History of Svante Palm Elementary

The original Palm School was located at 700 East First Avenue. Long before public schools were organized, Mrs. Ameila Barr taught in a successful private school at this site. She eventually went to New York where she became a successful writer.

In 1838 Edwin Waller laid out a military reservation for the Lone Star Republic as a protection for the state capitol known as the Arsenal Block. This property reverted to the national government when Texas joined the Union. In March of 1888 through the work of Judge Z.T. Fulmore and the U.S. Senator Joseph B. Sayers, later governor of Texas, the property was secured for the city schools by an Act of Congress. The question of converting this property into a school created quite a stir in Austin since several wished to keep it as a military post.

The first public school on this site was a small wooden structure built in 1887 with Miss Florence Brooke as principal. She continued as principal until 1912 when she was transferred to Austin High School.

A new building was erected in 1892 at a cost of $9,201.65. The name was changed from Arsenal Block School to 10th Ward School. In 1902 the Board of Trustees named the school, Palm School, in honor of Svante Palm, who had served as the Swedish Consul in Austin for many years. He had also been a civic and educational activist.

In 1957 an article in the American-Statesman stated, “Although it has been three-quarters of a century since Palm School grounds was an Army Post, it still belongs to the U.S. War Department. Congressman Homer Thornberry has introduced a bill in Congress for the purpose of getting a clear title to Palm for the Austin Public Schools. Arms and ammunition for the Republic of Texas were once stored on the historic spot at 700 East First Street where Palm School now stands. It took an act of Congress to enable Austin to build a school on the site and it will take an act of Congress to give the schools a clear unfettered title to the land.”

On June 11, 1968 it was reported that the School Board had approved a replacement school for Palm. Both parents and staff had complained for several years about the noise and traffic at the “non-air conditioned school and it general deterioration.” Palm School was closed in 1970 when the replacement school, Sanchez at 73 San Marcos was opened. The Austin Scandinavian community was upset that the new school was not named Palm, however, the School Board had already decided to honor Dr. George I. Sanchez, a U.T. professor, by naming the new school after him. At a school board meeting the Scandinavian community led by Austin attorney, Jim Christianson, urged the School Board not to forget the contributions of Sir Svante Palm and name a future school with his name to replace the Old Palm School. In January of 1977 the Old Palm School was leased to the Junior League of Austin to use as a site for social services for children. The agency was named Family Place.

The new Palm Elementary School at 7601 Dixie Drive was opened on September 2, 1986 to 544 students and a staff of 54. The school was dedicated on April 26, 1987. The first principal at this site was Valerie Walker. Dr. John Ellis was Superintendent of Schools. The legacy of Sir Svante Palm still continues today through the students, staff, parents and alumni of Palm School.