Sunday, December 13, 2009

They paved paradise...

Another old house in Georgetown is being lost to a parking lot. The houses on either side of this house were already torn down to make parking lots for a bank on the west side of Austin Avenue. Now this one is going as well. The house is being saved but it is being moved to another town in eastern Williamson County.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sears Kit houses

Will Moore bought this house that was previously located at 4th and Elm Streets. Many people call it the Parker House because it used to be owned by a Southwestern English professor named Lois Parker. Will has moved it next to his house on 6th Street and is working on restoring it. Luckily, he has a model right in town to work from. The house Will now owns was made from a kit sold by Sears, hence the name "Sears Kit house." A house apparently made from the same kit is located on Olive Street (This house is undergoing some restoration work itself at the moment). Will says he recognized the house on Olive Street a few years ago when he and his wife were walking to the old Monument Cafe for breakfast. The owner was outside working on the house and told Will he had no idea it was a Sears home. Will says George Logan, Jr., who was born in the Logan-Parker house in 1913, visited him in 2006 and verified that his father, the original owner of the house Will now owns, told him that he had the kit shipped to the old Railroad Station at the end of 8th Street (where the feed store is now), then loaded it on wagons and took it to the lot at 4th and Elm where a local lumber company put it together. The house Will owns still has the original four stained glass windows in the living room that were unique to this particular Sears kit home but unfortunately the house on Olive Street does not.

4th and College Streets

It looks like a new house is going up at the intersection of 4th and College Streets.

The Booty House

Louise Walsh sent me a photo of the Booty House before it burned down so we can compare the new house with the original. Here's a photo of what the house under construction looked like on Dec. 9. It looks like it is going to be a pretty accurate reconstruction of the original house.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Young Dairy house

I just discovered the most interesting history of one of the houses in Georgetown. I had always known that some of the land owned by Southwestern University used to be a dairy farm, but I never knew that there was a house on that property that had been moved and preserved.

The Young Dairy house was built in 1901 by the Belford Lumber Company for Ryland Fletcher Young, one of the original five long-time professors at Southwestern. Professor Young ran a large dairy operation on the property while he continued to teach at the university. After he retired from teaching, he continued to run the dairy farm until his death in 1925. Many Southwestern students worked on the farm and dairy in exchange for room and board at the house.

The dairy operation flourished until 1942 when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt froze dairy prices during WWII. However, Southwestern University needed milk for young men who were part of a naval unit training on campus during WWII, so the university bought the property from the Young family. One of Professor Young's sons managed the property until 1948. According to Dr. William B. Jones history book about Southwestern University, To Survive and Excel, Southwestern continued to own the property and lease the dairy operation to other people until the mid-1970s. At that time, the university sold the dairy equipment to raise funds to help renovate Mood Hall.

At the time the dairy equipment was sold, the house had sat vacant on the property for many years and was in terrible shape. Most people thought it should be torn down. However, a couple named Leon and Carolyn Douglas took on the task of moving the house and restoring it. They had it moved to 1243 Main St. in 1978. Today, it is one of the most photographed homes in Georgetown and is on the 2009 Holiday Home Tour sponsored by the Georgetown Heritage Society.

This is a great example of how houses can still be saved even if they look like they have been damaged beyond repair.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

1009 Church St.

This house was at the center of a citywide controversy in 2008 when the owner proposed to move it to make way for a parking lot when the former Wesleyan retirement home was redeveloped for commercial use. After many Old Town residents protested the proposed move of the historic house, the owner agreed to work with the city on an alternate parking plan for the Wesleyan project. Now in an ironic turn of events, the owner has decided to live in this house himself and is adding an addition to it. The original garage has been demolished.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

707 E. 7th St.

This house has been undergoing major repairs laterly. All the exterior paneling was replaced.


The Texaco Station on University near Church Street has closed and moved to a new location. This had been a major eyesore in Old Town because they always had lots of cars on the grass, etc. Let's hope someone buys the property and puts something more attractive there.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Good idea or bad?

Residents of Main Street are divided on whether these "bulb-outs," which were added as part of a recent repaving project, are a good idea or a bad one. Those who favor the cement planting areas hope they will slow traffic on the street. Those who oppose them say they will create hazards for drivers as well as require water that the city cannot spare.

Church Street remodel

This former bungalow house in the 1800 block of Church Street has been stripped down to its frame. The fact the the roof framing was also removed seems to indicate that it is being remodeled to have a second story. We'll keep following it.

404 E. 9th St.

This is the house behind mine. It used to be a rental property, but the owner has made some improvements to it and is now trying to selling it. I hope I get some good new neighbors!

Update - 308 E. University

Workers have already framed the second story for the new house at 308 E. University. It appears that the owners are rebuilding the house to look like it originally did before it burned down.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Update - 803 S. College St.

In a previous post, I wrote how the house at 803 S. College St. had gone into foreclosure, but now has some new owners. Those new owners are going before HARC Aug. 27 to try and get permission to demolish the garage on the property so they can add an addition to the house. The drawing to the left is what the new owners propose to do.

Update: HARC approved the demolition of the old garage, so the new owners are going to be able to proceed with this addition. The garage was demolished on Labor Day.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Price House

This beautiful Eastlake-style Victorian house sits at 209 E. 10th St., just a few blocks down from my house. I just finished reading the most amazing book that details the lives of the first owners of this house. The original owner, Mr. Price, was a founding attorney in the law firm of Makemson, Fisher & Price. Mr. Price and his wife had six children who grew up in this house. One of them, Early Price, saved all the letters that were written to her by her family and her many suitors. Early's granddaughter, Louise Walsh, has recently finished compiling a book that contains all these letters, as well as many photographs and memorabilia from the early 1900s that relate to the Price family.

To read more about Louise Walsh and her book, visit

Louise tells me that this house was originally dark green trimmed with cream and red accents. It stayed in the Price family until the 1950s, and has had many owners since. The current owner(s) live outside Georgetown and do not live in the house. They had let the yard get so overgrown that the neighbor across the street had to complain about it to code enforcement. Finally a few weeks ago the weeds and brush got cleared and we can once again see this beautiful house. One thing that had been hidden under all the weeds is a concrete slab that says "PRICE." It's a fascinating reminder about how much history all these old houses in Georgetown have.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Homeless in Georgetown

This is Jan. Her two dogs are Sweetie and Honey. Jan is 62 years old and is trying to survive on a little more than $600 a month that she receives in Social Security disability benefits. She has been homeless for a long time. She is embarassed about her situation, and as a result, has broken off all contact with her five children.

My husband and I spotted Jan a few blocks from our house pushing a shopping cart loaded with all her possessions. This was during a week where temperatures each day were near 105 degrees. No one - human or animals - should have been out in that heat unless it was absolutely necessary, so we resolved to try and do something to help Jan.

The next morning, my husband found Jan sleeping under a tree near the HEB store. Ants were crawling over everything she owned. Jan explained that she was trying to walk back to California. She had taken a train to Texas to visit her brother in San Antonio, who had recently died, and she wanted to get back home. However, she didn't have any money. Her plan was to walk north to Fort Worth and then head west. She had gotten a ride from San Antonio to New Braunfels, but she had walked all the way from San Marcos to Georgetown pushing her shopping cart along the highway feeder roads. Some 10 police officers stopped and talked to her along the way, but no one did anything to help her. Finally, someone from the Williamson County Sheriff's Department sent a truck to pick her up and they put her in the San Gabriel Crisis Center on College Street for 10 days. After the 10 days allowed by Medicare/Medicaid expired, she was dumped back out on the street. This was the night we saw her.

My husband called The Caring Place, which put him in touch with the Georgetown Ministerial Alliance. Deacon Joe Ruiz from St. Helen's Catholic Church was on call that weekend, and he immediately came out to the HEB store and met Jan. He arranged for her and the dogs to spend a few nights at the San Gabriel Motor Court. In the meantime, my husband I and set about to find Jan a way home. Her dogs, who she had found in San Antonio, complicated the situation, but we understood how much they meant to her and we were determined to figure a way to get them back with her. Buses and trains wouldn't take the dogs and all the airlines we called said it was too hot for them to fly pets.

Laura Hobgood-Oster, a Southwestern University religion professor who spends countless hours each week working at the local animal shelter, came to the rescue for us. She said Continental Airlines had special cargo compartments that allowed them to carry pets throughout the year. So our next problem was to get a health certificate for the dogs so they could fly. Here again, Laura came to the rescue. She got a local veterinary clinic to give the dogs an exam and all their shots. She also found two crates that would be large enough for the dogs to fly in.

So once we had health certificates in hand, we made a reservation on Continental from Austin to Los Angeles. Deacon Joe and his church were generous enough to pay the cost of the ticket. In the meantime, several local residents (who will remain anonymous) helped pay the hotel bill so Jan could stay in the motel until it was time to go.

Yesterday, we got up at 4:15 a.m. and drove Jan and the dogs to the airport so she could catch her flight. We gave her a ticket for a bus that would take her out to the Santa Barbara area, where she claimed she had a part-time job waiting for her.

We'll probably never know what happens to Jan, but at least we know one thing - she and her dogs won't be homeless in Texas in 100-plus degree heat.

Spending a week with Jan and hearing her story really opened our eyes to the problem of homelessness in this country. It also showed us the best (and worst) of Georgetown.

Friday, July 17, 2009

602 E. 8th St.

I wish I had a BEFORE picture of this house, because it was one of those houses that was in such bad shape, I would never dream of buying it. But someone did, and the transformation taking place is amazing. The first thing they did was clear out all the brush that was hiding house. Now you can actually see what it looks like! It has been repainted, and is now being remodeled inside. My neighbor, Paul, is helping with the renovations. This house is located just behind the big white Victorian house that was discussed in an earlier post.

The Old Sherman Hotel

Last week my husband and I went to the ribbon cutting for the newly remodeled Old Sherman Hotel at 1008 S. Main St. Cliff Hardesty and his company, ComProp Investments, did a great job on this remodel. This property used to be a huge eyesore in Old Town and now it is a beautiful commercial property just waiting for some new tenants. The building was originally built in 1924.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


This beautiful Victorian house on College Street apparently went into foreclosure and was recently purchased. Let's hope the new owners can take care of it!

Neighborhood improvements

Since the city passed an ordinance last year prohibiting parking on lawns, the owners of two houses on College Street have put in new driveways.

308 E. University

It looks like they are preparing to put a new foundation down on the property at 308 E. University. This was the site of a beautiful house that burned down several years ago. The columns from the original house have been saved in the front yard.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Demolition by neglect

A few weeks ago at work, I got a call from a man in Missouri who had heard a rumor that Southwestern had bought the house in Georgetown once owned by Civil War veteran John Coffee and was going to turn it into a museum.
I had to tell him there was no truth to the rumor, but the phone call got me interested in the house. I was able to locate it with the help of former Heritage Society President Scherry Chapman.
It is located at 1403 James St., which is near the big water tower in Old Town. One of the current owners, Jane Williamson, is a descendent of John Coffee, but apparently her husband has no interest in the old house. In 1997, they build a new house on the property. Meanwhile, the old house is overgrown with weeds, the roof is collapsing and there is a broken window in back, all of which are conditions that can cause a property owner to be cited for "demolition by neglect" according to Section 4.11 of the city's Uniform Development Code (UDC) which states that:
"No owner...of a property located in the Old Town Overlay District shall permit the property to fall into a serious state of disrepair so as to result in deterioration which would, in the judgment of the Historic District Planner and the Building Official, produce a detrimental effect upon the life and character of the property itself..."
There is a file with the history of this house in the Georgetown Library. Among its claims to fame: Sam Houston once slept there! It is a shame to see such historic homes being neglected like this. For more information on John Coffee, visit

The bridge to...

Biking through San Gabriel Park isn't going to be the same once the new bridge over the San Gabriel River is completed....I don't think these pecan trees are going to be with us much longer, either...

908 Pine St.

This house at 908 Pine St. is going to look nice once the restoration is complete!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Hyer House door is now up for bid!

Will Moore has finished his work on the Hyer House door and delivered it to the Georgetown Library, where it will be on display through May 31 and available for sale via a silent auction. For more information, visit the Georgetown Heritage Society web page at

Edwards Park

The city has made some improvements to the park at the corner of Ash and 8th Streets, including adding some new play equipment.

7th and Ash Streets

The lot at the corner of 7th and Ash Streets was cleared this week. Anyone have any idea what is going to go there?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Hyer House Door

Will Moore is making great progress restoring the door to the historic Hyer House. He promises it will be ready in time to display it at the Heritage Society picnic May 24.

Maple and 13th Streets

It is a shame that the city ever let an apartment complex be built right in the heart of Old Town, but at least the owners have recently given the complex a facelift. They even gave it a new name - Mid-Century Park.

Elm and 5th Streets

Construction has finally started on the lot at Elm and 5th Streets that was vacant for several years after a fire burned down the previous house. The new house is going to resemble an historic four-square.

913 College St.

A new house is already going up at 913 College Street, where a previous house burned down earlier this spring. It will be interesting to see what it looks like!


Welcome to the Around Old Town blog. As you know, Old Town Georgetown is changing rapidly - sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. I created this blog to help share what is going on in my neighborhood - both the good and the bad. The opinions expressed in this blog are strictly my own. If you have an item of interest for this blog, send it to