Historic photographs of the Byrne-Reed house show stunning, eclectic detail–exquisitely molded cornice patterns, arched patios, bay windows. For the past thirty years the historic house has been encased in a stucco shell, but Humanities Texas is engaged in an extensive renovation of the house to bring its original beauty to light.

"Your eyes tell you that this is a modern '70s building, and when you walk inside you can't believe that beneath this shell is a much older structure," said Executive Director Michael L. Gillette in a recent interview with News 8 Austin. To read News 8's story and watch a video of the interview, click here.

Over the past month, our architects have continued the process of exploratory demolition, peering beneath stucco walls and carpeted floors to uncover original features of the house. For example, a 1930s photograph depicts Ruth Reed and friends relaxing on the south terrace, which is decorated with diamond-patterned tile.

Recent exploratory demolition revealed original tile in a back office, part of what used to be the south terrace. The tile appears to be encaustic, which means the variation in color is due to the color of the clay itself rather than glazing.

On the second floor, exploratory demolition in what was originally a bedroom revealed several original features. The bedroom on the east side of the house had double doors opening onto a porch. The original door frame appears below. 

We were amazed to discover two large original windows with original glass panes in the east bedroom facing 15th St., which was called North St. at the time. The glass appears wavy, which is typical of glass manufactured in the 1920s and earlier. 

The gray surface visible behind the glass pane is the inside surface of the Byrne-Reed House's stucco shell, which is fastened with chicken wire and tar paper. 

Now that we have moved to temporary leased space, the major phase of renovation will begin. We expect it to be completed in September 2010. Humanities Texas is proud to take part in preserving Austin's architectural heritage. To learn more about the Byrne-Reed House, visit its page on our website.

Ruth Reed (far right) and friends on the south terrace of the Byrne-Reed House in the 1930s. Photo courtesy of the Reed family.
A closer look at the south terrace tiles.
Original tile discovered on the south terrace . Photo by Humanities Texas.
More tile from the south terrace. Photo by Humanities Texas.
East porch door on the second floor of the Byrne-Reed House. Photo by Humanities Texas.
Double-hung window with original glass on the second floor of the Byrne-Reed House. Photo by Humanities Texas.
Original double-hung window on the second floor of the Byrne-Reed House. Photo by Humanities Texas.