Call to Action: 3805 Red River Street

Update: the City Council will review this case and vote on October 16. Keep writing them about saving this iconic Austin home!

A permit for demolition of the Streamline Moderne house at 3805 Red River Street was filed last May 2014. The two-story, flat-roof residence was built in 1947 and features a concrete facade with a round-edge canopy between floors. The builder was Arnn Brothers, a prominent Austin housing contractor in the post-World War II years. Originally occupied by a refrigeration salesman, the house later was owned by Harvey Johnson, chairman of Texas Quarries. Over the years it became a rental property, which was leased by local musicians including band member Tom Pittman of the Austin Lounge Lizards. The house earned a reputation for being a favorite place to jam — based on remarks submitted by interested residents.

At issue is a change in zoning designation to Historic Landmark against the owner’s wishes, which would prohibit their demolition of the house. On August 27, the City Planning Commission voted 5-3 not to recommend historic zoning. You can view the last Planning Commission meeting about it here, Item C17. Subsequently, the vote is now up to the City Council on September 25. Preservation Austin believes this home is an obvious landmark due to its architecture and location; it has architectural significance and community value. This is one of the finest examples of International style in the city and represents the architectural gateway to mid-century Modern design in Austin. The Austin Historic Landmark Commission agrees, voting unamimously for historic designation for this home.

If you would like to write to Council expressing your support for this house, refer to C14H-2014-0007, 3805 Red River.  You can write to all of Council here. Feel free to use our sample text or write a letter in your own words.

“I am writing in support of historic designation for the house at 3805 Red River, C14H-2014-0007, so that it will not be demolished and instead recognized as a landmark property.  This house was built in the distinctive Streamline Moderne architectural style which is rare in Austin, and holds great value to the community because of its highly visible location.  The loss of this house will constitute a significant gap in the architectural history of our city, and will leave our city with an empty, unused lot.  Please vote to designate this house a City of Austin Historic Landmark.”

Preservation Austin sent the following letter on September 12, 2014 in support of historic zoning of the home at 3805 Red River Street:

Dear Mayor Leffingwell, Mayor Pro Tem Cole and Council:

Preservation Austin would like to express our support for a positive resolution to the case involving a request to demolish the home located at 3805 Red River Street. The house is an extremely intact, and very rare, residential example of the Streamline Moderne style in Austin, and is located on a prominent corner at the intersection of two major thoroughfares giving it great visual prominence.

We understand that the current owner(s) have presented the house as being in a condition of deterioration beyond repair, and that a brief engineer's report to that affect was submitted to the Historic Landmark and Planning Commissions. However, we also understand that Pat Sparks, a prominent, local, structural engineer with extensive experience in historic buildings, has also visually inspected the house and his report indicates that minimal structural intervention is needed.

Preservation Austin hopes that the owners will be persuaded by the value placed on this house by the community and knowledgeable experts to change their plans and either restore the house or sell it to someone who will undertake its restoration. We know of one potential buyer who has offered to purchase the property if the owners are willing. We hope for a good outcome that will allow for the continued productive use of the house, as well as provide the current owners a financial return on the property either through their own rehabilitation work or through allowing a new owner to adopt the stewardship of this important architectural landmark. Preservation Austin can provide information to the current, or new owners, regarding financial incentives such as local, state and federal tax incentives that may be available to assist in such a rehabilitation.

Preservation Austin joins Austin citizens and other organizations such as MidTexMod and Preservation Texas in advocating for a positive resolution for this important building. The loss of this home would constitute a significant and irreplaceable gap in Austin’s architectural history, and would be a decision that could not be reversed. We urge all involved to consider options that maintain this important cultural asset.

Shelly Hemingson
Board President