Feb 28, 2023 - News

Few Green Book sites remain in Austin

Pages of Green Book guides that include Austin homes and businesses. Photo: Courtesy of New York Public Library

A former restaurant, hotel and several homes were once listed in "The Negro Motorist Green Book" guides as safe places for Black travelers to visit while passing through Austin.

As Black History Month concludes, we took a look at what's become of those sites as the city transforms.

State of play: At least seven sites in East Austin were listed in the travel guides, according to an Axios review of copies of the Green Book saved online by the New York Public Library.

Now, those spots are offices or homes.

1214 E. Seventh St. was once listed in the Green Book as the Mrs. J. W. Duncan Tourist Home. Photo: Nicole Cobler/Axios

Why it matters: These sites are a reminder of how recently segregation was legal and what history we decide to preserve.

  • The books printed between 1936 and 1966 listed businesses Black travelers could safely visit during the Jim Crow era.

Details: Austin locations first appeared in the Green Book in 1940, and four addresses appear to be current homes or businesses:

This home at 810 E. 13th St. was listed as a tourist home in "The Negro Motorist Green Book." Photo: Nicole Cobler/Axios

Zoom in: East 11th Street was bustling Friday afternoon with shoppers and workers rushing to happy hour.

  • Cars zipped down the road painted with "Black Artists Matter" in big yellow letters, and pedestrians strolled past 1010 E. 11th Street, where an inconspicuous plaque designated the building as a historic landmark by the city and the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The office of Hatch + Ulland Owen Architects, once listed as "Southern Restaurant" in Green Book guides. Photo: Nicole Cobler/Axios
  • The building, constructed in 1906, was previously home to a bakery, café, Southern Dinette Restaurant, a barber shop and recreation club. Green Book listed the site during its time as Southern Restaurant.
  • The building is "one of the few remaining early commercial structures in East Austin," according to the National Register of Historic Places, and during its time as Arnold's Bakery, the business "provided sustenance and sweets to all, regardless of the changing times and colors."

What they're saying: "It’s a terrible part of our history," architect Erik Ulland, who works in the building, told former Austin American-Statesman columnist Ken Herman in 2019.

The bottom line: By the last edition of the book, dated 1966–67, only three sites were still listed in Austin: the Duncan and Porter tourist homes and Southern Restaurant.

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