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Turn of the century home to be moved from East Austin

Monday, March 3, 2008 by Mark Richardson

Despite overwhelming neighborhood support, the Burch-Jackson House fell two votes short last Thursday of getting historic zoning from the City Council, leaving the current owner free to move the structure to rural Hays County.


Both the Planning Commission and Historic Landmark Commission recommended historic zoning for the property at 1706 Canterbury St., but there was also a valid petition by the homeowner against the zoning, which meant that six affirmative Council votes were needed for the change.


Historic Landmark Officer Steve Sadowsky told Council members he did not support the historic zoning in this case, pointing to a house a block away at 1717 Canterbury that was similar in age and architecture that better met historic criteria.


“I’m not sure that our house at 1706 would be contributing to a local historic district at this point because it has the vinyl siding and the metal roof which takes it out of the ability to maintain its historic appearance,” Sadowsky said. “I think that this house would be a part of a local historic district. I don’t think it qualifies as an individual landmark.”


Sadowsky said the house was built in 1906 and remains in good condition


“It was first occupied by a man named Thomas C. Burch, who was a carpenter,” he said.  “The house has a fairly typical history for this neighborhood. It was a rental house for many years. Several people owned it. There hasn’t been a whole lot of continuous occupation of the house, but the families who lived here were carpenters, machinists, an ornamental ironworker, people who basically made the city run.”


Molly O’Halloran with the East Cesar Chavez Neighborhood Planning team was one of 16 people who spoke in favor of the historic zoning She told Council members that the house met a majority of the city’s historic criteria.


“Clearly the Burch-Jackson House is more than 50 years old,” she said. “The house does retain its original windows and batting and form that can be seen from the street. That covers the first two criteria. The architecture of the house is a fairly classic example of the gable front wing and house. I wanted to point out that after about 1910, these houses were replaced by Craftsmen, Colonial Revival and other styles. They weren’t built for a long period of time.”


However, the current owner of the property plans to use the land to build an environmentally efficient Green Building home on the property.


“If I would have known that there was any chance that a house with vinyl siding and a metal roof would be considered historic, we would have never purchased it,” said Bill Brudenell. “The house is being preserved. As I said, I do agree with all the concepts of Green Building. Instead of pursuing a demolition permit, we’re pursuing a relocation permit.”


Council Member Sheryl Cole said she backed the historic designation.


“I was moved by the testimony about the other locations in Austin, such as Clarksville, where we have lost because we did not make the effort in face of some economic hardships to preserve houses in those areas,” she said. “I think this area of East Austin is especially vulnerable to that and so I too will be supporting the motion.”


Council Member Brewster McCracken said he was backing the staff recommendation.


“At the end of the day, we are being asked whether this home is historic for zoning purposes,” he said. “Our professional historic zoning officer tells us it’s not. I agree with him and cannot vote for historic zoning.”


Council members voted 4-3 in favor of the historic zoning, with Council Members Cole, Jennifer Kim, Mike Martinez and Lee Leffingwell voted in favor, and Mayor Will Wynn, Mayor Pro Tem Betty Dunkerly and McCracken voting no.

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