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Commission OKs historic buildings

Thursday, March 26, 2009 by Austin Monitor

The Historic Landmark Commission approved a number of unopposed cases for historic landmark cases this week, many with interesting histories that are likely unknown to many Austinites.


For instance, the first case before the commission was the Texaco Depot at 1304 E 4th St. The two buildings, one larger than the other, are industrial style fuel depots, rectangular with corrugated metal sides, just off the railroad tracks. One of the two buildings served as a depot; the other to house trucks. The two buildings were built at the turn of the century, and intended to serve the Texas Company, which would become Texaco.


Historic Preservation Officer Steve Sadowsky outlined the history for the board. The facility served as storage first for Texaco, followed by Firestone tires and Shell. Since 1976, artist Lorelei Brown has used the main building as both an art studio and performance space for events like South by Southwest. The appraised value of the building is $100,000, making the abatement under the historic landmark ordinance fairly minimal.


The board, which also heard from Brown, had no problem unanimously approving historic zoning, which would be applied to transit-oriented development zoning. The zoning would apply only to the buildings and not to the land.


A second case gave historic zoning to a house, located at 2302 Woodlawn Drive, which once belonged to Gov. Dan Moody. Owner Christine Baskin requested the change in zoning from SF-3 to SF-3-H. Sadowsky, in his review of the case, described the architecture of the house as “eclectic Tudor revival.”


The home, built in 1931, was sold to Dan and Mildred Moody in 1934. Moody would be elected the state’s youngest attorney general in 1924, and serve two terms as governor in the wake of the Ma and Pa Ferguson scandals. The Ferguson administrations were rocked by scandal. Moody also was instrumental in prosecuting the Ku Klux Klan, leading to the downfall of the KKK in Texas.


Known as a conservative Democrat, Moody campaigned in favor of prohibition and women’s suffrage. After leaving the office of Governor, Moody would be defeated in a run for US Senate. He passed away, while residing in the Woodlawn home, in 1966. His wife continued to live at the house until she died in 1983.


Sadowsky deemed the preservation of the house, valued at just under $1 million, as excellent. The city portion of the annual tax abatement would be capped at $2,000.


Owners Bill and Lynn Fowler testified in favor of historic designation for 1410 Wathen, which is known as the Gambrell House. Physician William Gambrell originally owned the house. Gambrell is best known for his stint as the president of the Texas Medical Association. He moved TMA from Fort Worth to Austin.


The house, located in Pemberton Heights, was built in 1950. Sadowsky described the home as excellent colonial revival architecture. The Gambrells would live in the house for only two years, as Gambrell died unexpectedly and his wife would sell the house to a local radiologist before moving to Galveston.


The home was sold to the Fowlers in 1992. Bill Fowler called the architecture of the home both unique and fitting for historical designation. The commission had no problem approving historic designation for the home. The value of the home is just over $800,000, which means the city’s tax abatement is at the capped $2000.


Then there was the Massey-Page House at 1305 Northwood. Built in 1937, the house was described as excellent neoclassical-inspired architecture by Sadowsky. John and Amy Sheffield currently own the house, which was owned by Luther Massey. Massey was originally a flour miller who moved into a variety of businesses.


Massey, who is best known for his road construction business, intended the Pemberton Heights home to be a duplex, one that could be used for hired help when Massey and his wife might need assistance in their later years, Sadowsky said. Although the couple intended to live in the house, it wouldn’t be for long because of a tragic traffic accident in which Massey’s wife was killed. Massey would return to the house but eventually have a stroke and die at his daughter’s home in Abilene in 1943.


The house would be sold in 1971 and eventually be the residence of Karen Teel, the city’s first female pediatrician, who advocated for the Children’s Hospital of Austin.


The value of the home was at just over $1 million. The capped city tax abatement is just over $2,400, according to documentation on the case.

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