Welcome to FLMA's Project Website for the Nomination of

Santa Rita Courts, June 5, 2006Santa Rita Courts

An Austin, Texas Public Housing Project

to the National Register of Historic Places


"Last Christmas, when all over the world people were celebrating the birth of the Christ child, I took a walk here in Austin-a short walk, just a few blocks from Congress Avenue, and there I found people living in such squalor that Christmas Day was to them just one more day of filth and misery. Forty families on one lot, using one water faucet. Living in barren one-room huts, they were deprived of the glory of sunshine in the daytime, and were so poor they could not even at night use the electricity that is to be generated by our great river. Here the men and women did not play at Santa Claus. Here the children were so much in need of the very essentials of life that they scarcely missed the added pleasures of our Christian celebration.

I found one family that might be called typical. Living within one dreary room, where no single window let in the beneficent sunlight, and where not even the smallest vagrant breeze brought them relief in the hot summer-here they slept, here they cooked and ate, here they washed themselves in a leaky tin tub after carrying the water for 100 yards. Here they brought up their children ill-nourished and amid sordid surroundings. And on this Christmas morning there was no Santa Claus for the 10 children, all under 10 years old, who scrambled around the feet of a wretched mother bent over her washtub, while in this same room her husband, and the father of the brood, lay ill with an infectious disease.....

......No one is more proud of the beauty and attainments of the City of Austin than I.  But for that very reason I am unwilling to close my eyes to needless suffering and deprivation, which is not only a curse to the people immediately concerned, but is also a cancerous blight on the whole community......"

Congressman Lyndon Baines Johnson from his famous "Tarnish on the Violet Crown" speech, delivered on KNOW Radio January 23, 1938

(You can download a copy of the entire speech by clicking here)

Santa Rita Courts occupies a unique place in the history of twentieth century America. The first public housing project funded and built under the 1937 Housing Act that established local public housing authorities, the housing development still functions as public housing nearly seventy years later. This website has been developed to function as an online resource about this public housing community, its history, and its importance.

Santa Rita Courts was the first of three public housing projects built in Austin in the late 1930's.  Santa Rita, intended for occupancy by Mexican families, consisted of 40 units of modern "slum clearance" public housing.  Rosewood Courts, built for African-American families, consisted of 60 units, and Chalmers Courts, built for whites, consisted of 86 units.  All three housing projects were completed in 1939, are currently still in operation, and are managed by the Austin Housing Authority, now known as the Housing Authority of the City of Austin (HACA for short).  Three separate housing projects were built because of the segregationism common at the time.

There are quite a few resources available on the web that do a good job of explaining the history of the American public housing program in general, although few focus on specific public housing projects. The following websites offer a good introduction:

History and Background

The National Register Nomination

You can download a copy of the draft nomination here. Comments and suggestions are welcome!