The Montopolis Negro School

On Monday November 21st at 7:00 p.m. the City of Austin’s Historic Landmark Commission will meet to consider historically zoning the last remaining rural Negro school in Travis County, the Montopolis Negro School.

A photograph of the school is in my 2014 book Austin’s Montopolis Neighborhood.  The school was founded in about 1891 at a location along Bastrop Highway and was moved to its present location on land donated by St. Edward’s Baptist Church in 1935.

Gentrification in Montopolis is taking place at an accelerating clip.  No more vacant land is left, and several long time residents have already accepted buyouts.  The location of the school offers panoramic views of downtown and any units constructed there will fetch premium prices.

The history of the school is not in question.  One of many things at issue is the status of this property as a cultural landscape, not just as a historic building.  Separating buildings from their context may make thorny historic preservation debates easier to manage, but it also does violence to a place’s historic associations and the community fabric.  Also important is that much of the land at the site continues to be owned by the City of Austin, which condemned the St. Edward’s Baptist Church located next door in 1990, forcing the church to move to its present location at 708 Montopolis Drive.

Please write a letter of support to the Historic Landmark Commissioners and to Steve Sadowsky, the city’s Historic Preservation Officer (who has recommended historic zoning).  You can watch a brief You Tube video of the school’s history here.

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