HISTORIC HOMEOWNER SPOTLIGHT: PART III
Every Monday leading up to our 2017 Historic Homes Tour we’ll feature a Q&A with one of our wonderful homeowners about why they love their neighborhood, and how they’ve kept their historic home authentic. Enjoy! And purchase your event tickets HERE.
Completed in 1951, this flat-roofed, white stucco home with extensive steel-framed windows is unlike anything else in Bouldin Creek. It's one of a just a few local homes that draws on the Art Deco, Streamline Moderne, and International Style movements here in Austin. Owner Jay Billig has designed and contracted the home’s renovations himself. Photo by Joan Brook Photography.
BLACKSHEAR HOUSE: JAY BILLIG, OWNER
When did you move into your home?
What do you love most about your home? About your neighborhood?
I have loved this home and the way it is sited in the forest for as long as I have been in Austin – almost 30 years. With all the windows, it is like living in a tree house, yet feels protected and private. The shade and the Bauhaus design with broad overhangs keep it very cool in the summer. I love the neighborhood because it is a very eclectic mix of old and new, both residents and homes.
What are some of your home's most unique historic features?
It was framed using salvaged pine timbers from the 1800’s that were milled into 4x6 studs and covered with stucco both inside and outside. Originally designed as a single family home, it was turned into two units (main floor and top floor) before Wells and Hallie Blackshear, the original owners, ever moved in so they could earn some income on the property. A third unit was excavated below the home about 5 years after it was completed, and was originally occupied by the Blackshears' son Harold and his wife Marilyn. Harold had built the home with his father starting in 1949.
Have you renovated or added onto your home in recent years?
The home had not been significantly updated at all when I bought it in 2013. Since then, it has been lovingly renovated to preserve the best of the home’s features and updated to provide reliable utilities and spaces suitable for modern living. Two of the bathrooms were enlarged while remaining below the overhangs. Custom cabinetry has been added throughout to create storage where there was none. A mini-split heat pump air conditioning system was added to preserve the spaces of the home without unsightly ductwork or rooftop protrusions.
People talk a lot about preserving Austin’s character, but so often our historic neighborhoods are demolished piece by piece without comment. Why did you choose to invest in your historic home instead of demolishing it for a larger house, or moving into a new neighborhood elsewhere?
I feel very honored to get to be the steward of my home, which is not only historic because of its age but also iconic in the city because of its design. Buildings are living things and by renovating this home, I am providing flexible space that is perfect for our family, really great housing for others as tenants and something beautiful for the whole city to enjoy. I love living in central Austin because of all the great neighborhoods and the mix of people that call them home. I truly love having a mix of old and new in the neighborhood and getting to enjoy a home that bridges that gap is a very rare opportunity so I cherish it every day.