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Landmark Commission recommends Historic status for East Austin home

Monday, November 4, 2013 by Elizabeth Pagano

With a bid for historic zoning underway, perhaps one property in central East Austin will keep its neighborhood identity for the time being.


The house, which is located at 805 Lydia Street, was built by Eloy and Soledad Guajardo in the 1940s. Born in Mexico, the couple ran Guajardo’s Cash Grocery next door, which was one of the few grocery stores that catered to the Mexican American community in Austin.


Their daughter, Guadalupe, married the meat manager of the store, Sonny Falcon. According to the staff report, Falcon “later became known as the Fajita King, popularizing fajita meats through Central Texas and beyond.”


“This house is loaded with history,” said Historic Preservation Officer Steve Sadowsky, who explained the house qualified for historic designation through its association with the Guajardo family as well as its community value, due to the role that the family played in establishing Mexican-American businesses in the city.


“Their grocery store was the center of Mexican-American community and from their grocery store came the birth of fajitas in Austin, which has made Mexican cuisine in Austin and Central Texas very popular to this day,” said Sadowsky.


The historic zoning process was initiated by the current owners, David and Mary Anne Ocasio. The Historic Landmark Commission unanimously supported their request in a vote of 6-0. Commissioner Mary Jo Galindo was absent.


The store, while still standing, does not share an owner with the house. While staff would support a change to historic zoning for the store, that support remains theoretical as there are no concrete plans for historic zoning of the store on the table.


Mary Anne Ocasio told the commission that, though she was not related to the Guajardos, the house was significant to her family history, as well as being important to the neighborhood and Austin’s Mexican-American community.


While a student at the University of Texas at Austin, her father lived in the house, working at the grocery store next door to earn money for his tuition.


“The house is very significant to my family, and we are very proud to be living there,” said David Ocasio. “This is our nest, and we plan to stay there for the rest of our lives.


The house was built on the site of the old John G. Heirman House, and staff believes that the current house may share the foundation and some walls from the old Victorian house. Mary Anne Ocasio told the commission that some of the interior features from the original house, like a mantle from Germany, are still there.


Chair Laurie Limbacher thanked the Ocasios for bringing the house forward for consideration of historic zoning, and the commission encouraged staff to talk further with the owners of the store about historic zoning for that property as well.

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