Monday, April 1, 2013

Angelina Eberly, The Sculpture on Congress Ave.

A seven-foot tall and 2,200-pound bronze sculpture of a woman shooting a cannon stands on Congress Avenue between 6th and 7th Streets.  Her name is Angelina Eberly, and her act hails from the pioneer days of the new Republic.  This statue has been an iconic Austin treasure since Sept. 2004.

The back up a little:  Texas had become an independent country, the Republic of Texas, in 1836. The first president of the Republic of Texas was Sam Houston.  

Houston served as President from October 22, 1836, to December 10, 1838, and again from December 12, 1841 to December 9, 1844.  He was not permitted to serve consecutive terms.

The interim presidency went to Mirabeau Lamar and in 1839 he established Austin as the capitol of the new Republic.  This didn't sit well with Sam Houston.  

In the middle of the night in 1842 during the second Houston presidency, Sam Houston attempted to forcibly move the capitol from Austin to back to Houston.  He sent the Texas Rangers to Austin to steal the government archives,

It was night time, and Angelina Eberly, a local innkeeper, heard a noise.  She discovered the Texas Rangers loading their wagons.

She ran to the center of town - now 6th and Congress - and shot the town cannon.  She missed hitting the Rangers but successfully blew a hole in the old General Land Office three blocks away.  (The new GLO, which was built in 1857, still stands today, unharmed.) The populace was roused from their sleep and the Texas Rangers, who had made it as far as Brushy Creek, were successfully chased down.  The records were apprehended and returned to Austin.  Angelina Eberly had saved Austin as the Capitol of Texas.

The artist Patrick Bruce "Pat" Oliphant is the sculptor for this magnificent piece.  It was donated as a gift to the City by Capital Area Statues, Inc., (CAST), the folks who also brought us the Philosophers' Rock at Barton Springs Pool.  CAST is a non-profit organization dedicated to celebrating the history and culture of Texas through highly original works of monumental sculpture.  

Angelina Eberly, Sculpture on Congress

6th and Congress Ave., Austin, TX  78701

John Bremond, Jr. House (1886-87)

This is one of the homes in the Bremond Block, a family enclave created by two brothers, Eugene and John Bremond, for themselves and their extended family in the late 1800's.  For more information, see the TravelGoat story:  The Bremond Block Story.

Noted for its "Victorian exuberance," this Second Empire home boasts having the first indoor toilet in Austin.  The mansard roof, covered in multi-toned slate shingles,  has elaborate dormers; the decorative cast-iron work is intricately complex.  After the State Capitol, it is the second most popular historic site in Austin.  It is currently  occupied by the Texas Classroom Teachers Association.

Noted master builder George Fiegel needs to be honored for the many lovely Victorian homes built both on the Bremond Block and elsewhere in Austin.  He built this outstanding home in 1886-87.

John Bremond, Jr. purchased this property as an empty lot in 1864, two years before Eugene bought the adjacent property.  Since his elder brother Eugene had left the family's mercantile business to start a banking business, it was John, Jr.'s responsibility to run the store.  This home is proof of his success as a businessman.

A sad part of this story:  John's adored wife, Hallie Robertson, died in 1887 just as the house was being completed.  But a happy part of the story is that heir daughter Hallie married 'the boy next door' in 1915 and continued to live next to her father's house for another half century.

John Bremond, Jr. House
Tel: none
700 Guadalupe, Austin, TX  7870
Occupied by the Texas Classroom Teachers Association

Phillips-Bremond-Houston House (1854)

This beautiful little house has a sweeping front porch under massive shady oak trees.  It was designed and built by master builder Abner Cook, the man responsible for the Governor's Mansion.  The original house, built in the Greek Revival style, was the home of a prominent doctor, William Phillips.  Eugene Bremond may have lived here as early as 1866, the year he purchased the northern half of the block.  The one-story house was later expanded with a rear addition in 1872 in an Italianate style.

The house was the home of Eugene Bremond and his wife Mary Amelia Robinson.  Unfortunately,  Mary died in that year -- the same year that the house was expanded.   Eugene remarried in 1874 and moved his family to a new home, then sold this house to his older brother Jonh Bremond, Jr. in 1906.

Soon after John acquired the property, the house was leased out to a young man named Hale Houston.  Hale in turn fell in love with and married John's daughter, Hallie, and so the house continued to be occupied by a Bremond for the next half century.

Phillips-Bremond-Houston House
Tel: none
706 Guadalupe St., Austin, TX  78701
private residence/office

The Bremond Block Story

In the 1840's this block, which is just a short walk from Congress Ave., was still a wild place -- there was mortal danger from Indians.  But by 1866 it was becoming a residential neighborhood.  Austin is rightfully proud of it:  it is a rare example of a Victorian-era neighborhood still intact, beautifully landscaped with lush planting and giant live oaks.  Interested architecture buffs can find a few more homes from this glorious era in the neighborhood blocks just west of the Bremond Block.

The story of the Bremond family goes something like this. 

The Bremond patriarch, John Bremond, Sr., was a successful merchant with a store on East 6th Street. It was one of the earliest stores in Austin and he was tremendously successful.  The west side of Congress Ave. was being developed:  The new  Governor's Mansion was built there in 1856 and Gov. Elisha Pease invited John Bremond, Sr. to come see the Fourth of July fireworks from its balcony the year it was completed. 

Mr. Bremond, Sr. also enjoyed the company of his neighbor, close friend and fellow merchant  John Robinson, Sr.  Their success and friendship was the basis for two important developments:  marriage and banking.  Three children of the one family married three children of the other.  And where the younger Bremond son, John Jr., kept up the family merchant business, the eldest son, Eugene, developed one of its natural offshoots:  banking.

It was common practice at the time for retailers to extend credit terms to customers.  Eugene took this to the next step by creating the Bremond Bank (which became State National, then Capital National).  The Hirshfeld Bank was created during this same time period, and the bank officers of both helped to fill out this beautiful neighborhood with their wealth and taste for lovely homes.  Some of these banker's homes were later demolished to create banking facilities for customers -- parking garages and drive-thru banks.  The Bremond Block is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Eugene had a vision of a family compound.  His brother already owned an empty lot at the corner of 7th St. and Guadalupe when Eugene joined him.  Homes on this block eventually housed Eugene's children, his mother, his brother, four younger sisters, and numerous neices and nephews.  By 1876, the local newspaper reported that one-twentieth of the city's taxes were paid by the Bremond family -- and in 1876 the most glorious homes were not even built yet on this block.

All of the properties in the Bremond Historical District are now either private homes or offices.  The stories of each of the houses help to trace the family members as they matured and passed on their inheritance.  For more details, see the individual listings of the Bremond Block houses.

Bremond Block Historic District
Tel: none
Location: the block bounded by W. 7th St., W. 8th St. Guadalupe and San Antonio
private residence/office

Bremond Block Homes: Stories of four more of the properties

(1) Eugene Bremond House
404 W. 7th St., Austin, TX  78701

This Italianate house was built in 1873.  In 1874, Eugene Bremond paid $15,000 for both the house and the empty lot next door to the east.

In 1872, Eugene Bremond was a widower with four young children to care for.  He married again in 1874, this time to Augusta Palm.  He moved his children and new bride to this house on the southwest corner of the block.  Eugene and August had two more children, so all together the Eugene Bremond family had six children.

It was said that the alley behind the house was often closed off at either end so that the children and their cousins could play there.  A traveling vegetable cart made daily stops there at the alley, and Eugene  made those purchases for his mother and wife.

(2) Pauline Bremond Robinson and Catherine Robinson House (1891)
705 San Antonio St., Austin, TX  78701

Across the alley, just to the north of Eugene's house, later lived Eugene's sister Pauline.  She had six children and a seventh on the way when her husband, Alfred Robinson, died in 1885.  Eugene had this house built for her in 1891.

It was updated in 1905 with columns and a second floor gallery in the Colonial Revival style.  Later, Pauline bequeathed the home to her maiden daughter Catherine who continued to live there until 1961.  

(3) Walter Bremond House (1887-1888)
711 San Antonio, Austin,TX  78701

At first this was the home of a sister of Eugene Bremond, Josephine Bremond Crosby, who lived there briefly with her husband Josiah.  In 1887, Eugene decided to remodel it.  Local master builder George Fiegel was hired to add one and a half stories to the stone house, transforming it into a fashionable Second Empire home.

It was a wedding gift from Eugene to his son, Walter, and his bride Mary Anderson.

(4) Pierre Bremond Home (1898)
402 W. 7th St., Austin, TX  78701

One of the youngest of Eugene's children, Pierre married a socialite from St. Louis, Nina Abadie, and this lovely house was built on the empty lot that Eugene had purchased back in 1874.  

By this time, master builder George Fiegel had been engaged to build numerous homes for the Bremonds.  The Pierre Bremond Home is a subdued Queen Anne style.  It was the last home to be built on the block.

The couple had no children, but were known to be fun-loving with a special affection for dogs and sylish new cars.  Once again the alley was useful, now for a parking place for Pierre's automobiles.

Butler Pitch & Putt Story

Albert Winston Kinser, who went by 'Winston', and his brother John Douglas Kinser, 'Doug', had grown up playing golf.  The Kinser brothers leased property from the City of Austin in 1949 to create their dream:  A 9-hole golf course near downtown Austin known as Butler Park Pitch and Putt.

These were the LBJ years.  In 1948, after serving for twelve years as a United States Representative, LBJ was elected U.S. Senator.  LBJ had four siblings, and one of them was his sister Josefa Johnson.  With an interest in politics, she had worked actively in his recent Senate campaign.

Josefa was a single woman in 1952 after two divorces.  Malcom (Mac) Wallace, an associate of LBJ's working for the United States Department of Agriculture in Texas, was a married man.

Rumors were that Josefa was having affairs with both Mac Wallace and Doug Kinser; and that Doug Kinser was also having an affair with Mac Wallace's wife.  

On 22nd October, 1951, Mac Wallace walked into the clubhouse of the Butler Park Pitch and Putt, pulled out a gun and shot Doug Kinser multiple times in cold blood.  A customer heard the shooting and noted the license plate as the vehicle escaped.  Mac Wallace was apprehended -- the weapon was found in his car as was the blood of his victim.

On February 1st, 1952, Wallace resigned from his government job and was represented in court seventeen days later by LBJ's attorney, John Cofer.   

It might be possible to assume that the motive was jealousy, which was what Cofer claimed in court.  However, the outcome of the trial was so bizarre that other motives come to mind.   

Barr McClellan, a lawyer who worked in Austin for a firm closely linked to LBJ, offers insights beneath the facade in his 2003 book Blood Money and Power: How L.B.J. Killed J.F.K.  Was it possible that Doug Kinser knew about possible wrongdoings of LBJ from conversations with Josefa? McClellan mentions that Doug had asked Josefa to approach her brother to ask for financial help.  LBJ refused, and the implications of blackmail arose. 

During the murder trial, Wallace never testified in his own defense.  

The jury's verdict was "murder with malice afore-thought".  Eleven of the jurors were for the death penalty and the twelfth argued for life in prison.   Judge Charles O. Betts overruled the jury, announced a sentence of five years imprisonment and then suspended the sentence.   Wallace was freed.

History -- or perhaps rumor-- has it that this wasn't the only murder committed by Wallace.  The list of his covert criminal activity goes on to include the possibility that he was one of the gunmen who shot JFK.  His finger prints have been positively identified with those found on a box at the scene of the sniper's nest.  He died at age 49 in a one-car crash in 1971.

Butler Pitch & Putt
201 Lee Barton Dr, Austin, TX
(512) 477-4430 ‎ ·

Capitol Visitor's Center: The Story of O. Henry

William Sidney Porter, the man behind the pen name of O Henry, was born in North Carolina in 1862.  He was a licensed pharmacist when he came to Texas as a young man in 1882.  He was also an avid reader, a bookkeeper, a musician and singer, and had a talent for drawing.

He met his future wife, Athol Estes, on the Capitol grounds during the festivities which marked the placement of the cornerstone of the new Capitol building on March 2, 1885.  She had been selected by her classmates to place souvenirs in the cornerstone, and in that collection she included a locket of her hair.  They married in 1887, although she had already been diagnosed with tuberculosis.

Porter worked at the General Land Office (GLO), on the Capitol grounds, from 1887-1891as a draftsman.  Some of his stories bear themes from the days of his work here: Georgia's Ruling and Buried Treasure.  In particular, note the circular staircase and the third floor (unlighted) attic which were instrumental in one of his fictitious stories involving a murder.

The GLO was a place where land sharks could come to search for records with errors and exploit them for financial gain and speculation.  This was both a legal and profitable business.  Porter himself found a sliver of unclaimed land and was able to buy and sell it for profit.

When his job terminated at the GLO, he worked from 1891-1894 at the First National Bank of Austin.   He left to move to Houston and to pursue his writing. Sadly, his wife died in 1897 of tuberculosis, leaving him to care for their daughter Margaret.

Porter's employment at the bank now came under fire.  He was convicted of embezzlement in 1898, and was forced to serve about 3 years in prison as a prison pharmacist.  The head prison guard who befriended him was named Orrin Henry at the Ohio State Federal Penitentiary.  His sentence was reduced and he was released early.

Porter reunited with his daughter Margaret, moved to NYC and began his prolific period of writing prose.  He wrote 300 stories there.  He achieved international fame during his lifetime and is credited with defining the literary art form of the short story.

He never wrote a story that wasn't eventually published, and he claimed to have never rewritten a story.  He was typically paid half in advance for a writing assignment, and often would have to be hounded by his editors when they became desperate to have him write the second half of the story.  

He died at age 47 in 1910.  He was penniless.

Capitol Visitor's Center
112 E 11th St, Austin, TX
(512) 305-8400 ‎ ·