Huston-Tillotson University named to National Register of Historic Places

Austin’s oldest institution of higher learning and only Historically Black College and University is now its own historic district


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.

Huston-Tillotson University
Huston-Tillotson University sits atop a hill in East Austin. Among the buildings found significant by the National Register of Historic Places are the Brutalist style 1974 King-Seabrook Chapel and Bell Tower on the left, and the mid-century modern Dickey-Lawless Science Building on the right, built in 1954. Image: Wikapedia Commons.

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.”

Huston-Tillotson Alumni Hall
Built in 1914, the Anthony and Louise Viaer Alumni Hall is a modified Prairie style typical of the urban Southwest during the early 20th century. The 2½-story building is capped by a hipped roof and clad in scored concrete blocks which were manufactured by students in the industrial education program at Tillotson College.
HTU Evan Industrial Hall
Built in 1911, Evans Industrial Hall is clad in rusticated cut stone with hipped dormers and a chimney. A formal double-access staircase leads to a hip-roofed entry porch on the primary (west) façade. Photo by Stephanie M. Resendez
HTU Evans historic image
Historic photograph of Huston-Tillotson University Evans Industrial Hall from shortly after it was built in 1911.

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.

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
Jeanne Claire van Ryzin is an arts and culture journalist who has covered visual art, performance, film, literature, architecture, and just about any combination thereof. She was the staff arts critic for the Austin American-Statesman for 17 years. Her commendations include the First Place Arts & Culture Criticism Award from the Society for Features Journalism. Additionally, Jeanne Claire has been awarded professional fellowships at USC’s Western Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and NEA/Columbia University Arts Journalism Institute. In 2022, she was awarded the Rabkin Prize in visual art journalism. Jeanne Claire founded and led Sightlines, a non-profit online arts and culture magazine that reached an annual readership of 600,000. And for two years, she taught arts journalism at the University of Texas College of Fine Arts. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Architecture magazine, Dwell, the Review of Contemporary Fiction, Art Papers, and ICON design magazine, among other publications.

Related articles