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Neighbors nix Ney landscaping plan
Thursday, February 18, 2010 by Laurel Chesky
History, like art, often resides in the eye of the beholder. The question of whose idea of history should guide the restoration of a treasured
On Tuesday night, citizens packed the PARD boardroom at
Proposed changes to the property’s landscaping sprouted concern among some
Ney’s preference for a rural, native landscape is well documented. Historic photographs of the site during her residence there depict a yard of tall prairie grasses and wildflowers dotted with native trees and clusters of yucca and agave. A vegetable patch composed the only garden.
However, a latter slice of the site’s history should also be preserved, some Austinites contend. After Ney’s death, a handful of prominent residents – many of them historical figures in their own right – toiled to preserve and improve the site’s landscape. Their efforts, some residents believe, should not be uprooted.
“This (project) would result in the loss of a very unique and commemorative landscape,” said Jenni Minner, a
In 1911, the newly formed Texas Fine Arts Association (TFAA) took over the estate and turned it into a museum. In the 1930s, the association, in collaboration with Texas garden clubs, retooled the grounds to be more inviting to visitors, planting decorative flower gardens, ornamental plants, and exotic trees, such as the crape myrtles that stand on the site today.
“All of these historical figures … would disappear with this landscaping,” said John Paul Moore, Hyde Park Neighborhood Association tree preservation chair.
However, their efforts resulted in a “densification” of the landscaping that conflicts with the “Ney aesthetic,” said Peter Viteretto, a senior associate with Heritage Landscapes, the landscape architecture firm that the city hired to renovate the museum grounds. The native, prairie-like landscaping was “an integral part of her philosophy,” he said.
Nonetheless, in response to public outcry, PARD staff has momentarily scrapped the plan to return the Ney grounds to
Meanwhile, Madani said, a master plan guiding the Ney renovation and approved by the THC still stands. However, he said, it will likely be revisited through a public city process.
“We’ll have more discussions on the master plan,” Madani said. “We will run it through the boards and commissions. This museum is a citywide issue, not just a
At the end of Tuesday’s meeting, residents sighed with collective relief when Patricia O’Donnell, principal of Heritage Landscapes and a recognized expert in historical landscape preservation, acknowledged that the issue of
“I think the local history that has been unearthed here … is really worthy of thinking about in a number of ways,” she said. The original question proposed to her firm, she said, was how to renovate the site to its “primary” period of historical significance – when Ney lived there. “The exclusion of these secondary values was never intended,” she said. “It shouldn’t be seen in anyone’s mind as the elimination or erasure of history.”
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