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Until the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education landmark US Supreme Court case, the education system in the United States was racially segregated by law. In 1935, a major Austin flood destroyed the c. 1891 original Montopolis Negro School located on the north side of Bastrop Highway about one mile south of the Colorado River. St. Edward’s Baptist Church donated land to Travis County for school purposes at 500 Montopolis Dr. A two-room army barrack was relocated from Camp Swift to the site and renovated to serve as a school. Travis County transferred ownership of the school to Austin public schools in 1952, and the school closed in 1962 due to the desegregation of schools.
In 1967, the property was purchased from Austin public schools, and the building then served as the Montopolis Church of Christ. The church operated until the 1980s and the building has remained vacant since that time. In 2015, a private developer purchased the tract of land along with the building with the intention of developing the land into single-family homes, retail space, and an office building.
The City of Austin began the process of acquiring the Montopolis Negro School in 2017, as directed in Resolution 20170928-056, to preserve and program the building and site as a museum and tourist asset. Ultimately, negotiations with a private landowner were unsuccessful, and Resolution 20180628-081 initiated eminent domain proceedings in 2018. The Office of Real Estate Services communicated in a January 24, 2019 memorandum to City Council that the City of Austin had taken possession of the property.
Upon taking possession of the building, the Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) communicated in a March 6, 2019 memorandum to City Council its intention to secure and protect the building and identify funding for a planning effort. PARD completed formal protective efforts in 2019 and completed a hazardous material abatement in Summer 2020. The building’s furnishings are secured on-site in a secure container and all sensitive material is stored in archival boxes in a climate-controlled environment.
For further details please see this timeline of actions that led to eminent domain proceedings.
Protective Efforts to Date
PARD received funding from the Historic Preservation Fund in FY19 to secure the building and complete a hazardous material abatement process. The following areas were addressed with the FY19 funding.
- Archival storage boxes
- Relocation services associated with the acquisition
- Onsite storage unit
- Asbestos and lead testing, abatement, and monitoring
- Pest control
The Montopolis community spearheaded the advocacy efforts that led to the City’s acquisition of the building. PARD recognizes and commends the community efforts to ensure that this significant historic site is preserved and looks forward to collaboration on future planning efforts.
This project is in the preliminary planning phase and PARD is working with community members on identifying next steps.
Please note that as in any construction project, schedules are projected as accurately as possible. All dates are subject to change due to the nature of construction and the weather.
Previous community engagement events include:
500 Montopolis Dr.
November 6, 2021
Handout for Open House (PDF 1 MB)
Funding and Resources
The funding for the acquisition of the Montopolis School was made possible by Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) funding to support projects and initiatives that meet allowable uses as defined under Chapter 351 of the Texas Tax Code. HOT revenue is an essential tool for the promotion of tourism and supports the growth of the tourism, convention, and hotel industry. PARD is an important partner in this effort as public parks, museums, and cultural centers are among the top tourist attractions in the City.
The Austin Parks Foundation, in partnership with Austin City Limits, has put an additional $150,000 towards the visioning plan.
For more information or questions, contact Kim McKnight by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at (512) 974-9478.