The House On The Hill: Norwood House

The House On The Hill: Norwood House

Norwood House Garden

Norwood House Garden

You know that house on the south bank of the lake, just west of and next to I35?  It’s on the top of the hill?  You’ve undoubtedly seen it if you’ve been to the dog park on Riverside Drive.

That’s the Norwood House in Travis Heights, and it needs your help.

The first time you look at that house you ask yourself, WTF?  “Look at that view of downtown Austin… how could this house be allowed to deteriorate?”  The answer: the City of Austin purchased it in 1985.

Ironically, in a city that’s known for having a plan for everything, including making plans, the city didn’t have a plan for this.

Norwood House today

Norwood House today

Originally constructed in 1922 by Ollie and Calie Norwood, the house quickly became one of Austin’s most notable residences. Here you can see the house in its glory days. Tennis courts, tea gardens, and a dramatic view across the river (it wasn’t a lake at the time) of downtown Austin.   Ollie Norwood is the name behind downtown Austin’s Norwood Tower.

The house has been examined and can be saved.  The Austin Parks Foundation is partnering with a group of activists called the “Norwood Posse” to raise funds to rehabilitate the house.  Since the house is part of Austin’s park system, its use must be open to the public.  If you would like more information, or to contribute to Norwood House’s rehabilitation you can contact Wolf Sittler at 447-2150, email restorenorwood [@] yahoo.com, or visit AustinParks.org.

-Jude

Historic Brazos Lofts

Historic Austin - Brazos Lofts

Historic Austin - Brazos Lofts (orig. Capitol Chevrolet)

The Brazos Lofts embody the definition of downtown loft perhaps more than any other Austin property.  From both the inside and outside it feels authentic.   Originally constructed in 1925, the Sutton Company completed the downtown Austin conversion in early 1999.  Each loft space is separated by a brick wall.  Most of the units have original narrow-plank hardwood floors.  True to its character, the Brazos Lofts is only three stories (two stories in most of the building) and is home to only 39 condos.

Josh and Marie McJilton are residents at the Brazos Lofts.  They’ve decided it’s time to step into more space, and below they share what they love about the building.

“We have lived in our downtown loft for 4 1/2 years and have loved every minute of it.  We love our building and our home for many reasons.  It has so much character and history.  It is truly a one of kind building.  The utilitarian past is preserved in the original structure.  This combines with the modern design and floor plan to create a feeling of history and the contemporary all at once.  The open floor plan creates an awesome sense of space that makes the unit feel much bigger than it’s 1111 sqft.

Outside the walls of the loft, the location of the building is unbeatable.  Being one block from the epicenter of downtown Austin, 6th and Congress, puts you within walking distance of everything downtown has to offer.  Parking the car on Friday afternoon and not seeing it again until Monday morning is one of our favorite ways to spend the weekend.  We love taking walks in our ‘front yard’: the grounds of our beautiful Texas State Capitol building.  We ride bikes in our ‘back yard’, the Lake Ladybird Trail and Barton Creek Greenbelt, as often as we can.  And, being one block from 6th Street and two blocks from the Warehouse district, we’re never far from a great meal or good time.”

Along the ground level of East 5th Street are a row of spaces that are, in addition to being livable, zoned for light office, gallery, and salon space.   Other notable Austinites that have chosen to dwell at the Brazos Lofts include urban planner Cid Galindo and Austin Chronicle writer Marc Savlov.  The best barbershop in Austin IMHO, the Good Life Barbershop run by Debbie and Ryan Videtto, is located in the coolest subterranean space in downtown!

-Jude

p.s. More photos can be found here.

Travis House

Travis House

Travis House formerly Hotel Guadalupe and YWCA

Travis House formerly Hotel Guadalupe and YWCA

Austinist is reporting that Travis House could be replaced soon.   I haven’t seen plans for what could replace it, but the owners believe it needs to be razed to do whatever it is they might do.   Eric Van Hyfte of BOKA Powell architects appealed to the Historic Landmark Commission last night (detail pdf).

The structure currently known as Travis House is sort of downtown Austin obscurity.  The building has been vacant for years and was victim of a fire in January.  In past this building has served as a YWCA and also the Guadalupe Hotel.  Before 1946 the site was the location of a Southwestern Bell garage.  I recall while at UT, the building was a halfway house.

Interestingly, directly across the street at the burned out Guadalupe Arts Center, 1705 Guadalupe and 1715 Guadalupe have jointly obtained entitlements for 350 foot height and a 12:1 FAR which translates into a 30 story tower.

It’s my understanding that historic landmarks do nothing to preserve the ‘history’ of a building, only to prevent it from being torn down.   If anyone has more information please email me or share in the comments.

-Jude

image links to pdf

Thanks to DANA’s Roger Cauvin for the heads up on this Daily Texan article!