Heritage, Volume 9, Number 2, Spring 1991 Page: 9
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A s improbable as it may sound, a
long-lost pioneer farmstead has
been discovered smack in the
middle of an Austin residential neighborhood,
and is being lovingly restored.
Now that more than two year's work has
gone into the restoration, a visitor can get
an appreciation of how the dwelling and
outbuildings must have appeared at the
time of construction-when the state of
Texas was only three years old.
Now well on its way to restoration, the
dwelling was constructed of ashe juniper
logs, neatly joined at the comers by what
axmen call a "half-dove-tail" technique.
Built about 1848, the home is of the dogtrot
or double-pen design loved by American
The story of how these pioneer structures
were saved from destruction reads like
fiction. Prospective buyers-the husband
an archaeologist and the wife a historian
Mike and Karen moved to Austin from
Midland County in 1986, where Mike had
worked with his father in an independent
oil business. He also served as interim director
of the Museum of the Southwest and
taught at Midland and Odessa colleges. After
moving to Austin, Mike resumed his
calling as an archaeologist and now serves
as a Research Fellow at the Texas Archeological
Research Laboratory, University
of Texas at Austin.
Left: Karen and Mike Collins
in front of the farmstead they
rescued. This photo was taken
after a year of restoration work
to peel the "modern" exterior
sheathing from the logs.
Right: Before restoration. The
main building is on the left;
the gear shed is on the right.
The buildings were once divided
into several rental units.
Photos courtesy of the Collinses.
The visitor to the site should not at first
try to pick out details, but should just
absorb and appreciate the scene.
Three live-oak-shaded buildings
dominate the view from the driveway. On
the right is a small log structure known in
some areas as a "gear shed," undoubtedly
built to shelter harness, saddles, feed, and
tools. To the left is a building of hodgepodge
shape. Its modern additions cover
secrets that have not seen the light of day
for decades, but will thrill students of
pioneer architecture when its ancient
inwards are uncovered and renovation is
complete. Directly ahead stands the
eighteen by forty-two foot main housethe
crown jewel of this cluster of buildings.
drive slowly past three buildings at 4811
Sinclair Avenue. Two of the buildings
wear condemned signs. Suddenly the roof
line of one of the run-down buildings rivets
"We got excited as soon as we saw the
roof. The pitch, and the way the porch was
attached, indicated that the house could be
an early Texas structure.
"There was a 'for sale' sign, so we called
the realtor immediately. We knew within
ten minutes that we wanted this place."
With these words Michael B. Collins
explains how he and his wife Karen bought
the property in January, 1989 and saved a
treasure of pioneer architecture and history
from the bulldozer blade.
Karen is a historian, but her career has
included teaching, writing, and managing
"When we got to Austin, we decided to
rent until we found a home we wanted,"
Karen explained, "and while we were
renting the bottom fell out of the realestate
market. We looked at some good
buys, but the spark just wasn't there."
The search for a place to settle and live
in Austin ended at the worst-looking house
and lot in the Rosedale neighborhood, but
the spark was definitely there.
"As we walked up the drive, we could
see bits of ceramics, glass, and metal in the
bank where the soil was cut by use," Mike
said. "We saw logs on the northwest end of
HERITAGE * SPRING 1991 9
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 9, Number 2, Spring 1991, periodical, Spring 1991; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45424/m1/9/: accessed April 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.