Local individuals and businesses were recognized by the Heritage Society of Austin for their preservation efforts and commitment to maintaining Austin’s historic roots at the 50th annual awards ceremony. The event took place at the Driskill Hotel with keynote speaker Kennedy Smith, former director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street program.
Kennedy Lawson Smith, one of the nation’s foremost experts on commercial district revitalization and development, entertained the audience with her insightful view of factors that change places similar to her hometown from growth of vehicle use, shopping malls to suburban subdivisions. Smith urges, “We need to look at the cost of economic development and continue on with local architect traditions.”
2010 Preservation Merit Award winners announced:
Joseph and Susanna Dickinson Hannig Museum, 411 E. 5th Street – Merit Award for Properties: Preserves the home and legacy of Alamo survivor Susanna Dickinson who survived the battle of the Alamo, and carried the news of its fall to Sam Houston and her husband, a German immigrant who became a prominent business and community leader. After nearly being demolished in 2000, diligent labor from many local preservationists has made the restoration of the limestone house on Fifth Street a reality.
Verde Camp, 1505 Drake Avenue- Merit Award for Properties: Owners of the eclectic, Austin-style alternative to a standard hotel, BJ and Carrie Heinley, are passionate of the half-acre property they acquired several years ago. Despite being advised to demolish the cottages on the property, the couple has found eco-friendly solutions to maintaining the unique character of their visitor’s stay; including retaining the original hardwood floors and featuring furniture made by local artisans.
The Salvatore and Cora Bailetti House, 1006 Waller Street- Merit Award for Properties: Two lots at the corner of East 11th and Waller were bought, and a store established by Italian immigrant, Salvatore Bailetti, and Louisiana-born wife Cora Cometeau constructed a Italianate-influenced cottage. Ebenezer Baptist Church acquired the home and since has restored the property to its historic appearance. Now the 125 year rental property of Bailetti House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Austin Community College Gymnasium, 1212 Rio Grande Street- Adaptive Use Award: Originally opened in the 1970s as a high school, Austin Community College purchased the former facilities to serve its rapidly increasing urban population. A.C.C. eventually bought the gymnasium building in 2004 after leasing it for a period. The old Austin High School Gymnasium is a visible alternative to demolition with retention of interior architectural of windows, linoleum floors, and minimal use of ceiling tile.
Austin Motel, 1220 South Congress Avenue- Maintaining an Austin Cultural Landmark: In 1938 Jennie Eck and Earnest opened up the “motor inn”, a business that sprang up with the newly built highways. The establishment survived the 1980’s, when they became regular victims of vandalism and surrounding neighborhoods were overrun by drugs, prostitution, and crime. In 1993, Mrs. Thompson died and daughter Dottye Dean took over operations, creating an Austin iconic landmark.
Council Member Laura Morrison– Merit Award for Public Service: Council member Morrison has been instrumental in seeking grant assistance for the Historical Survey Web Tool development from both the Certified Local Government Program and the federal Preserve American Program.
Sally Hunter–Merit Award for Public Service: Highland Park Elementary School fourth grade teacher and member of the Heritage Society for many years , Sally Hunter created a new curriculum titled “This House is Your House: The Governor’s Mansion, Texas’ Front Porch Since 1856” after the fire in 2008 that severely damaged the historic Texas Governor’s Mansion. Hunter traveled though out the state with First Lady Anita Perry to promote the curriculum and has since received the 2009 Gilder Lehrman Institute “Preserve American History Teacher of the Year Award.”
Since founded in 1953, The Heritage Society of Austin has promoted the recognition and experience of Austin’s diverse cultural heritage through preservation of historic treasures and places with grants and loans of over $2.8 million for restoration, education and other projects. For more information on the organization and how to contribute to the success of their mission check out: www.heritagesocietyaustin.org
By Monica Pena