This month, we’re spotlighting the Clarksville Neighborhood of Austin, Texas. The neighborhood is bounded by West Lynn on the east, Mopac on the west, 10th Street on the south and Waterston on the north. Clarksville is a historic district that is west of downtown near Lady Bird Lake, northeast of the intersection of the Missouri Pacific Railroad and West Tenth Street. Clarksville has a deep history, beginning as a freedomtown, an original post-Civil War settlement founded by emancipated African-American slaves.
Clarksville is now the oldest surviving freedomtown west of the Mississippi River, but it was originally part of 365 acres which belonged to Texas Govenor Elisha Pease until it was sold in 1871 to Charles Clark, a freedman who founded the area. Clark put his home on the modern-day West Tenth Street and divided the rest of the land and sold it to other freedman. In the early 1900's, developers realized that Clarksville was very valuable due to its location near downtown Austin and Austin city policy started pressuring black communities in west Austin, including Clarksville, to move to east Austin. To achieve this, the Austin school board closed the Clarksville school in 1918 and later forced Clarksville residents to use city services in east Austin or to have none at all.
Despite this pressure, most African-American families in Clarksville continued to live in the area without city services. In 1968, 33 families were forced to relocate when Mopac was built. It wasn't until 1975 when the Texas Historical Commission named a two block-wide strip of Clarksville as a historic district that the city paved the streets with asphault. From there, the city continued to make improvements to the area, but due to the rising costs of property, many of the lower-income residents were driven out of the area. The Clarksville community Development corporation strives to keep low-income options available to preserve some of the diversity in the area.
There are many businesses that still are enjoyed by residents that opened in the mid-1900's, like Anthony's Laundry and Cleaners and Nau Enfield Drugstore. Residents today love the area for its proximity to Downtown, the Lake, and local businesses.