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Historic Landmark Commission delays log cabin relocation decision

Monday, January 11, 2021 by Sean Saldaña

Last month, the Historic Landmark Commission discussed a proposal to deconstruct and relocate a log cabin located at 5613 Patton Ranch Road.

The cabin is on property owned by St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, a K-12 private school. The organization is looking to relocate the building to Pioneer Farms, a self-styled “living history museum” that sits on 90 acres of land and highlights 19th-century Texas history.

City documents establish that the cabin is “beyond the limit of any city survey to date,” making much of its history hard to pin down definitively.

The documents go on to state that “the only information available at this time on the house is that it is the old Miller Ranch House, but no correlation to families, or a date of construction for the house, has been established,” and “there is no other information available that would justify designation of this structure as a historic landmark.”

City staffers recommended that the Historic Landmark Commission grant the permit for relocation in addition to requiring a city documentation package – a set of files that would document the known history of the building.

At the Dec. 14 meeting of the commission, representatives speaking in favor of the proposal noted that St. Andrew’s is seeking to relocate the building due to trespassing, vandalism and dumping at the property.

During the comment period, Tom Daniel, who is a former St. Andrew’s trustee, said, “The structure is a danger from trespassers to the students that are in school. And there’s a plan with Pioneer Farms to relocate the structure, to set up an educational opportunity for the students.”

Jeff Howard, a member of the St. Andrew’s Board of Trustees, also spoke out in agreement with city staffers’ proposal, saying that despite the school’s best efforts, they haven’t managed to stop illegal activity on the property.

Howard said, “We have been consistently trying to minimize dumping and trespassing and vandalism by repairing fences, gates, putting plywood boards for the windows and the doors, and increasing security of patrols. But unfortunately, the dumping and trespassing have persisted.”

The proposal also received support from Bob Ward, chair of the Travis County Historical Commission, who weighed in to say that he supported the move to preserve the structure “and to use it as an educational opportunity for area residents.”

The only public opposition came from a citizen who submitted a comment saying, “I oppose the demolition and destruction of the currently peaceful and thriving nature and wildlife sanctuary located at the property above. Go home, Karen!”

When it came time to vote, however, Commission Chair Terri Myers expressed some doubts about approving the proposal when she revealed additional documents about the building’s history.

According to Myers, the building was constructed in the 1870s by Texas Ranger James Patton, who lived in the area. Patton is a noteworthy figure in Austin history for donating land that would become one of Oak Hill’s first schools.

Myers said, “I just would like to see further discussion on (the proposal) and it would be my desire to postpone it, so that staff can become more familiar with the documentation that we did.”

Commissioner Witt Featherston responded, “If the structure has been there for 150 years, I don’t have a problem with postponing it one more month.”

The commission voted unanimously to postpone a decision until this month.

This story has been corrected to reflect that Tom Daniel is not a director of St. Andrew’s, as was originally reported.

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