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Mueller tower could become landmark open to public

Classic midcentury design by Fehr & Granger

Black and white photo of ballet dancers in leotards, tights, etc., in front of a midcentury modern airport control tower
The Austin Ballet Society at the Municipal Airport, photograph, 1962
University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History; Austin History Center, Austin Public Library.

The 84-foot former control tower at what was once Austin’s frighteningly central Robert Mueller Airport has been recommended for landmark status, Community Impact Newspaper reported Tuesday.

The Austin Historic Landmark Commission took up the matter at its Monday meeting, voting unanimously to recommend the 50-year-old structure for designation as a city landmark.

Designed by local midcentury-modern masters Fehr & Granger in 1961, the tower was the control center for the Robert Mueller Airport, which was built in the 1930s, closed in 1999 upon the opening of the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

The former airport site became, of course, the Mueller community—the master-planned, mixed-use development we all know and love today—but the tower (as well as two other buildings original to the airport) was left standing in the transformation and remains a sort of iconic beacon for the area.

The leader in the move toward landmarking the tower, according to Community Impact, is Girard Kinney of Kinney Architects; he told the paper that he will also push for the eventual opening the tower for public.

The two other historic structures on the site, according to CI, are a former hangar called the Browning Terminal (the only wooden bow-trussed hangar in the country) and the airport’s former administrative office—now Mueller Central. While the former is in good shape and now hosts farmers markets, a spokesman for Mueller master developer Catellus Development told CI that the latter has probably had too many alterations to be considered for the status.

For commission’s recommendation will now go before the city Planning Commission for consideration and, if it gets a thumbs-up there, on to the City Council for a vote.

Mueller airport control tower recommended for historic zoning, may be opened for public use [Community Impact Newspaper]