City Trying to Determine the Fate of a Historical Building

Posted by Crystal Olenbush on Monday, August 11th, 2008 at 7:10pm.

City Trying to Determine the Fate of a Historical Building

The city of Austin is simply brimming with history, which is the reason why one Austin home is receiving so much attention.  The Detrick-Hamilton House, which is located at 912 E. 11th Street, once belonged to a freed slave and is being considered as the location for an African American cultural and heritage facility.  Unfortunately, part of the house is in disrepair and authorities are not certain how they will handle creating the new center – will parts of it be demolished or can they somehow be saved?  That is the big question that needs to be answered.

A $1.5 million bond referendum for the facility was approved by voters in November.  At the time, the vision was to use the house as a sort of gateway to East 11th Street, which is included in the African American Cultural Heritage District.  The center is also meant to be part of the African American Quality of Life Initiative, which is an effort endorsed by the city that is attempting to address issues such as public safety, education, economic development, and health.

“This structure would be a giant step in a long journey to restore some of the cultural integrity to East Austin,” said Nelson Linder, president of the Austin chapter of the NAACP.  “So much has been lost, so we have to do something to increase people’s faith.”

Built in 1880, the Detrick-Hamilton House is one of only a few homes in the Robertson Hill area left from the pioneer African American settlement.  As the home of a freed slave, it symbolically represents the effort the slaves put into establishing a community of their own even though it was built years after slavery was abolished in 1865.  In 1873, African Americans purchased a number of lots east of Interstate 35 and built their homes along 11th Street. 

Currently, the city faces two options.  The first is to save 25% of the home that has a historical designation, which would be the front, and then to build a 3,000 square foot structure for the Neighborhood Housing and Community Development department.  The other option would be to demolish the home and build the cultural facility in its place.  Under this plan, the contractors would be asked to assist with creating commemorative artwork to honor the family as well as the historical significance of the site.

“Renovation would be the best option if in fact the resources are available,” said Linder.  “If the money is not there, we’re going to have to decide what’s the best alternative.”

To learn more about the house and its fate, visit

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