Posted on

 Preservation Austin’s “Out of the House” Spring Tour Offers Exclusive Access to Historic Sites

From left: Heritage Society of Austin founder Margaret Boroughs Graham; the Heritage House on West Avenue (photos via Preservation Austin).
The Driskill Hotel ca. 1965 (photo via Preservation Austin).

Sparked by the swiftly changing landscape of postwar Austin, Margaret Boroughs Graham established the Heritage Society of Austin in 1953 with support from 50 preservation-minded friends. In its first decade, her nascent nonprofit advocated for heritage trees and parks, gathered archives for what would become the Austin History Center, and set up headquarters at the aptly dubbed Heritage House on West Avenue. 

The Heritage Society of Austin reached early milestones in 1965 (when it organized a historic resource survey that resulted in National Register districts along Congress Avenue and East Sixth Street) and 1971 (when it collected $100,000 to help purchase the Driskill Hotel as it faced the threat of demolition). In the decades that have followed, the society has helped preserve numerous landmarks — from the Tips Building and the Hirschfeld Mansion to the Paramount Theatre and Laguna Gloria — while working to expand Austin’s local historic district program.

Renamed Preservation Austin in 2012, the nonprofit continues to advocate for “legacy businesses and cultural icons, music venues and old-school bars; high-style neighborhoods, but also those built by the working and middle-class Austinites whose stories make us who we are today.”

As a nonprofit, Preservation Austin counts on community support in the form of donations and various levels of membership, but also hosts an enlightening homes tour that functions as its most important annual fundraiser. A tradition since 1993, the tour adopts an “Out of the House” theme this year as it encompasses an era-spanning assortment of spaces that “speak to our city’s expansive history.”

Taking place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 30, the self-guided tour includes stops at the Castle Court Offices (1873); Baker School (1911); Wesley United Methodist Church (1929); Travis County Probate Courthouse (1936); the Moya House (ca. 1930s); the John & Drucie Chase Building (1952); and the Holly Street Murals (ca. 1990s).

Clockwise from bottom left: tour highlights include the PWA Moderne-style Travis County Probate Courthouse (photo by Casey Dunn); the Gothic Revival-style Wesley United Methodist Church (photo by Leonid Furmansky); the Craftsman-style Moya House (photo by Big Red Sun); and the early 20th-century Baker School, which now serves as Alamo Drafthouse headquarters (photo by Atelier Wong).

“We’re thrilled to share this one-of-a-kind experience with our community,” said Preservation Austin Executive Director Lindsey Derrington. “These spaces tell the stories of the people and movements that shaped Austin, across generations and cultures.”

Tickets ($30 for members, $40 for non-members) are available in advance through noon on Friday, April 29 (at and on the day of the event exclusively at the tour’s home base: Baker School in Hyde Park (3908 Avenue B). All tour attendees must check in at Baker School with proof of full COVID vaccination. Masking and social distancing will be enforced at all tour sites.

Alexander Marchant is a House Sponsor of Preservation Austin’s 2022 “Out of the House” Spring Tour.