The Clarksville neighborhood in Austin is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Texas State Historic Landmark. It is one of only two African-American places on the National Register in the entire U.S. The other is the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta. Clarksville is also the home of other homes and buildings which are national or local historic landmarks. The boundaries of the neighborhood are West Lynn, MoPac, Waterston, and W. 10th St., comprising around 9 city blocks.
Clarksville was founded in 1871 by Charles Clark, a freed slave who envisioned the new community as a place where united families could live after the Civil War and emancipation. It was the first freedom town west to the Mississippi River. A few years earlier, in 1865, Texas Governor, Elisha Pease granted land from his plantation in the area to some of his slaves. The Pease mansion stands at the corner of Niles Rd. and Pease Rd. with Woodlawn Ave stretching from the south side of the mansion to the historic Haskell House on Waterston Ave. in Clarksville.
One of the early residents of Clarksville was the first black Texas State Legislator, Elias Mays, who built his home in the community in 1884. Another resident of the area was the Rev. Jacob Fontaine, one of the founders of the Sweet Home Baptist Church on W. 11th St. He also published the “Gold Dollar”, Austin’s first black newspaper.
The land where the Haskell House sits was purchase by Peter Tucker, a freed slave in @ 1875, he fought for the Union Army during the Civil War and was later a Buffalo Soldier. Tucker sold the property to a married couple in the late 1880’s who later gave the house to their daughter and her husband, Hezikiah Haskell. Early meetings of the Sweet Home Baptist Church were held at the house. Of the remaining historic houses in the neighborhood, the Haskell House is the most representative and the oldest of the Cumberland style houses first built in the area.
In 2002, the Austin City Council granted the Haskell House status as a City Historic Landmark. The Austin Parks and Recreation Dept. owns thee site and it is leased to the Clarksville Community Development Corp., which is working with guidelines form the Texas Historical Commission on the restoration and repair of the unique house. Although the Clarksville Community Development Corp has received some funding for the project form grants, more funds are still needed.
As part of the restoration and improvement of the grounds at the Haskell House, a community garden named after Peter Tucker has been stared at the rear of the house. Inspiration and guidance for this project has come form local gardener Jake Billingsley, who was instrumental in getting historic recognition for the Haskell house. The City of Austin, the Clarksville community, and American Youth Works all worked together to start the garden in the fall of 2004.
For more info contact Jake at 236-9170 or firstname.lastname@example.org