We're excited to share an interesting bit of Austin history that we've been researching for one of our new projects: Calcasieu Cottages. Dotting the Austin urban fabric are tiny dwellings that represent a bygone housing typology for the middle class of the early 20th century–salesmen, teachers, students, police officers, secretaries, meat cutters. At the time of their construction, these cottage courts were common all across town; very few have survived.
The following is an excerpt from research produced by the Historic Landmark Commission:
These cottages were built by the Calcasieu Lumber Company of Austin as small dwellings in the 1920s and 1930s. The company had standardized plans, and provided all the materials, even the crews for the construction of these houses on an owner’s site. A few were built as single dwellings, but the majority were built in groups, many in the form of a bungalow court, a popular residential pattern for small, free-standing dwellings throughout the country, but especially in Southern California, where they have been celebrated for their scale and configuration. Bungalow courts corresponded to motel courts of the 1920s and 1930s, but the houses were larger than the typical motel unit, and each one was either singly owned or the entire court was owned by a landlord and the houses rented out. The configuration was not unique to motel and bungalow courts, however; some upper class residential developments of the era also followed the court configuration, which prized the houses facing each other with a common area for the front yards, and each building connected by a similarity of scale and style. Austin used to have a number of bungalow courts close to downtown and on the near east side; this configuration of Calcasieu cottages is one of a very small number which remain.
Again, from the Austin Historic Landmark Commission:
The Calcasieu cottages are unique to Austin, and have a signature Romantic Tudor Revival style, with steeply pitched hipped roofs – many residents have long referred to them as “fairy tale cottages” because of their soaring rooflines. Most Calcasieu cottages were wood (Calcasieu was a lumber company), but some cottages have been stuccoed (for a more defining Tudor Revival feel) or covered with synthetic siding over the years. They have been used in motel courts (such as the Classic Inn on South Congress Avenue), and more commonly, as small rental properties, generally for students in the areas surrounding the University of Texas. Calcasieu manufactured these cottages through the 1930s, but stopped with this romantic Tudor Revival style prior to World War II.
The Calcasieu Lumber Company was an Austin institution, and their cottages represent a uniquely Austin manifestation of an architectural style that is found nowhere else in the country. Maintaining them in Austin is extremely important.