The 20-acre campus of Huston-Tillotson University — Austin’s oldest institution of
higher learning and only Historically Black College and University — has been added to the National Register of Historic Places as an historic district, the university announced today.
“The recognition of the physical space of Huston-Tillotson University speaks of the equally immense educational, cultural, and economic importance of the University to the East Austin community and beyond,” said Dr. Archibald W. Vanderpuye, Interim President of Huston-Tillotson University.
The newly named Huston-Tillotson University District is recognized for “14 contributing buildings (which) are excellent examples of popular 20th century architectural styles and, built between 1911 and 1974, reflect 60 years of the institution’s pedagogical evolution,” the nomination document states. “Integrity of design is excellent and continues to show the implementation of Huston-Tillotson’s architect-designed 1954 campus plan.”
“Huston-Tillotson University has a proud history of excellence in higher education and
community service to Austin,” said Joi Harden of the city Austin’s Historic Preservation Office, whose office assisted in completing the nomination. “Generations of African American students have found a rich and supportive home on the Huston-Tillotson campus to earn college degrees, pursue professional careers, and advance their lives in an inclusive environment.”
Established in 1875 by church-affiliated organizations, Huston-Tillotson University was Austin’s first institution of higher learning, predating the University of Texas by more than a decade. Its origin lies in two lies in two schools: Tillotson College and Samuel Huston College. Both schools contributed significantly to the social and civic life of Black citizens in a segregated Austin.
In 1877, Tillotson College purchased the East Austin property — then known as Bluebonnet Hill — on which HTU now sits. Tillotson College and Samuel Huston College merged in 1952.
Joining the roster of the nation’s places most worthy of preservation has its benefits. National Register listing encourages preservation as well leverages heritage tourism and economic development opportunities. There are also grants and incentive programs available from the federal government for maintaining National Register-listed properties.