This Austin historic landmark, also known as the Franzetti Store, was built in 1869 by a former slave named George Franklin. Constructed in the vernacular architecture of Central Texas, the building became the heart of Wheatville, one of Austin’s freedmen’s settlements. These communities were established throughout Texas after the Civil War by freed slaves who, despite hardship, aspired to land ownership, self-reliance, and a better way of life for their families.
One of the building’s residents, Reverend Jacob Fontaine, was a prominent community leader of Wheatville. Reverend Fontaine helped to establish some of Austin’s black churches, including the Sweet Home Baptist Church and the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church. He also published The Gold Dollar, one of the first newspapers for Austin’s black community. The Gold Dollar not only kept the community informed about important events, but also helped newly freed slaves learn to read and assisted them in locating lost relatives after the Civil War. In his writing, Reverend Fontaine advised the community to work hard and save for the future. His words and deeds represent the spirit of the once vibrant community of Wheatville.
Over the years, this beloved building has served as a residence, a church, a publishing house, and a grocery store. Freedmen’s is named in honor of those who established a tradition of community and commerce here many years ago.