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East Austin house can be moved, Historic Commission decrees

Old Negro Women’s Home to stay in the neighborhood

Small wooden frame building
Former Old Negro Women’s home in more recent times
Via Soma Vida/Facebook

The Historic Landmark Commission voted Thursday night to approve the moving of a building that had previously served as the Negro Women’s Home to a lot a few blocks away from its current location and to continue to pursue landmarking the building.

It was the city’s second recent move toward honoring and preserving East Austin history while not standing in the way of development Monday night—the first was the City Council’s Sept. 28 decision to purchase the land and building that was home of the Montopolis Negro School from is current owner.

The building, located at 1210 Rosewood Avenue, is the former Old Negro Women’s Home from the 1920s through 1970 (with a stint in the 1940s as the Colored Branch of the Young Women’s Christian Association). While its owner, Peter Staats, had plans to move it to Lockhart to make room for a development recently, the Commission initially objected to the plan and voted to initiate the historic landmarking process for the house.

Staats is now in the initial steps of donating the house to longtime Eastside institution Wesley United Methodist Church, with the idea of moving the building to a vacant lot the church owns on Cotton Street at Navasota Street, a few blocks from the small house’s current location. The move would allow Staats to sell or develop its current site as a mixed-use or office space.

The commission voted 6-0 to approve moving of the house to that specific location only and to continue the landmarking process for the building. Historic Preservation Officer Steve Sadowsky stated at the meeting that he believed the church would like to retain the building’s current office zoning, which could mean granting it a variance for its new location.

Although the Commission recommended approval of the plan, the deal is far from done. A representative from the church said at the meeting that it has to move through Wesley’s “hierarchy” before final approval and mentioned that the church might want to move the house to face Navasota instead of Cotton Street in order to reserve a second space for another building. The Commission has approved the move to the Cotton Street address only.