A researcher is in a race against the clock in her efforts to try and save what’s believed to have been a one-room school house for African Americans in Pilot Point, Texas, that dates back more than a century, reports NBC Dallas Fort Worth.
The building could soon be demolished. From the outside, it doesn’t look like much. The boarded up house is on East Burks Street. The city of Pilot Point wants the house condemned. A sign posted out front calls the structure a safety hazard. “It’s pretty broken down right now,” said Micah Crittenden, a UNT history graduate student who’s hoping it can be saved. “Unfortunately, this structure is in disrepair.” Crittenden said she sees something else here: an opportunity. “My hope is in providing the necessary historical information, the city will take a brief pause.”
Crittenden is part of a team of students who’ve spent over a year researching the history of St. John’s, a community of freed slaves which settled in Pilot Point in the 1800s. The students’ research helped uncover lynchings, floggings and suspected Ku Klux Klan activity in North Texas. While delving into that piece of history, she uncovered the story behind the house at 522 East Burks Street.
“The evidence states this has incredible historical value,” she said. Crittenden discovered history that dates back more than 100 years. At one time, she said, the building housed the Booker T. Washington School for African Americans. She only learned of the connection about a month ago. “Then, out of nowhere, comes a one-room school house,” Crittenden said. “That some of the members of St. John’s attended.”
The school was located about six miles up the road, in Oakdale, near the Denton/Cook county line. According to property records, the building became a home after it was moved to Pilot Point in the 1940s. According to Pilot Point officials, the house was first ruled to be a “substandard structure” in 2014. The city held several hearings on the matter, including reviews by the city’s historic review board. Last year, the owners of the property were given 120 days to renovate the property, but, according to the city, failed to do so.
Saving the long-vacant structure is a race against time. The Pilot Point City Council decided to hold off on a vote to condemn it at Monday night’s meeting. The council gave Crittenden two months to continue to build her case to save the building. It will hold a vote on June 24. “How rare is that to find a structure that once had desks and pupils and a chalkboard?” she asked. Crittenden said she wanted the city to hold off on demolition. She believes she’s found the pieces that could save the structure. “This is a pretty rare moment to preserve history,” she said.