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The Restoration of the Clay House in Nacogdoches

The African American Heritage Project, Inc. (AAHP) was founded in the 1990s with the mission of recording and educating the public on the topic of Nacogdoches’ African American heritage. The 1900 Clay House was saved from demolition by the group in 2010 with the plan of restoring it for use as a community center and local history museum.

The Clay House is located in the Zion Hill Historic District of Nacogdoches, described by leading conservation group Preservation Texas as "one of the most intact early 20th-century African American working-class neighborhoods in Texas." Built for Charlie Clay, a local grocer and founding deacon of the adjacent Zion Hill Baptist Church, the house is widely considered to be among the finest examples of the District's distinctive vernacular architecture. 

In addition to sensitively restoring the Clay House to preserve its original character, the AAHP has long been a champion of local education and community health initiatives. The group's collaboration and scholarship program with Stephen F. Austin University has produced extensive research into Nacogdoches' historically Black neighborhoods." AAHP President Paul Jackson describes the group’s events as “a cultural melting pot for [the] area,” a tradition the group is eager to continue when the Clay House opens to the public.

Texas Historical Foundation gladly supported the AAHP’s goals for this important community project with grants in 2021, 2023, and 2024. The progress that has been made so far is incredible. Assistant Library Director Crystal Hicks said last week that exterior repairs to the house are complete. All windows in the Clay House have been replaced with energy-efficient ones that match the house’s architectural era and style while enhancing its sustainability, and the roof has been replaced. The latest THF grant to AAHP will be used to install an ADA-compliant exterior entryway and to restore the home’s original mantelpiece. Future projects include interior restoration.

Hicks says that recent fundraising efforts, including a BBQ Fundraiser and Silent Auction held this past October, have been remarkably successful and have significantly contributed to the group’s fundraising goals. The well-attended event also strengthened community ties. “The enthusiastic participation of our community members and their unwavering support for preserving the Clay House was truly heartwarming,” she says.

THF looks forward to the continued restoration of the Clay House and its role as an important piece of African American history and an asset for this East Texas community.