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Notable midcentury church to meet wrecking ball due to city ‘snafu’

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A-frame Prince of Peace Lutheran was designed in 1955

A photo of the exterior of an A-frame church with brick siding on the bottom and a grid of staggered rectangular windows filling the top of the frame.
The Prince of Peace Lutheran church building in South Austin
Google Street

The owners of an architecturally notable South Austin church received a demolition permit for the building after skipping city Historic Landmark Commission review due to a bureaucratic “snafu,” the Austin Monitor reported Thursday. The permit was released October 28.

Built around 1955, the Prince of Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church was designed by Austin architect Eugene Wukasch and was “likely the earliest example of an ‘A-frame’ or ‘tent-form’ church in Central Texas,” according to the Preservation Texas website. The church also featured glass art by Octavio Medellín, a renowned Mexican-American artist, according to the site. Preservation Texas included Prince of Peace in its 2019 Most Endangered Places list.

The Austin Historic Landmark Commission initiated historic zoning for the building in July, according to the Monitor; the applicant filed for the demolition permit on July 9. Despite the prohibition that a person “may not change, restore, remove or demolish an exterior architectural or site feature of a structure for which a [historic] designation is pending,” a dismantling of the former church building took place over the summer—a situation that local historian and architect Jason Haskins reported repeatedly to the Landmark Commission, according to the Monitor.

Applicants filed a site plan for the property and removed stained glass windows, and a gaping hole in the roof appeared, Haskins reported. In one of a few befuddling bureaucratic twists surrounding the situation, city deputy historic preservation officer Cara Bertron told the commission that, while the Austin Code Department found unpermitted work had been completed and issued a notice of violation on October 1, the department did not pursue the matter because the demo permit was, technically, released before the end of the owners’ required 30-day response period.

Similarly, in what commissioner Ben Heimsath called a “snafu,” commission staff withdrew the case for landmarking the building from the commission’s agenda because “city staff did not list the case under the appropriate section as a hearing for the demolition application for the property,” the Monitor reported.

Withdrawal of the case caused a forced release of the demolition permit because the commission had not held a hearing on the application within 60 days of its receipt.