"There is a quiet in these structures, a dependability, a staunchness, a dignified friendliness, kindly shelter, and withal a demonstration of usefulness. They are the good things from our past, and caution should we be before we do away with them." Minor & Major Mansions & their Companions in Early Austin: A Sequel. By August Watkins Harris and/or Loula Macgill Harris. n.p. c. 1958, n.p.
Ironically, it seemingly took the loss of the Butler House, Houghton House and Hunnicutt House to bring about a mature understanding in the community of the importance of preserving historic structures. In 1974, the City passed a Historic Landmark Preservation Ordinance that encourages preservation through tax abatements. In 1975, a financial institution, Franklin Savings, began its much lauded program of adaptive reuse of historic buildings. The Bremond Block became recognized as a treasure. East Sixth Street was declared a National Register District and the process of renovating the buildings there for modern use was begun, creating a popular tourist attraction.
Now, some twenty years later, we can look back on "Lost Victorian Austin" and see that as the community lost its Victorian mansions, cottages, commercial buildings, churches, and institutional structures, it also lost much of its collective history--the story of Austinites from different cultures and geographical areas. As the Butler House was being torn down, the Austin Chapter of the American Institute of Architects published a requiem for it which applies to all our losses: "Beyond the immediate history of the Butler family, the house is an illustration of the aspirations of local society, but also of those that inspired them from without, in larger cities, and abroad. The house is further a story of building, the methods and materials of construction of the 1880s. As long as it stands, such a building is a visible wealth of information and a direct and powerful catalyst to memory." "Present Uses of Our Past" by R. James Coote, Austin Statesman, October 31, 1971
Today, Austin is fortunate to be able to boast many outstanding Victorian structures that have been saved. But the saga of "Lost Victorian Austin" still continues. There are structures still at risk. A fire led to the demolition of an extraordinary Victorian mansion on Blanco Street. A large Victorian house on the east side of IH-35 was razed without much attempt to save it. Historic preservation requires diligence and continued education generation by generation. As a community we must protect these structures that enrich our urban landscape with visual variety and style, and "as a direct and powerful catalyst to memory" remind us of who we were, thus illuminating who we are today.