The Rogers-Washington-Holy Cross District is the newest of Austin’s eight local historic districts, its designation approved by City Council back in September 2020 — so you could say it’s high time for this neighborhood to do a victory lap. That’s the perspective of the nonprofit Preservation Austin, which has chosen this collection of historic midcentury homes for its 2021 Homes Tour, to be conducted on Thursday, June 17 at 7:00 p.m. via livestream, with tickets now on sale.
The district, built in the still-segregated 1950s and ’60s for the city’s emerging postwar Black professional class, contains historic homes once owned by prominent East Austin figures like former Huston-Tillotson University president Dr. John Q. Taylor King and Tuskegee Airman Norman Scales. With two of its homes designed by John S. Chase, the first licensed Black architect in Texas, the district contains some of the most interesting midcentury residential architecture you’ll find on this side of town — and it’s the first local historic district in Austin to specifically recognize Black history.
Its rough boundaries place the neighborhood between East 21st Street, Cedar Avenue, East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and Chestnut Avenue — a fairly small area that nonetheless contains enough homes with architectural and historic merit for inclusion. Here’s a look at the seven sites you’ll see on the tour:
Built in 1959 by local educators T.C. and Thelma Calhoun, this low-slung home contains many of its original interior features including period-appropriate wood paneling and other furnishings.
Built for Huston-Tillotson University president Dr. John Q. Taylor King and his wife Marcet King in 1959 with design from John S. Chase, this home embodies the best of this era’s design with high ceilings, exposed beams, and striking stained glass windows. It’s one of Chase’s less-celebrated local projects compared to the iconic Phillips House, but this tour gives it some time in the spotlight.
Built for educators Carnegie Harvard Mims, Sr. and his wife Mae in 1961 by prominent local developers Nash Phillips/Copus, this home still contains much of its interior decoration from the original owners courtesy of the couple’s daughter, Brenda Malik, who was part of the group of East Austin residents that worked for years to attain the neighborhood’s historic status.
At this point, the Phillips House almost needs no introduction — designed by John S. Chase for public school teacher Della Phillips in 1964, the green diamonds of the structure’s folded plate roof and elegant use of interior materials including African Mahogany, marble, and river rock make it possibly the single most significant work of midcentury domestic architecture not only in East Austin, but the city at large. We welcome any and all opportunities to get a closer look at this home.
In 1959, Marion and Sophia Jackson were in search of a place to build a new home. Mr. Jackson was employed by USPS and was among the first Black employees of the postal service. Mrs. Jackson, who taught home economics at Huston-Tillotson, was referred to developer Travis Cook by her colleague and future neighbor, Dr. John Q. Taylor King. Shortly thereafter, this ranch-style home on Givens Avenue was built.
This modest 1959 ranch-style home built for USPS worker Marion Jackson and his wife, Huston-Tillotson home economics teacher Sophia Jackson, goes further beyond the lives of its original occupants than most — here’s Preservation Austin’s description:
After their passing, the Jackson’s daughter, Marian Lavon Marshall, and her husband, Dr. General Marshall, moved into the family home with their young children. The Marshalls met at Kealing Junior High, where their future neighbor T.C. Calhoun was principal, and spent decades together working at Huston-Tillotson as educators. Dr. Marshall, a renowned golf player, grew up caddying at Lions Municipal Golf Course (also known as Muny) as a young boy living in Clarksville. He witnessed the desegregation of the golf course in 1950-51, the first golf course of its kind to desegregate in the South. Dr. Marshall remained an important fixture of Muny for his entire life and was a longtime advocate for the preservation of the golf course. After his passing in 2020, the City of Austin declared February 27, 2021 General Marshall Day in honor of his contributions to the city and the sport.
— Preservation Austin
Built for educator and real local character Ira Poole in 1964 based on his own design, this ranch-style home is best-known for Poole’s large collection of Americana art displayed in the front yard — probably the only stop on the tour with a lawn that’s famous in its own right.
Captain Norman Scales, Austin’s first Black fighter pilot and former Tuskegee Airman, built this ranch-style home for him and his wife Lydia in 1958 — and Scales’ son still lives there to this day.
Norman Scales Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps in becoming a pilot, and today lives in his parents home with his family. Mr. Scales is a fixture of the neighborhood and can often be found on his front porch among his extensive collection of wind chimes, chatting with neighbors passing by. He remains an avid preservationist of his father’s legacy and of the neighborhood’s friendly and welcoming character.
— Preservation Austin