1940-2018: Joe Lung of longtime Austin eatery family is dead at 77

Joe Lung, whose family operated popular Austin eateries for three generations, died of complications from a stroke at Hospice Austin’s Christopher House on Wednesday evening. He was 77.

Joe Lung’s family came to Austin in the 1880s. They owned a series of diners, restaurants and sandwich shops. Late in life, Lung welcomed visitors from around the world at the State Capitol gift shop. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

This is a developing story. Check back for details.

Unhappy twist: O. Henry’s Austin honeymoon cottage went up in flames

Reader Susan Wukasch writes: “I found an old paper from October 2016 and I read your Austin Found column about houses being moved, so I decided I’d ask you about the O. Henry House.”
As a child, Wukasch remembered being told that the famous author’s house had been moved from its original site to a place on Shoal Creek Boulevard, down the hill from Pemberton Heights and facing Lamar Boulevard where Gaston Avenue dead-ends.
This image was taken on April 28, 1949 by Neal Douglass of the O. Henry Honeymoon Cottage when it stood on East 11th Street, before it was moved to Gaston Avenue. Contributed by Austin History Center ND
“And I remember vividly driving with my family down Lamar one night — probably in the mid-to-late 1950’s — when we came upon this house in flames, with firetrucks around fighting the fire,” she writes. “We stopped and watched for awhile, I remember.”
Subsequently Wukasch, whose father was an architect with a fondness for preservation, heard that the remains of the house had been moved downtown and the home rebuilt.
“Your Austin Found column reported the house (in Brush Square) originally was downtown, not far from where it now stands, so I’m confused about why I thought it was placed for several years a significant distance north and west of that area before moving it back,” she writes. “You say the original move was carefully documented, leading me to wonder what I saw burning on the side of Lamar Boulevard all those years ago. Might my small-child self gotten the name of the house wrong?”
There’s no question that the O. Henry House, now a small museum, was moved to its present location in 1934, and that when O. Henry’s family lived in it, the house stood at 308 E. Fourth St., about a block away.
However Wukasch’s memory serves her well.
There was a second preserved O. Henry House, his Honeymoon Cottage, that stood in what was Wooten Park (Pease Park now) on Gaston Avenue. It was moved there from the 500 block of E. 11th Street.
The new neighbors didn’t like the idea of it being there, or the Heritage Society‘s plans to move the other O. Henry House there as well.
On Dec. 23, 1956, it went up in flames. It was actually the third fire reported at the house, each likely deliberately set. All that was left was two recently reinforced chimneys.
Historian Bonnie Tipton Wilson wrote a fine article on the conflagration entitled: “Somebody Around Here Wants to Start a Fire.”

New life for a 1939 Austin gem of an apartment building

Reader Elayne Lansford invited us to an unusual party, which turned into a time machine to the a personal past.

“It is about an old building at 1105 Nueces St., built in 1939, one of many examples of little apartment buildings in that time, offering ‘modern’ places for people to live rather than boarding houses,” Lansford wrote us. “These apartments were once all around the center of town, but now only a tiny handful survive in Austin.”

Elayne Lansford inherited the four-unit 1939 apartment building in downtown Austin from her uncle. She fixed it up. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

She had me at “1939.”

By the time I had arrived on a steamy Friday afternoon, a crowd had gathered outside the recently renovated four-unit brick apartment house. Lansford, dressed period attire, addressed a crowed that included Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, neighborhood organizer Ted Siff and project historian Terri Meyers.

RELATED: Ransom Williams farmstead unearthed.

“I call them the missing middle,” Meyers told me later about the 1930s and ’40s housing options in the downtown area for professional women. “They were not boarding houses or Victorians broken up into apartments. They were modern but with homey touches in a residential scale with revival styles. There were schools and jobs nearby and each unit probably went for $100 a month.”

A small crowd cheered the city and federal historic designations for the building on Nueces Street. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Lansford and Meyers worked with designer Tere O’Connell to bring it back to life. The city and federal governments have recognized the historic value of these once ordinary homes.

“My grandmother, a Jewish immigrant and widow who made her living as a landlady after the death of her husband, bought it in 1945 when she moved to Austin for my mother and uncle to attend the University of Texas,” Lansford says. “It was the height of modernity at that time, fully furnished, with full kitchens, wood floors, faux fireplaces, attic fans for cooling, and a shower and tub both in each apartment. It was largely untouched for 70 years, until I inherited it from my late uncle and decided to do a historical renovation of it.”

This four-unit apartment house on Nueces Street was built in 1939 for professional women. It has been restored and honored by the city and federal government. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Why did it serve as a time machine for me? My first grown-up apartments in the early 1970s were created in almost the same mold — same fixtures, same tiles, etc. — during the same period in Houston.

Time travel to 1973 Austin Artists Market on the Drag

Reader Sean Massey was going through a stack of family photos and found a series of undated black-and-white images related to his father, Austin counterculture jeweler Jerry Massey.

Two possibilities presented themselves right away, the what is now known as the open-air Austin Renaissance Market on the Drag, or possibly the City Wide Garage Sale at the since-demolished City Coliseum. The former seemed more likely, especially since the garage sale did not take off until 1977, and this outdoor scene looks very early ’70s. The checkered vest is a clue.

“It appears to be the 23rd Street Artists Market, if that’s the Tower in the background and the Union in front of it,” determined Sam Sargent right away on Facebook. “The building to the upper right should be on the Architecture Building. That’s my guess.”

Sargent had plenty of company on three Facebook pages where we subsequently posted the query: “Austin As It Used to Be,” “Old Austin Dives, Greasy Spoons, etc.,” and “Dazed and Confused/Keeping Our Austin Memories Alive with Its Rich History.”

Journalist and cultural historian Joe Nick Patoski pegged the date circa 1973. Laurence Eighner Hexamer agreed and pointed out the stripes on the pavement that defined the stalls.

“That would have happened about 1972,” Hexamer writes on “Old Austin Dives.” “I think we should see a scrap of the mural if it was there, but it won’t be until 1974. The customer looks familiar, but I cannot name him — note slightly flared pants. I don’t recognize the vendors at all.”

The picture attracted more than 50 comments and replies on “Dazed and Confused,” a good number devoted to the displayed watercolors by Walter Falk, who still has plenty of fans. Others detailed the history of the market, including its slight move away from the Drag proper in 1974, while still others wondered whether they had met up there more than 40 years ago.

The apparent presence of the high-rise Dobie Center in the upper right corner offers another dating clue since it opened in 1972.

“It’s pretty much where all the street venders have been for decades,” writes Gary Klusczinski on “Austin As It Used to Be.” I’d say the timeframe would be somewhere in the early seventies.

 

 

On 1911 Austin crime: ‘That murdered deputy sheriff was my grandfather’

These days, readers provide the lion’s share of material for Austin Found. Or at least they get the ball rolling.

Last month, we serialized the report of a 1911 double murder on West Monroe Street as reported in Ken Roberts‘ new book, “The Cedar Choppers: Life on the Edge of Nothing.” John Teague, son of a Hill Country clan, killed John Gest, owner of the Little South Austin Saloon, attempted to kill his bartender, Max Himmelreich, before heading west to the Balcones Escarpment. Around South First Street, he encountered Deputy Sheriff George Duncan (sometimes referred to as Lemuel). They wrestled and Teague killed Duncan as well. He received a 99-year sentence, yet less than 10 years later, Teague was released from prison.

RELATED: Double murder in 1911 did not merit much prison time.

Murdered Deputy Sheriff George Duncan. Contributed by Anna Galloway

Anna Galloway, who had worked with me on a story about the old rural community of Duval, which is now subsumed into North Austin off Duval Road, called to say: “That murdered deputy sheriff was my grandfather.”

“Of course you’ve heard the story that when Gov. Pa Ferguson was impeached, he asked for the names of 99 felons with 99-year sentences and pardoned them all,” Galloway relates about the extraordinarily corrupt politician. “John Teague was one of the 99.”

In fact, Teague was only on trial for the murder of Gest, since Himmelreich was a living witness. The authorities figured they had him.

Some 40 years later, Galloway says, one of Duncan’s five orphaned girls, Alta May Duncan, was working at Brackenridge when Teague was hospitalized. As a nurse, she was required to attend to the man who had murdered her father. She refused and was backed up by an upper supervisor who had the good sense to realize that Brack would be held liable if something fishy happened to Teague under her care.

Online records indicate that Teague died in May 1972.

RELATED: Best Texas books: “The Cedar Choppers” by Ken Roberts.

“The irony is that my great-grandmother made a decision soon after the funeral to move the widowed mother and her five girls to Hays County,” Galloway says. “They bought acreage with a lot of cedar trees. They built a charcoal kiln, chopped cedar and burned it in the kiln. Then they sacked charcoal which was brought into Austin and sold.”

In other words, they, too, became cedar choppers.