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New East Austin landmark could be in the works

Commission moves to recommend historic status for Old Negro Women’s Home

Frame 1920s house with commercial sign in front
1210 Rosewood Avenue in different times
Soma Vida/Facebook

In what looks like a shift in its recent mood, the Historic Landmark Commission voted unanimously to recommend granting historic landmark designation to an East Austin home against the owner’s wishes, the Austin Monitor reported Thursday.

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), according to the Monitor. Its owner, Peter Staats, had plans to move it to Lockhart to make room for a development he is planning on the property and objected to the possible landmarking.

Staats, who has rented the commercial property to various, mostly local tenants for more than a decade, told the board he had improved and kept up the property over the past 18 years, but that rents could no longer keep up with the taxes on it, the Monitor reported. He also attempted to find a different lot in East Austin to move it to, as had been recommended by the city Historic Preservation Office, but the cost of commercial lots in the area was prohibitive, according to the Monitor.

Staats then planned to move the house to Lockhart and was working with local design-build firm Dick Clark + Associates to build a small, mixed-use project on the lot, noting its historic status with a plaque, the Monitor reported.

The property is located at the nexus of one of Central East Austin’s booming spots, just past the East 11th Street strip where such popular businesses as Quickie Pickie, Thrifty Nickel (formerly the Longbranch Inn), Hillside Pharmacy, and a food-truck court (Kenny Dorham’s Backyard) are located. It’s also close to the Victory Grill and other historic sites in the area.

In addition, the Monitor reported, the home has been identified as eligible for designation as both a city historic landmark and in the National Register of Historic Places by a 2016 East Austin Historic Resources Survey

While commissioners expressed sympathy for Staats’ predicament, according to the report, they seemed to agree with Commissioner Kevin Koch, who said he believes the house “meets the criteria of a landmark.” Commissioners voted 8-0 to move forward with historic zoning for the home, Commissioners Emily Hibbs and Terri Myers absent.

The move marks a bit of a departure from recent decisions about landmarks on east and west sides of town. In May 2016, the commission moved toward landmarking a house built in 1903 on historic San Bernard Street, near Staats’ property, but ultimately failed to do so, thereby allowing a demolition permit for the house to stand (a structure with a much larger footprint is currently being built where that house once stood).

More recently, the commission did not have enough votes to approve landmarking one of the few International Style houses remaining in Central Texas, designed by legendary Austin architect Arthur Fehr, freeing new owners to demolish the home if they desired.

Plan to move Old Negro Women’s Home out of town stalls at City Hall [Austin Monitor]