Vintage Austin: Butler House

This Vintage Austin image is of the Butler House. In late 1887, Michael Butler moved his family into this home, designed by his friend from Arkansas, architect Thomas Harding.

Photo Credit: Austin History Center; PICA 00630

Described by Preservation Austin, "The Butler Mansion featured rooms laid out in geometric shapes, with two octagons and no rectangles or squares. Granite was used for windowsills, window frames, and decorative arches. The home’s Gothic influence “is reflected in its turrets – some round, some angular – and in the carved terra cotta gargoyles, which lend a quaint, castle-like charm.”

Unfortunately, the home no longer stands. The property was purchased by a Houston man in 1971 who demolished the home to build a parking garage. Parts of the Butler mansion live on throughout Austin. The large round window now stands in the Zilker Botanical Garden while other pieces went on to be included in the construction of several residential homes.

Michael Butler was an Irishman who came to the U.S. at the age of 24 and worked as a bricklayer's assistant in New York. After several moves, Butler came to Texas where he first began manufacturing bricks in the Dallas area, along the shore of the Trinity River. Butler then moved to Austin in 1873, opening his first production site here on the north shore of the Colorado River where present day I-35 runs. Flooding forced Butler to relocate to the south bank of the river, bounded by Barton Creek, the Colorado River, South 1st Street, and Barton Creek Road.

In 1877 Butler Brick Co implemented new equipment that improved their production quantity to more than 11.2 million bricks annually. Butler bricks were used in the construction of most of the city's first brick buildings. Notably, more than three million bricks were used to create the interior walls of the 1888 Capitol and the three wings of the Old UT Main Building each included Butler bricks, many of these bricks would later be reused to complete the 1937 Main Building.

Now called the Elgin-Butler Brick Company, they are still cranking out bricks and other ceramic products.

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