AUSTIN (KXAN) — Preservation Austin’s Spring Tour returns this Saturday to showcase seven historic Austin buildings, such as the Travis County Probate Courts and Wesley United Methodist Church, in the group’s biggest fundraiser for a year of preservation grants.
This year’s tour is titled “Out of the House” and starts at the Baker School, a public school built to service the Hyde Park suburbs in 1911. The building has been Alamo Drafthouse’s corporate headquarters since 2018 and was designated as a landmark in 2020.
Baker’s halls still have the original wood flooring and 111-year-old lockers, but also neon signs, movie posters and modern fire alarms. Some of the lockers are used by the building’s current workers.
Preservation Austin board member Lori Martin will lead tomorrow’s tour of Baker School and promises plenty of “nooks and crannies.”
One spot on the Baker School tour is the school’s printing press room, which has over 60,000 Press blocks. Tour attendees should also take a moment outside the press room to browse Alamo Drafthouse’s collection of movie poster press plates.
“Every location has an interesting story to tell and lots of history that helps us explain where we have been and where we’re going. And lots of commitment by owners to save and cherish these buildings,” Martin said.
The tour will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and also include the Texas Military Institute Kitchen (built in 1872), the Moya house, the John & Drucie Chase house (built by the first African American architect to graduate from the University of Texas), and murals on East 11th Street. A Preservation Austin docent will be at each stop to provide a guided tour and answer questions.
Preservation Austin’s executive director Lindsey Derrington wants tour attendees to get a sense of preservation that she says can only be gained from visiting historic buildings.
“I want historic spaces to be part of people’s lives. There’s nothing like being in a historic building,” Derrington said. “We can talk about preservation all we want, but until someone has a personal connection to these spaces, they’re probably not going to be the strongest advocates for it.”
Most of Preservation Austin’s work is in awarding grants for projects: educational, brick and mortar and planning. The group also has an awards program and research into the city’s history. Finally, the group advocates for city policy that protects historic buildings and landmarks.
Austin’s rapid growth presents challenges for Preservation Austin’s work. However, Derrington and the group have a passion for the work and hope that the tours spark interest in potential volunteers.
“We want new architecture, want new people to come to town. But we also want to save our legacy businesses and our historic neighborhoods and really have a good balance between the new and the old so we don’t lose our sense of self as a city,” Derrington said.