House on Burks Street in Pilot Point

Denton County historians say the house at 522 E. Burks St. in Pilot Point was once partly a school for African Americans before it was moved to its current location in the 1940s.

PILOT POINT — It was better this week.

Unlike last Monday night, when this Pilot Point City Council had to decide whether to recall its mayor amid infighting, the council dove into a difficult topic going back generations, and handled it with class.

The City Council gave a family and its supporters 90 more days to figure out what to do about the property at 522 E. Burks St., which according to Denton County historians is a vital piece of black history here.

After rendering the house substandard in 2014, Pilot Point officials have tried for years to have it either torn down or renovated. The city and others have offered to purchase the house and renovate it, but Rosalene Sledge, whose father owned the house, won’t give it up.

“My daddy worked too hard for it,” she said. “I don’t feel like it’s my right to give it away.”

Enter Micah Crittenden, the University of North Texas history graduate student whose research into the historic black community of St. John’s near Pilot Point accidentally led her to Sledge’s family struggle to keep the 522 E. Burks St. home from demolition.

Two months ago, Crittenden pleaded for the council to hold off on voting on whether to condemn the house. She said she found evidence that the original part of the house, before an addition was made, was once a school for African Americans near the Denton-Cooke county line before it was moved in the 1940s to Burks Street in Pilot Point.

“It’s powerful when you really look at it from the cultural perspective,” Crittenden said Monday, “that I think the family and the community sees it from.”

The council told Crittenden to apply for any kind of grants to help fund the home’s renovation and apply for historical markers. She has done both, Crittenden said Monday. She filed an application for a Texas Historical Commission marker.

“This matters,” Crittenden said as she closed her presentation.

But she said the grant money, if any is given, will likely not be enough to fund the renovation completely.

That teed up a rather productive conversation between members of Sledge’s family, the council, Crittenden, residents and Peggy Riddle, director of Denton County’s Office of History and Culture, who offered the county’s support in preserving the house and its history.

And although city officials see it as a substandard building — Mayor Shea Dane-Patterson said so herself during the meeting — the council again voted unanimously to give the family a chance to come up with a plan.

Whether the funding to renovate the place will come from private donations, grants or the family will be decided in about three months, when the council will again hear from the family and supporters on the issue.

DALTON LAFERNEY can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @daltonlaferney.

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