Listen to Austin 360 Radio

The Carver, like history, does not stand still

Michael Barnes

History doesn't stand still. Neither has the old Carver Library.

The sober, symmetrical building on Angelina Street, measuring fewer than 2,000 square feet of floor space, began life in 1926 as Austin's central library.

It was located at Ninth and Guadalupe streets, across from Wooldridge Square Park, one of the four squares planned by Edwin Waller in 1839.

In 1933, that library was replaced by the handsome beaux arts structure that now houses the Austin History Center. The wood-framed original — later clad in brick — was moved to Angelina Street in order to serve African Americans in East Austin. In 1947, leaders changed its name from the Colored Branch to the more dignified George Washington Carver Branch Library, after the famed scientist and inventor.

In 1979, the more modern New Carver Branch was opened at Angelina and Rosewood Avenue, right next to the first structure, which became a museum of African American history in 1980. Now the museum and cultural center — blessed with the Boyd Vance Theatre, multiple galleries, classrooms, studios and archival space — rises behind the old Carver.

That 36,000-square-foot gem, run by the Austin Parks and Recreation Department's cultural division, is a beehive of social and cultural energy.

Fittingly, the old Carver will now be used as a center for the study of genealogy.

Old Carver Library