removal of the entire roof was undertaken as well as the
installation of a temporary plastic cover over the now
roofless walls. Installation of the new roof proceeded
through the summer of 1981.
Other work part of Phase I included the installation of an
elaborate mechanical system to provide complete control
over both temperature and humidity. Also, new drains,
foundation sealing and regrading put an end once and for
all to the building's traditional basement flooding. This
work was carefully planned to avoid any undue disturbance
to existing trees and shrubbery on the museum
Phase II began in the spring of 1982, facilitated by grants
from the Texas Historical Commission, Republic Bank
Austin, the Austin Junior League and the Hyde Park
Neighborhood Association. Romines Construction Company
was chosen as principal contractor. With Phase II
the actual restoration of the museum's appearance finally
began. Windows and doors were removed, restored and
refinished. Floors were refinished and rotted areas were
replaced with matching wood. Decorative woodwork,
originally designed by Elisabet Ney, was carefully
restored and refinished. All of this required much
fine craftsmanship, as did replastering and repainting
throughout the building.
At three places where structural weakness was discovered,
the masonry walls were rebuilt. To further
strengthen the building, two enormous steel beams, now
hidden, were installed spanning the distance between the
front and back walls. Ney's great ground floor skylights
strengthened with steel and, now weighing nearly onehalf
ton each, were rigged to open on steel hinges to ease
return of the larger sculptures, some of which stand ten
feet high, into the building.
Photo courtesy of the Elisabet Ney Museum
A significant improvement was the installation throughout
the museum of an inconspicuous track lighting system
which shows adequately, for the first time, the brilliance
of Elisabet Ney's sculptural forms.
Completion of Phase II in 1982 permitted the public reopening
of the museum, although much work remains to
be done. Inclusion of the funds in the City of Austin's
1982 Capital Improvements Proposal, approved by referendum,
have provided the seeds for funding of Phase III.
It is expected that remaining restoration now resumed
can be carried out without requiring another closure of
the museum. Among the work expected to be completed
in 1984 is a large amount of masonry repointing as well
as the repair and rebuilding of the building's grand front
portico and "lone star balcony."
"When you come to Austin I will take you into
my tower . .. above the maddening crowd. You
will overlook Austin and have a vista of the
Once again, workman's scaffolding is erected outside the
limestone studio for the repointing and cleaning of the
masonry. Standing in the presence of Ney's studio, one
begins to feel an air of expectancy, as if the artist should
appear at any moment applauding the view from the portico.
One of the last times she wrote of her studio, she
stated, "when you come to Austin I will take you into
my tower . . . above the maddening crowd. You will
overlook Austin and have a vista of the mountains."
Elizabeth Vair, former Executive Director of the Texas
Association of Museums, is an author and publication
consultant. Currently she is an instructor for Laguna
Gloria Art Museum's Art School on publication production
and is a consultantllecturer for IBM.
Photograph by Jim Fisher, south elevation, 1984, Elisabet Ney Museum
Elisabet Ney's works may be seen in Austin at the Barker
Texas History Center of The University of Texas, the
State Cemetery and the Capitol, and in the U.S. Capitol
and the National Museum of American Art in Washington,
D.C. The largest collection is at her former studio,
now the Elisabet Ney Museum, administered by the City
Parks and Recreation Department, at 304 East 44th
Street, Austin. The museum is open Tuesday through
Friday, 11:00 to 4:30; Saturday and Sunday, 2:00 to
4:30. No charge for admission. Most of the sculptures
and casts are on permanent loan from The University of
"Liendo," the Montgomerys' home near Hempstead,
is open occasionally for tour groups. Call Mrs. Carl
Detering at 713/826-3126 to make arrangements.
The Elisabet Ney Museum began the fall volunteer
docent training program on September 7. The training
includes in-depth information on Elisabet Ney's sculpture,
the sculpture process, an historical perspective on
her life and work, architectural information about the
studio, as well as training in communication skills and
guiding tours. The docents give both formal and informal
guided tours to visitors throughout the year and
schedule three hours of docenting per week on weekdays
Texas Historical Foundation. Texas Heritage, Fall 1984. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45447/. Accessed October 25, 2014.