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April 18, 2011

Historic Preservation: A Walk Down 2ND Street in Downtown Austin

In the bustling 2nd Street District, historical treasures remain carefully preserved above and below ground. At The Austonian, Austin’s premier luxury residence, a historic landmark has been integrated into the building, allowing visitors to experience Austin’s past while enjoying its more contemporary amenities. Further down the stretch of 2nd Street that’s also known as Willie Nelson Boulevard, a general store stands tucked in a corner, surrounded by a retail and office building that helps to anchor the mixed-use district.

The base of The Austonian high-rise condos features the 100-year-old façade of the Brown-Dumas Blacksmith Shop. At the turn of the 20th century, the shop was an integral part of Austin’s thriving commercial core, where dirt streets and horse and buggies dominated the scene. Built circa 1905, it was the largest building on the block at that time. The original plan was to integrate the historic structure into The Austonian, but when the Brown-Dumas building collapsed in a wind storm in 2006, the plan changed to a reconstruction of the façade at the original site. Today, the restored façade – which is home to frozen yogurt shop BerryAustin2Go – is the only remaining façade of its era near this important intersection of Congress Avenue and 2nd Street (originally known as Live Oak Street). In early 2011, the façade was awarded a historic landmark designation from the City of Austin. An associated tax exemption was not requested or granted to the property.

As for other historic sites along the street, Lamberts Downtown Barbecue, on the southwest corner of 2nd and Guadalupe, is located in the Schneider Brothers Building, which was built in 1873 and housed one of the first general stores in town. The Schneiders were German immigrants and one of Austin’s most prominent families at the turn of the century. Their business expanded to the NW corner of the intersection, where a second store was built over a limestone basement the family had constructed for storage (and, it is believed, in anticipation of brewing beer). La Condesa was literally built around these subterranean vaults, which are available for private dining, hence the restaurant’s distinctive elevated bar.

Austin historic preservation expert Emily Little, FAIA participated in aspects of all of the aforementioned projects. Emily is an architect with Clayton&Little Architects. Other local projects that she has worked on include the Hotel St. Cecilia and The Byrne-Reed House (home of Humanities Texas).

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