general revenue funds, but rather from the city’s hotel occupancy tax. The money comes from what Parmer refers to as an evergreen contract with the city. “Every year, provided we meet certain stipulations after we present a budget and accomplishments, we receive $75,000 from the city,” he said.
Future plans for the SLHF call for fundraising to begin in the next 18 months. For now, it continues to maintain a close relationship with the Sugar Land Cultural Arts Foundation in which Parmer participated for many years. Both organizations recently partnered on a “Chautauqua Talk,” an oral history, about Sugar Land as a company town presented at the historic Sugar Land Auditorium by Diane Ware of the Fort Bend Museum Association. On that particular history series, we hear that from the early 1900’s to the late 1950’s, Sugar Land residents knew each other and everything that was going on in their company town. To find out more, Ware’s presentation may be viewed on Sugar Land’s municipal TV station.
Another treat, presented in partnership with the Sugar Land Cultural Arts Foundation, is this weekend’s musical comedy, Little Shop of Horrors, at the Sugar Land Auditorium. Tickets are on sale for reserved seating and interested persons may call 713-302-5329. To contact Dennis Parmer about volunteer and other opportunities with the Sugar Land Heritage Foundation, call (281) 494-0261.
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