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Schneider-Watson home deemed ‘almost’ historically significant

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 by Jessi Devenyns

In the storied neighborhood of Pemberton Heights there’s a little dead-end street known as Green Lanes that houses an enclave of seven homes, including that of Walter E. Long.

Two of the original homes on the street have already been demolished, including the home that belonged to Long, and a third was recently approved for partial demolition. In an effort to preserve some of the street’s history, Suzanne M. Freid, who owns the property at 5 Green Lanes, came to the Historic Landmark Commission seeking historic zoning approval for her home.

Freid’s house – the fifth to be constructed on the street in 1961 – was the home of the great-grandson of the first German immigrant of the Schneider family and was designed in the French urban style, inside and out, by interior designer Arthur Polk Watson.

Although the commissioners did not readily approve the historic zoning on the property, Commissioner Beth Valenzuela applauded Freid’s efforts to preserve the character of her street and said that “it does sound like there’s a potential for a local landmark district here.” Due to questions about roof and window replacements as well as the loss of a sunken entryway and the whitewashed red bricks, the commission postponed the case until its March 25 meeting to complete more investigation on the renovated portions of the house.

“I don’t want to discourage the property owner,” Commissioner Terri Myers said of the commission’s decision, “but the integrity, again, is missing.”

Steve Sadowsky, the city’s historic preservation officer, noted that according to his research the windows had never been replaced and the roof had been replaced with a metal material similar to the original. However, early Google Street View shots show windows that look significantly different from the ones that are now on the house.

Even from a more cosmetic consideration, the commission was concerned that the whitewashed house was too much of a departure from the original design. “I have some real issues with the paint. I think that the brick texture and color is more than a material and is a design element,” explained Myers. Commissioner Kevin Koch saw the paint job as a “reversible issue,” and appeared to be willing to overlook it if there were no other questions of historic integrity on the table.

Koch originally made a motion to recommend historic zoning for the Schneider-Watson home, but he was unable to receive a second and so withdrew the motion. Instead, the commission unanimously passed a postponement of the case until next month. Commissioners Emily Reed and Emily Hibbs were absent.

Photo courtesy of the city of Austin.

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