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Austin's Architecture: Calcasieu Cottages

Updated: Jan 3

The Calcasieu Cottages are a significant part of Austin's architectural heritage, representing a unique housing typology from the early 20th century. Built in 1936 by the Calcasieu Lumber Company, these one-bedroom cottages were designed to accommodate various middle-class professionals such as salesmen, teachers, students, and police officers. At the time of their construction, cottage courts were common throughout the city, but very few have survived intact to this day.

These cottages are notable for their historical value and the unique construction techniques used. The restoration of these cottages, completed in 2017, involved meticulous repairs and upgrades while preserving the original motor court configuration. The project focused on repairing and restoring exterior siding, windows, and doors, and included upgrades to the foundation, insulation, and roof. The cottages feature a lean and economical structure, with a vaulted roof formed within a 6-inch thickness by layering wood members and metal roof panels, creating a clear open vaulted space without the need for typical truss members or diagonal braces.

The Calcasieu Cottages have undergone multiple interior remodels over the last 80 years. One of the key aspects of the recent renovation was to open up the interior spaces and simplify the floor plans. Most of the services were centralized within a compact core resembling a cabinet. The original low ceilings were removed to reveal the tall, steeply pitched shape of the roof vault, enhancing the sense of space within these small dwellings. Examples of the cottages can be found in the Hancock Neighborhood, Hyde Park neighborhood, Travis Heights neighborhood as well as several other areas in town.

The restoration of the Calcasieu Cottages is a prime example of preserving and adapting historical architecture. It reflects an effort to maintain the connection to Austin's history while accommodating modern living standards and preferences. This project was a collaborative effort involving Murray Legge Architecture and Pilgrim Building Co., showcasing a blend of careful planning, authentic space creation, and high-quality craftsmanship.

For more detailed information on the Calcasieu Cottages and their restoration, you can visit the websites of Murray Legge Architecture and Amity Worrel.

The Calcasieu Lumber Company, known for its significant impact on Austin's housing landscape, offered a variety of home kits beyond just small cottages. While the company is famously associated with its one-bedroom cottages, designed for middle-class professionals in the early 20th century, evidence suggests they also provided kits for larger homes.

Although the primary focus in historical documentation often highlights the smaller cottages, the Calcasieu Lumber Company's role as a comprehensive home center and furniture maker indicates a broader range of building solutions. Their services included providing standardized plans, materials, and even construction crews, which would have allowed for diverse home designs catering to different needs and preferences. Our team refurbished the home at 3813 Avenue H in Austin in Hyde Park and, upon removing drywall, found the Calcasieu stamp on much of the drywall in the home.

Given the company's evolution from a lumberyard in 1883 into a complete home center over its 117 years of operation, it's reasonable to infer that their offerings included various types of homes, possibly extending to larger residential structures. However, specific details about the larger home kits they might have provided are not as prominently documented as their smaller, iconic cottages. A great article on the Kit home movement is here at our partners' Bungalows and Cottages.

For more detailed information on the history and offerings of the Calcasieu Lumber Company, the Austin History Center Digital Collections could provide additional insights.

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