AUSTIN (KXAN) — Community members celebrated one of the city’s few historic segregation era schoolhouses that will remain standing in east Austin, all thanks to an effort to preserve it.
The Montopolis Neighborhood Contact Team and the Montopolis Neighborhood Association worked for over two years to save the schoolhouse, and according to a release, Mayor Steve Adler was instrumental to its preservation. The school is known as the Montopolis School for Negro Children located at 500 Montopolis Drive.
“We worked for over two years to push through a redevelopment plan that incorporated an adaptive reuse of the church rather than demolition,” said Austin Stowell, who is a previous owner of the property. He said a lot of effort went toward avoiding that and that thousands were spent on figuring out a way to use the building in a dynamic way.
“It’s not just our history, it’s part of American history,” said Fred McGhee, who was in attendance at a celebration of the effort on Saturday and is also the president of the Montopolis Development Corp. “It’s one of the last few remaining, original, one-room school houses from the days of segregation.”
Community members thanked Adler for purchasing the property on which the school stands through eminent domain. A special commission with the City of Austin voted on Jan. 22 to buy the school, which saved it from being demolished. It will be paid for through hotel taxes.
“We from the beginning said, look you took the property via eminent domain, the just thing for you to do would be to take it back via eminent domain and turn it into a cultural center and a museum so that future generations can learn something of the history,” McGhee said.
The school, in it’s prime use, served also as a social and cultural center for the community. The plan includes turning the site into a museum.