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Fire destroys log cabin and preservation hopes

Wednesday, September 15, 2021 by Elizabeth Pagano

Plans to reconstruct and relocate a 19th-century log cabin at 5613 Patton Ranch Road are now moot after a fire destroyed the property.

“We’ve reviewed the fire report and the cabin is a total loss,” Historic Preservation Officer Steve Sadowsky explained at the Historic Landmark Commission’s Aug. 23 meeting. “It’s a very unfortunate loss. We’ve had a spate of them this year and hopefully this is the end of it.”

Still taken from video of the property after the fire.

Sadowsky said there was no indication as to what started the fire, but the building “was almost completely consumed.” As a result, he said, the city would be releasing a demolition permit for the property, which is owned by St. Andrew’s Episcopal School.

“Well, guys, that was an 1870 log cabin built by James Patton on Patton Ranch Road,” Chair Terri Myers said. “Oak Hill just lost its most historic resources.”

Commissioners had previously postponed the case in January in order to get more information about the building’s history. Myers discovered that the cabin was constructed by Texas Ranger James Patton. 

At the time, St. Andrew’s Episcopal School was asking to deconstruct the building to relocate it to Pioneer Farms, a move that was supported by city preservation staff. During their January hearing on the matter, St. Andrew’s representatives explained that the relocation was warranted due to trespassing, vandalism and dumping at the property that continued despite their best efforts to stop it. 

As the Austin Monitor reported in January, commissioners voted unanimously in support of  postponement. “If the structure has been there for 150 years, I don’t have a problem with postponing it one more month,” Commissioner Witt Featherston said at the time. During last month’s meeting, he questioned whether the commission shouldered some of the blame for the building’s demise by not moving more quickly.

Myers pointed out that, regardless of the outcome, she did not feel that moving the cabin to Pioneer Farms was appropriate. “I’m not sure it could have survived the move,” she said. “But it’s gone.”

The school is moving forward with plans to build a proposed 295-unit apartment project by rezoning a 15-acre portion of their property on Patton Ranch Road. City Council approved that rezoning request unanimously back in May.

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