Muny added to National Register of Historic Places


Correction: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Sheri Gallo’s name.

Lions Municipal Golf Course in Austin has been added to the National Register of Historic Places because of its place in the civil rights movement, a decision that could make it more difficult for the University of Texas System to realize long-standing plans to turn the property into a mixed-use development.

The decision, by the National Park Service, is a major victory for Save Muny, a group of golfers, environmentalists and West Austinites who banded together in support of the property’s recreational and green space benefits. However, the listing does not necessarily prevent the redevelopment of the 141-acre property along Lake Austin Boulevard.

The UT System and UT-Austin had urged the Park Service to designate a limited portion of Muny, including the clubhouse and greenskeeper’s cottage, for the National Register. The city-operated course sits on university-owned land. But the federal agency agreed with Save Muny, which nominated the course for listing, and the Texas Historical Commission, which endorsed the nomination, that the entire property merited inclusion.

Past coverage: UT, Save Muny group spar on how to honor golf course’s place in history

Lions Municipal is considered one of the earliest municipal golf courses in the former Confederate states to be desegregated, if not the first. UT, which recently prevailed in a U.S. Supreme Court case challenging its use of affirmative action in admissions, and its governing board might be wary of destroying a significant site in the civil rights movement.

“We’re very pleased that they listed the entire course,” said Ken Tiemann, a leader of Save Muny. “I certainly hope it helps UT to see more value in the site for academic purposes, more than a commercial use. It was from our standpoint a process of educating university officials and alumni about the value of the history and hoping that will weigh into any decision they make about the property.”

UT-Austin President Gregory L. Fenves said: “We are reviewing the decision as we discuss the future of the entire Brackenridge Tract, which includes the golf course and other land that was deeded to the university for the benefit of our students. The university and community must continue to discuss how to honor the important civil rights history at the site while fulfilling our obligations to Colonel Brackenridge, our university and the state of Texas.”

George Brackenridge was a banker and regent who donated the tract to the university in 1910 in hopes that it would become the main campus.

Related: Research suggests golf course was a leader in desegregation

Several local black leaders, as well as U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, and three members of the Congressional Black Caucus, had urged the National Park Service to add Muny to the National Register.

Joseph C. Parker Jr., senior pastor at David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Austin, said he was “excited and elated” about the listing.

“My hope continues to be that the University of Texas will respect the desires of those of us who want it to not be redeveloped,” Parker said. “And now with the considered decision of the registry officials, it appears as if our position has been affirmed. It seems to me that some serious weight needs to be given to their decision.”

Austin City Council Member Sheri Gallo, whose district includes Muny, welcomed the listing and said she hoped it would help clear the way for its preservation. Gallo said one possibility is that the city might provide the UT System with expanded development rights on another part of the Brackenridge Tract, such as property fronting the Colorado River, in exchange for preserving the course.

“It’s going to take some creative strategy,” Gallo said.

The system’s Board of Regents voted in 2011 against renewing the city’s lease when it expires in 2019, saying that revenue from leasing the land for commercial and residential development would benefit the Austin campus.

In an interview last month, Kirk Tames, executive director of real estate for the UT System, said a National Register listing of the entire course could limit the use of federal grant money for any development on the property — for instance, if the university constructed a research building. Development requiring a permit from the city of Austin, including by a private party leasing the land from UT, would be affected by a city ordinance that imposes an additional process for National Register properties, he said.

“It would not necessarily prevent development, but it would add an additional regulatory burden to any such development,” Tames said.

The Park Service listed Muny on the National Register on July 7, but the action wasn’t announced until Friday.

Save Muny’s nomination said two black youths walked onto Muny in 1950 and began playing in brazen disregard of Jim Crow laws. City officials decided to let them play despite laws against it. Thus, the course became integrated quietly and peacefully, well before violent confrontations that characterized desegregation of public accommodations elsewhere in the South.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Sheri Gallo’s name.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

AISD board approves raise, contract extension for Superintendent Cruz
AISD board approves raise, contract extension for Superintendent Cruz

The Austin school board Monday night approved a 1.5 percent raise and one-year contract extension for Superintendent Paul Cruz as part of the school leader’s annual evaluation. The changes bring Cruz’s base salary to $310,958 and his contract through Dec. 31, 2020. School board President Kendall Pace read a statement summarizing Cruz&rsquo...
Texas Digest: Boy’s body found on beach

GULF COAST Police seek help to identify dead boy on beach Police are asking the public to help identify a young boy whose body was found on a beach in Southeast Texas. Galveston police said that the boy, age 3 to 5 years, was found Friday evening and that no one has reported a child missing. Authorities have been unable to find a child matching his...
Former Austin Republican state Rep. Bob Richardson dies at 72
Former Austin Republican state Rep. Bob Richardson dies at 72

Former state Rep. Bob Richardson, R-Austin, died Monday of complications from surgery to treat a hip fracture, attorney Don Cotton of the Bob Richardson Law Firm, told the American-Statesman. He was 72. Richardson unseated Democratic state Rep. Russ Tidwell and served in the Texas House for three terms — 1985 to 1991. Before running, Richardson...
Prosecutors drop all remaining charges against Rep. Dawnna Dukes
Prosecutors drop all remaining charges against Rep. Dawnna Dukes

Travis County prosecutors dropped all of the remaining charges against longtime state Rep. Dawnna Dukes on Monday, bringing an end to a legal soap opera that could have put the lawmaker behind bars. Instead, the saga concluded with a jubilant Dukes announcing on a Facebook post that she would seek reelection next year. “I am looking forward to...
CANCHOLA TRIAL: Murder charge tossed after medical examiner’s flip-flop
CANCHOLA TRIAL: Murder charge tossed after medical examiner’s flip-flop

A man who is suspected of beating his boyfriend to death no longer faces several felony charges, including a murder charge, after a Travis County judge tossed out the bulk of a medical examiner’s controversial testimony on Monday. State district Judge David Wahlberg reversed his ruling from last week, announcing statements given from the witness...
More Stories