Neighborhood rallies to save Montopolis Negro School

Protesters gathered at the historic Montopolis Negro School in Southeast Austin Friday.

A developer now has a demolition permit for the school and residents worry a piece of their history could soon disappear.

"I started school in the first grade in 1951,” said Georgia Steen.

Steen remembers a lot during her time at the Montopolis Negro School, which turned into a church in 1967

“We had wonderful teachers. We had May Day where our parents made these beautiful dresses for us and we'd dance," said Steen.

It was a different time in the 1950's. Members of this community don't want to anyone to forget that.

“Education here used to be segregated. This school here is a legacy of that segregation," said Dr. Fred McGhee, activist.

The Montopolis Neighborhood Association is afraid of losing that legacy, after the property owner, Austin Stowell of keep real estate,  obtained a demolition permit.

“Given the weighty history here, the proper course of action would be for the city and governmental entities to purchase out Mr. Stowell, the current owner, and turn it into a park and museum,” said McGhee.

That would be imminent domain. But we talked to Austin Stowell and he said this:

"As I have stated on record, I do not have any intention to demolish the structure. I have already met with council member Renteria's office and look forward to working with other council members to find a creative solution to save and restore the structure as an alternative to demolition. I am open to a number of different scenarios that I believe will provide a mutually beneficial solution."

City records show he planned to build a mixed use development at the spot, that's why he initially got the demo permit. Stowell says that was before he knew the historical significance. As of today he does have the legal authority to demolish the building but hopes he can compromise.

“Basically what we have a gentrifying developer who wants to apply the coup de gras to what's left of Montopolis' black history, and is the city going to allow it?", said McGhee.

The Montopolis Negro School is one of the only remaining structures of its kind in the area. It served as a school for black children from 1935-1962. One option discussed was "relocating the school somewhere else on the property.  Dr. McGhee says that tampers with the history as well.

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