The Denton County Historical Park is a place for visitors and Denton residents to grow and learn together. It sits at 317 West Mulberry Street, and hosts community events throughout the year. The park is home to a few of Denton County’s oldest treasures: the Bayless-Selby House, the Quakertown House, the Taylor Cabin, and coming soon, the Woods House.
The Quakertown House, built in 1904, now holds Denton County’s African American Museum. Before finding its current home at the Historical Park, the structure was located in a few different places, including its original location in the historic African American community of Quakertown. The reasons behind the house’s moves are part of the larger history of the city of Denton.
The Quakertown Story
Quakertown was a “town within a town,” the center of several African American communities located in the city of Denton. Its earliest beginnings were in the 1870’s, and over the next few decades Quakertown grew into a thriving community that held a school, churches, restaurants, businesses, and more.
The land that Quakertown occupied was in a flood plain, halfway between the College of Industrial Arts (now Texas Woman’s University) and the Denton Square. In 1920, Denton women’s clubs and other civic groups began searching for a place to put a city park and fairgrounds. It was declared that Quakertown would be the perfect location… though the actual residents of Quakertown hadn’t been given much say in the matter.
So, in January of 1921, a petition went out calling for a bond election to purchase the Quakertown property for the city park. In March of that year, the petition was presented to the City Council with 150 signatures, and the election, held in April 1921, passed with a vote of 367 to 240. The residents of Quakertown had lost their neighborhood.
Some of the homes from Quakertown were moved to Solomon Hill, an area about a mile away that became the new center of community life for Denton’s African American families. But, many of the former Quakertown residents chose to leave the city, and many of their houses did not survive the move or were destroyed.
For many years after that, the story of Quakertown was excluded from Denton history, but local historians have since “rediscovered” it and painted a clearer picture of the community. If you would like to read more about Quakertown, check out one of our past blogs, “Remembering Quakertown: A Look Into The Community That Once Was.”
A Historic Structure
The Denton County Historical Park’s Quakertown House was one of the few homes that survived the move from its original location in Quakertown to Solomon Hill. It was built in 1904 by a man named H. F. Davidson for Arthur E. and Docia Brewer.
The three-room house, built at 607 Bell Avenue, had several different residents after it was purchased and used as a rental property by M. B. Whitlock from 1905 to 1916. In 1919, Quakertown resident C. Ross Hembry bought the property and continued to rent it out until he sold the land to the City of Denton for $2,700 in 1922 and moved the structure to 1113 E Hickory Street, in Solomon Hill.
Once in Solomon Hill, Hembry continued to use the Quakertown House as a rental property until 1955, when ownership passed to his brother, Leon Hembry. From 1956 to 1971, renters continued to live in the property until it was purchased by Mattie Campbell in 1973.
In 2003, the city made plans to remove the historic home and make way for a new house at this address. The Historical Park Foundation of Denton County took this opportunity to purchase the Quakertown House, with the goal of preserving the home as a museum to tell the stories of Denton County’s African American communities.
The Historical Park Foundation completed the purchase in 2004 and moved the house to the Denton County Historical Park, restoring it to its original condition. Restoration included removing some earlier remodeling that had taken place in 1922, restoring the roof’s original wood shingles, and retaining the integrity of the structure itself.
In addition, historical restoration specialist Bill Marquis uncovered some of the home’s original design elements, including the fact that the house only had two doors leading outside (a front and back door), and that a chimney once used for a fireplace in the front room had been removed.
A Piece of History
The Denton County African American Museum opened on February 16, 2008. It won the 2008 County Best Practices Award, sponsored by the Texas Association of Counties Leadership Foundation, for “Outstanding Achievement in Community Improvement,” due to the restoration and use of the Quakertown House as the museum.
That same year, the home was officially dedicated with a Denton County Historical Marker. Since then, it has served as place of learning for countless visitors and students, and continues to stand as a reminder of the lost Quakertown community.
In upcoming months, the Quakertown House will be joined in the Historical Park by another historic Quakertown structure: the Woods House. If you would like to visit the museum and tour the homes for yourself, we would love for you to stop by! Denton County Historical Park hours can be found on our website at dentoncounty.gov/chos.
If you would like to donate to the continued expansion and revitalization of the Denton County Historical Park, please click here for more information.
All information in this blog was pulled from Historical Commission and Office of History & Culture records.