Norwood House future uncertain after city terminates agreement

The Norwood House sits on a hill overlooking Austin near the intersection of I-35 and Riverside.

"Really no doubt that this is a special place," said Kim McKnight, the program manager for historic preservation and tourism at Austin Parks and Recreation.

The 1920s arts and crafts bungalow is a piece of Austin's history.

But after more than 100 years, not much of it is left, including an agreement between the Norwood Park Foundation and the City of Austin.

It was recently terminated late last month as private funding for it dwindled.

"We are just questioning, if this is a project we need to kind of think about some alternatives, perhaps an overlook feature that honors the history of the house, or should this be a project that the city of Austin takes forward to kind of fulfill that vision of reconstructing it," said McKnight.

McKnight said it could cost millions to reconstruct the home.

"Unfortunately, you know, during the early 80s relocation, a lot of the original material was lost or misplaced," said McKnight.

The house was moved from its original location in the 80s to make room for a developer interested in building condos overlooking the river, but the deal fell through.

The house was moved back shortly after, but not without damage to its historic charm.

The city would also have to consider the I-35 Capital Express Central Project and Project Connect Light Rail Line happening next door.

"The potential to me is very obvious," said Wolf Sittler, who’s with the Revive Norwood Alliance. "The idea is to finish the job that the Norwood Park Foundation started."


He thinks it's worth reconstructing and not just for the home's sake, but the decades of people behind it.

"Thousands of hours of volunteer work have gone into bringing it to this point, and so why waste all that?" said Sittler. "And just tear it down and put a viewing platform here?"

A few years ago, the city earmarked $3 million to save it, but after COVID the costs of construction skyrocketed, and the project crumbled.

"It has been shifted some place else," said Sittler. "We’d like to think maybe they can shift some of it back to get started on this.  We think there’s enough interest in Austin history and pasts and stuff like that and just the idea of making this into a usable park facility."

McKnight said it’ll be a few months before Austin Parks and Recreation addresses the city council, and they can proceed with a decision.