Monday, April 12, 2010

State Confederate Home in Austin

In Where Love Once Lived, 78-year old George McCullough is telling about a time when the parents of a white boy he'd been playing with told their son not to see George anymore.

“After that, we started meetin’ over at the ol’ Confed’rate Soldiers’ Home.” He turned to Brian. “Did Cindy show you where it use’ to be? Down at the end of Nine and a Half Street? We hunted birds and squirrels with our slingshots and sneaked around trying to find an old Confed’rate soldier. Never did.” He laughed. “That white family moved away, and I never saw that kid again. Bobby. That was his name. I’d forgotten that. Isn’t it funny how names can pop into your head after decades of not thinkin’ about them?”

George McCullough is a fictional character, but in real life, I lived on Nine and a Half Street and sneaked into the grounds of the old Confederate Soldier's Home with my big sister or next door neighbor. I remember a wooded pathway from the end of our street that led to facility. It was as if the denseness of the forest would protect those inside. As I remember it, we were afraid to get very close to where the old soldiers might be, but I do remember seeing a large brick building.

The Online Handbook of Texas says the Texas Confederate Home opened in 1886. The complex on twenty-six acres of land on West Sixth Street had several buildings, including a large administration building and living quarters, a brick hospital, and private cottages. The last Confederate veteran died in 1934 at the age of 108, before I was born. After that, the facility was home to Spanish American and World War I veterans and their spouses as well as "senile" mental patients. The area was razed in 1970 and is now used for University of Texas student housing.

The old Confederate Home made quite an impression on me as a child, and now it's gone. I think that's why I included it in the book. Do you have any places you think about? Are there places that have been torn down that you'd like to describe to someone?

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