Independence Gardens, Fairbanks Colored School, and Savannah J. Collier Branch Libraries, 1923 - 1978

Independence Gardens, Fairbanks Colored School, and Savannah J. Collier Branch Libraries, 1923 - 1978


Independence Gardens/Fairbanks Colored School (1923-1942)

In 1923, just a couple of years after the founding of the Harris County Public Library system, a small collection of books was placed in a private home in the Independence Gardens community. Located a few miles west of the Fairbanks Branch Library, it was the first HCPL station opened in a Black community in Harris County. The location circulated 196 books in 1923, and 233 in 1924.  In 1925, the books moved into the new Fairbanks Colored School, which opened thanks to a local German dairy farmer's donation of a farmhouse building. In 1926, students checked out 164 books.  The Harris County Librarian withdrew the collection in 1927 due to “unsettled community conditions” but reinstated it in January 1928. 

Clara Scott, seen here with students, started teaching at the school in 1928. She would go on to serve as the school’s sole teacher until 1951. The library was again withdrawn in 1933 but was returned in February 1934 upon Scott’s request to the County Librarian.  The closure was due in part to the school's irregular schedule.  The 1935 annual report noted that the library collection was available “only during the school term, which is short [November to March] because the pupils have to work in the fields."

In 1940, Clara Scott organized an adult education group.  Programs included group discussions on the various phases of community life as well as Black literature.  The school had a record circulation of 1,108 that year. The collection was again withdrawn in 1942. The school was renamed Fairbanks Elementary, and later Carverdale School, before closing in 1970 as part of a federal mandate to desegregate the school district. 

Fairbanks Colored Library Station (1947-1952) 

A new library station in the community opened in April 1947, "at the request of [a] Colored Home Demonstration Agent" and Eleanor Shobert, the former custodian of the Fairbanks Library.  Located in Mrs. J. E. Maddox’s store, the station held a collection of 72 books.  Maddox volunteered to be an unpaid custodian of the collection, which was a segregated station for the Black community. The yearly circulation at the store hovered between 100 and 200 books a year until 1952 when the location was closed, and service consolidated with the Fairbanks library.

Savannah J. Collier Branch Library (1974-1978)

Service returned to the area in the 1970s thanks to donations from the community.  The Savannah J. Collier branch opened in 1974 on land donated by the Houston Independent School District. The branch was named for Savannah Jones Collier, who taught at Carverdale School, and was part of the first graduating class from Fairbanks Colored School in 1938. The branch librarian for the Savannah Collier branch was Myrtle Ross.  Ross split her time between the Collier and Katy branches, as the Collier branch was only open part-time, about 20 hours a week. 

In February 1978, an inspection of the building found numerous safety hazards. Since the County did not own the building nor the land it sat on, County funds could not be used to make the necessary repairs.  With the Fairbanks branch only 2.4 miles away, the Commissioners Court voted to close the Collier branch at 5525 Triway Lane. The branch was officially closed on June 14, 1978, but the location continued as a bookmobile stop for many years.  



From the HCPL Digital Archive

1923 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

1924 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

1926 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

1927 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library 

1934 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

1935 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library 

1940 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

Branches for Colored (1946-1950?), Harris County Public Library. Note: this report contains racist and insensitive language.

1977 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

Portion of report on Savannah Collier Branch Library, Harris County Public Library


Further Reading on the Fairbanks Colored School/Caverdale School

The Beginning of Carverdale, from Cypress Fairbanks Independence School District website, (Accessed September 10, 2023). Note that despite the name change, the library continued to refer to the station as Independence Gardens in the annual reports until the early 1940s.

Smithwick, Danica. (2018, February 8). HISTORY: Carverdale School remembered for excellence in the Cy-Fair community. Community Trends. (Accessed September 10, 2023).

Burke, Dana. (2017, January 17). Cy-Fair ISD offers treasure trove of historical photos from its segregated school. Houston Chronicle. (Accessed September 10, 2023).


Further Reading on Segregation and Desegregation in Public Libraries in the Houston region

Malone, C. K. (2007). Unannounced and unexpected: The desegregation of Houston Public Library in the early 1950s. Library Trends, 55 (3), 665-674.