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New plan for Old Negro Women’s Home gets OK

Tuesday, November 7, 2017 by Elizabeth Pagano

After striking out once, a new plan to save a piece of East Austin’s history won the support of Historic Landmark Commissioners at their most recent meeting.

In July, commissioners recommended historic zoning for the Old Negro Women’s Home (also known as the King’s Daughters Home), which is located at 1210 Rosewood Ave. Since then, owner Peter Staats has been searching for a way out of his massive tax bill that would earn their blessing. His original plan to relocate the home to Lockhart didn’t fare well at City Hall.

A new plan would have Staats donate the home to Wesley United Methodist Church and relocate it two blocks north, to 1201 Cotton St. That revised plan got a much warmer reception at the commission. Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the relocation with the recommendation for historic zoning attached. Historic Preservation Officer Steve Sadowsky assured commissioners that case could be continued at the new location.

“There’s no point in moving it to another site if it’s going to be demolished two years from now,” he said.

The house was built in 1926 and operated as the Old Negro Women’s Home until the 1970s (though there was a period in the 1940s when it was the Colored Branch of the Young Women’s Christian Association). The house was identified in the 2016 East Austin Historic Resources Survey as eligible for individual designation as both a city historic landmark and in the National Register of Historic Places.

Sadowsky explained that staff was recommending approval for the relocation because it would keep the home in the community, and in the same context. “If this had been moved to a different site, I don’t think we would have the same recommendation,” he said.

Sam Robertson, who is on the board of trustees of Wesley United Methodist Church, spoke in favor of the relocation. He said the church was interested in the house, though that agreement was still in process. As for the historic zoning, he said he “believed there was a possibility” that the church would approve it, but he couldn’t say for certain.

Robertson Hill Neighborhood Association President Dan Niederhaus also spoke “in support of the idea of the relocation,” which he said was a great opportunity to keep the home in the neighborhood. However, he did express concern over whether the home would be designated a historic landmark, and would like assurances the building would be preserved in the new location.

Commissioners seemed optimistic about the plan, and the future of the building.

“I just want to thank you for saving the building to begin with, and hopefully finding a solution to save it the next time around,” said Commissioner Kevin Koch.

“I think the pieces of the puzzle fit as of this moment,” said Staats.

Photo courtesy of the city of Austin.

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