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Mayor’s boyhood home set to become landmark

Wednesday, September 3, 2014 by Neil Perleberg

Mayor Lee Leffingwell’s South Austin boyhood home is one step closer to Historic Landmark status.

Last week, the Planning Commission sent a positive recommendation to City Council for 910 Christopher Street in the Bouldin Creek neighborhood to be rezoned as a landmark, as did the Historic Landmark Commission before them.

“I’m kind of surprised,” said Mayor Lee Leffingwell on hearing of the proposed zoning change.

Leffingwell remembers a childhood of playing outside and chopping down trees in a South Austin neighborhood that was “basically woods.” He even remembers when Christopher Street was first paved.

“It was definitely not as developed when I lived there” said Leffingwell.

Leffingwell launched his 2009 campaign for mayor from the house, bringing its significance into focus for the current owner, Petra Rogers, who filed for historic zoning in May.

“The mayor kicked off his mayoral campaign from the front steps of this house and basically said ‘I am from South Austin, this is where I grew up, and I am one of the people.’ That is what this house really represents,” said Historic Preservation Officer Steve Sadowsky.

In addition to being a good example of the minimal traditional houses of the late 1930s, Sadowsky said the South Austin bungalow also served as home to Leffingwell from early childhood until his graduation from the University of Texas.

Leffingwell’s parents, B. Lloyd Leffingwell and Corine D. Leffingwell, were the first residents of the house, which was built in 1942. At the time, his father was a 24-year-old ladder man for the Austin Fire Department.

The elder Leffingwell went on to become a fire captain and later a deputy for the Travis County Sheriff’s Office. Corine worked for the University of Texas as a clerk in the undergraduate admissions office.

The couple lived in the home until 1970 and raised three children there, one of which was the current mayor, Lee Leffingwell.

“More than anything else, it’s just a great example of an Austin that no longer exists,” said Sadowsky. “It represents a big example of how the middle class lived and the types of houses they were able to purchase, flat out, at that time.

“It really represents the means and lifestyle of middle-class families in South Austin at that time and it’s a very intact example,” said Sadowsky.

Leffingwell will retire in January as Austin Mayor, a post he has held since 2009. Before that, he served as an Austin City Council member, a Naval aviator and a commercial airline pilot.

If Council grants historic zoning for the house, any changes to the exterior of the house must be approved by the Historic Landmark Commission. The current owner of the house would also receive an annual tax abatement of more than $5,500.

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