Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bungalows of Austin's West Line District

I have spent quite a bit of time trying to find out anything I can about my house and the neighborhood. There is a fabulous history center a few blocks away that I discovered when I was doing some research into buying a dilapidated mansion on the street next to mine. I have been meaning to go to the history center to research my current house, but haven’t had a chance yet.

Not a bungalow. 1872 stone mansion. The very first house in the neighborhood.
Side note: I didn’t buy the mansion because I discovered it would cost a bare minimum of $100,000 to make it habitable. It had sold at auction for $300,000. The buyers were asking $500,000. Restored it’s probably worth at least $2 million. A deal either way you look at it, but I didn’t/don’t have that kind of money. Someone else bought it and tore off all the various additions to the original house. I hoped they would restore it to its former glory, but they are turning it into a McMansion. Ugh!
Anyhow, despite all the info I found about the Old West Austin Historic District and Clarksville Historic District, neither officially included my street or house. I finally discovered my house is actually in the West Line Historic District. I entered that into Google and BINGO! There was all the info I’ve been looking for. I found a 107 page-long registration form for national historic districts.
My house was actually built in 1925, not 1928 which was on the realtor's documents. It is officially a contributing building of the historic district. There is one paragraph that specifically mentions several of the houses on my street (but not mine): “As the old estates were broken up for new subdivisions, a new class of resident arose on the West Side. Raymond Heights was no longer the exclusive realm of judges and state officials. Developers carved the old estates into standard-sized lots for smaller houses. As a result, middle-class families could afford houses in the western suburb. In fact, subdivisions in the once-exclusive enclave were heavily promoted to working-class families with the means to own their own homes in the 1910s and 1920s. Early residents along one block of T------ Street in the 1920s illustrate the trend: Olin D. Farquhar (800) was a bookkeeper at the Austin Statesman, L. B. Randerson (804) was a clerk at the post office, as was William R. Warrick (806). James H. Cummings (811) was a paperhanger, Edward W. Seiders (812) was a checker, and James D. Dunlap (815) was a trainman for the Austin Street Railway (Austin city directories, 1920-1929). All of these residents owned their homes but roughly half the people living on T------ Street in the 1920s were renters. Few T------ Street residents held professional positions or owned businesses during this period. Nevertheless, it was a respectable, middle- and working-class address.”

The big house next door to me may have been owned by a checker at one time but I found out it was built by a contractor—Jacob J. Wattlinger, a partner at Wattlinger Brothers in 1922 and is eligible to be a historic property on it's own (not just as part of a historic district). Unfortunately the 90+ year-old woman who owns it has let it decay. There are two guys renting it right now. They pay for all the repairs but it doesn't look like they do a whole lot. It's desperately in need of a paint job. The shutters and some of the window trim has rotted and fallen on the roof. Judging from the units sticking out the windows, I don't think central air or heat was ever installed. I wonder if it still has all the old built-ins. Maybe I'll have to get myself invited over and find out.

The house next door. Notice the two front doors?

My little section of the neighborhood has modest bungalows. Some of them in the 500 square foot range. The section immediately east has slightly grander homes. I'll show you a few of those another time, but here's a sampling of the wonderful bungalows in my 'hood.

The garden is gorgeous!

Purple trim!


For Iroquois
This one is lovely. I want a screened in porch!
  Here are some of the ones I call the itty bitty bungalows.

 There are four bitty bungalows in a row on this street

Bitty bungalow with funky paint

It still has the 5 panel doors with crystal knobs

This last one is currently for sale. 528 square feet on a 3,000 foot lot. Tiny! It's a bit of a mess and they are selling it for the lot. The asking price is $250,000.

Notice the two front doors again. Two front doors on a one bedroom, one bath house.  This was a popular style at the time. I've heard the architectural style referred to as Cumberland style. My house had two front doors at one time too. I can tell from where the baseboards were spliced in the front bedroom. I've heard that the houses were built this way for a couple reasons. One was for multiple family use of the house. Each door opened into a private bedroom. The public areas of the house--kitchen, living room, etc. were shared by both families. I had a friend who lived in a house built at the turn of the century that was still laid out that way. The other reason was for ventilation. Both doors, usually a  bedroom and living room, opened to the porch for cross breezes and to cool the rooms.

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