Ira Poole's Yard
2400 East Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard , Austin, Texas, 78702, us
About the Artist/Site
Ira Poole moved to Austin as a student in order to earn his teaching credential at Huston-Tillotson College, a historically black university affiliated with the United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ, and the United Negro College Fund. After graduating, he took a job as a schoolteacher; prior to retiring, he had educated generations of Austin’s students over a period of decades in several different elementary schools. A patriot and history buff, Poole was always looking for ways to generate enthusiasm among his students as he helped them learn, decorating his classroom bulletin boards and inventing hands-on projects that would promote a more in-depth understanding of their curriculum.
In the early 1960s Poole purchased the land for and built a single-story brick ranch-style home in one of the African-American neighborhoods east of Austin’s Highway 35, near downtown. Located on a corner, the house is situated toward the rear of the lot, providing an expansive front yard that, over time, Poole began to decorate with a selection of three-dimensional and bas-relief sculptures that reinforced the lessons he was teaching in school. Indeed, some of them actually began as school projects.
The first was a model of the Egyptian Sphinx that he worked on with his fifth-grade students around 1972. Created out of plaster, after it was no longer needed in the classroom, he decided to take it home and put it in his yard. Unfortunately, vandals tried to steal it, breaking it in the process, but, undiscouraged, Poole found a local artisan who could take a mold of it, and it was recreated with a steel armature covered in concrete mortar and then painted: its weight alone – estimated at 900 pounds – would deter future thieves. It is installed over a concrete map of Texas.
In honor of the upcoming Bicentennial four years later, Poole found a small scale (but still rather monumental) copy of the Statue of Liberty, which was also added to his front yard. Eleven years later, in honor of the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, he created a bas-relief concrete map of the continental United States, which he installed vertically in front of Lady Liberty. A small waterfall recalls the Niagara Falls in miniature scale, and plantings and strategically-placed boulders reference Hawaii, Alaska, and Mexico. A high pole flies the American flag, and Poole has installed lights so as to enhance nocturnal viewing of his yard, which is easily viewable from the street.
~Jo Farb Hernández
Map & Site Information
2400 East Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard
Austin, Texas, 78702 us
Latitude/Longitude: 30.28086 / -97.715992
Round Top, Texas