April 12, 2007
Come to the compound!

Presented without comment, because I'm speechless: Tourist attraction planned on site of Davidian standoff.

After announcing in February that they hope to renovate the New Mount Carmel property, once home to David Koresh's Branch Davidian sect, the current occupants say they are hoping Waco and Central Texas residents will pony up the funds for the renovation.

"Our plans are big," said Charles Pace, leader of The Branch, The Lord of Righteousness sect of the Branch Davidians, who maintain and worship on the property at 1781 Double EE Ranch Road in Elk. "But we have to get support. We'd like to get support from local people because it's not going to be something we can do on our own. We'd like to get the worship going like it was here before."

The "before" that Pace refers to is not the time of Koresh and his followers, however.

"We do not want to restore what we had before Vernon Howell (Koresh's given name) came and perverted everything," Pace said. "We want to set the record straight and we want to make this place a healing place like it was before, when the Indians were here."


Pace said that there are no plans for a new compound with communal living and that if people became familiar with his teachings they would see that they have nothing to fear from a renovated site.

In fact, Pace said it would be a waste for area residents not to take advantage of what he sees as a possible draw for tourists. Between 25 and 200 people visit the site on a weekly basis, he said.

"We're wanting our neighbors to realize what they have here," Pace said. "They're afraid of what is here because they don't understand it. If they understood it, they would want to support it and make it a historic site. When you say Waco, people don't think of Baylor (University). When you say Waco, people think about what happened here. Waco should capitalize on that."

Liz Taylor, executive director of the Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau, said she had not heard about plans for a renovated Branch Davidian site but the tourist information center provides maps to the location.

"If they are a valid tourist attraction, then it becomes something we evaluate," Taylor said. "But until we see that, it's hard to make a determination (about the value of the site as an attraction). I've not heard anything about this but, wow, I'd sure be interested in seeing what they have in mind."

Okay, one comment. I remember hearing after the tragedy at Mount Carmel in 1993 that visitorship at the Dr Pepper Museum spiked. I guess once you'd seen the compound, you got to wondering what else there might be to do in Waco. I have zero proof of this - it may be an urban legend - but for what it's worth, it's what I heard at the time. And just so you know, the Dr Pepper Museum has a blog.

There's more to this story - I haven't even touched on one of the weirder aspects, involving a dispute with PETA over a petting zoo - so suffice it to say that you should read the whole thing. Thanks to Kent for the link.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 12, 2007 to The great state of Texas