Opened in 1933, the Austin State School Farm Colony was the male counterpart to the predominantly female Austin State School, formerly named the State Colony for the Feeble-minded.
The two facilities were gender segregated, due to a prevalent belief that associated intellectual disabilities with promiscuity and immoral behavior. Although the colony’s intended residents were mentally disabled boys that were capable of physical labor, a number of the residents were juvenile offenders court ordered to the school instead of a traditional detention facility. The single-building campus eventually grew to encompass 68 buildings that spanned 436 acres, and included a swimming pool, cannery, and cemetery. At its peak enrollment, the school housed 1,800 residents, some of whom are buried on the grounds.
Due to mental health care reforms in the 1960’s, farming activities ceased and the facility was renamed Travis State School to reflect this change. Eventually, a lawsuit was filed that claimed Texas schools of this kind violated the constitutional rights of their residents and provided inadequate living conditions. Following the settlement in 1987, Travis State School began changing its focus from institutionalization to integrated placement in the local community before being closed in the late 90s.
All but one buildings are currently being used by charter schools in the area. The cemetery can be found on the south side of the campus.
Know Before You Go
Note that this is not open to the public and a sign out front states no trespassing.
From Austin, go East on MLK Blvd to the Decker Ln intersection. The entrance is on the right-hand side of the road.No longer abandoned. Building is in a complex that shares the area with KIPP: Austin Public School, a charter school and Austin Discovery School. Main building is the new home of the Andy Roddick Foundation.