STORIES FROM THE
FANNIE DAVIS GAZEBO
by Christine Adame
This booklet is intended to be a scrapbook and a reflection of the Fannie Davis Gazebo and its beloved place in Town Lake and Austin’s, history. It is a story told by the men and women who by the strength of their vision and their effort built a structure contemplating the beauty of Austin’s changing skyline. Not only did they succeed in this marvelous and community-supported establishment, but they continue to fight to keep this structure as beautiful as it is beloved. Their efforts are a reflection of their dedication, and the epitome of Austin’s communal spirit.
TABLE of CONTENTS STORYTELLERS
INTENT 5 CIVIC HARMONY 7 DESIGN 9 CONSTRUCTION BEGINS 12 REPAIR, the first time
PRESERVATION ISSUES 22 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
BIBLIOGRAPHY & PHOTO CREDITS
Mrs. Lori Nill was president of the Austin, Texas NAWIC chapter (National Association of Women in Construction) in 1965 and project coordinator of the gazebo. Mrs.Nill lives in Austin and remains active within her community.
Pat Turner spent 37 years in NAWIC, where she took an active role in the protection of the gazebo. The structure had already been established when Pat came into the organization, but she considered it a duty to her foremothers to continue to protect it. Pat works in Round Rock for Ideal Mechanical Co., and devotes her time to the Austin Chapter of Soroptimists.
Ken Wendler, the president of Anken Construction at the time of the Gazeboâ€™s construction, devoted his time and energy and that of his best employees to the project. Mr. Wendler is an active user of Austinâ€™s hike and bike trail and continues to challenge himself in local marathon races.
â€œa barbie doll, a list of participating NAWIC members, and other remembrances of the 60sâ€?to be opened in 2069
Behind the plaque is a posterity box, containing
-Pat Turner 5
“It was for Ladybird Johnson's Beautification program, and we needed a construction project for our chapter. And so, we thought, yeah, let's get something started! This was supposed to be a start for other organizations to follow suit.” -Lori Nill The Town Lake Beautification Program began officially in 1971 under the leadership of Claudia “Ladybird” Johnson. The recent First Lady hoped this program would make the Lake, man-made from damming the Colorado River, a feature of Austin. For NAWIC, the aims of this program coincided with the desire for a construction project for the Austin chapter. Construction on the gazebo began in 1967, blazing the trail for LadyBird Johnson’s Program. When Mrs. Johnson brought dignitaries around the lake, she took so many photos near the gazebo that people started to think she was responsible.
“No bird,” didn’t
offense says Pat
to LadyTurner, “but she the gazebo.”
NAWIC planned and constructed the gazebo independently, choosing a site just west of the South First Street Bridge. The Lady Bird Lake Trail runs just south of the gazebo, bringing it within the admiring view of passerby.
CIVIC HARMONY NAWIC set a rigourous precedent when they be-
Together they raised $6,000 in three gan fundraising for the gazebo.
years organizing events like this benefit dance.
set a precedent of civic involvement to
be sought by future members of the Austin group in the care and keeping of the gazebo.
What money NAWIC didnâ€™t raise came from the generous donations of business people across the Austin area. A long list of contributors for everything from the laminated beams to the paper on which the announcements were printed speaks of the enthusiasm and support of the community for this project. The materials and labor donated by local firms and citizens were sufficient to build a structure estimated to cost $36,000.
DESIGN â€œThe architect did a good job of solving the simple problems for a simple thing and making its characterâ€? -Ken Wendler
At 900 square feet, the gazebo served as a â€œroom-with-a-viewâ€?, framing the surrounding lakefront and downtown to the north, the park and Auditorium Shores, including Palmer Auditorium, to the south. The architect designed the gazebo to occupy its own man-made island with a reflecting pond and footbridge. This organization is sensitive to the future growth of this area: the path leads the passerby further into the lake, away from the busy hike-and-bike trail. Under the graceful roof yields a place of tranquility, a constant frame for the changing view of Austin. From afar, the gazebo rises prominently over the lake, complementing the dome of Palmer Auditorium, also known as the City Coliseum. Local architect John Sterry Nill donated his time to design the gazebo at the invitation of his wife, Lori Nill.
“People did worry that the City Coliseum would overwhelm the gazebo, but it weathered that storm, and people thought it a great asset to that area” –Ken Wendler
Mr. Wendler involved himself in Austin politics because like many contractors at the time, he was from Austin. The contractors’ association was fairly The political climate of Austin is one deeply rooted in diverse interests, making politically vocal. At one time Mr. Wendler was part of a committee deliber- any change within the city a battle. It is not until recently that the gazebo has ating the future of the lakeshore and the location of Austin’s new Auditorium. been affected by these vested interests. In 2005 Palmer Auditorium began reconstruction to become the Long Center for the Performing Arts, a testament “Before we built the gazebo a big big deal going on in the city was where to Austin’s growth bringing more activity to the area and also implications the new coliseum would be…it ended up being a war between the down- for future of the gazebo. At its establishment, however, the strong design of town business people and the South Austin people-they didn't want anything the gazebo and its expressive roof made it one of the lakeshore’s defining on the river at all, but the city folk stood by it. [The Auditorium] became the first gems and like the Auditorium, made Town Lake a defining feature of Austin. thing that had ever been added right on Town Lake and the first tourism we had for the city other than the Quonset hut we had down on that same earth.”
Mr. Wendler, president of Anken Construction, describes the gazebo as a fairly straightfoward, small project. The curved, glue-laminated beams that give the gazebo its characteristic form shipped in pre-shaped and ready. Glulam was a fairly new material to the area at this time but had already found application in churches and other buildings that called for expressive roof shapes. After the concrete in the foundation and piers set, a crane placed the beams into position. The piers received a limestone masonry facing. Carpenters cut the wood decking to fit in between the beams. Then the roof sheathing was applied.
Setting up formwork for the octagonal floor slab
Slowly but surely
Preparing for the pour
A temporary structure holds up the beams and compression ring until the decking can be applied
A crane raises one of the glu-lam beams
A total of sixteen glulam beams support the roof
The decking proved to be the most challenging part of the construction. Each piece of decking was custom cut according to the tapering form of the gazebo.
“I picked the best the carpenter I had. About that time I had 5 or 6 jobs going, with a superintendent on each, but I managed to pull the best one off of what he was on and put him over there. He didn’t work with his tools anymore but he knew how to get the thing done. “
On Monday, June 8, 1970 NAWIC dedicated the gazebo to the city of Austin and the construction industry.
â€œEspecially when it was being constructed, it was kind of like a calling card. I have a picture here that was done for a calendar on Texas
the Gazebo was Austin.
â€“ Lori Nill
REPAIR, the first time
“We wanted to embarrass the Parks department with this picture”
By the eighties, the gazebo was in need of serious help. “Structural beams were rotted, and the roof had holes”, “The pond was not reflecting anything except neglect”, the inside held graffiti and the glass was damaged. The city had neglected it. On the facing page two representatives of NAWIC sit with artist Lynne Hough, who NAWIC commissioned to do a rendering of the gazebo. With a rededication to the city scheduled for the gazebo’s 25th anniversary, NAWIC once again got to work raising money.
Pat Turner, pictured here to the far right, took up the reins of her foremothers when she became involved with the gazebo. As publicity director she arranged for the Gazebo Run fundraisers to appear in the local papers, sometimes with donated ad space.
Pat also arranged for people in the community to support the gazebo in any way they could. Stephanie Williams, local news anchor, documented the dilapidation of the gazebo. Former Austin mayor Carol Rylander kicked off sales of the Lynne Hough’s lithograph. Gazebo t-shirts were printed. Once again NAWIC brought the community together in support of this structure.
“I called a meeting of the press and all three TV stations and the newspaper to come down. Carol Rylander agreed to come down and help promote the thing, and that's what got the press down there. I sent out news releases that Carol Rylander and NAWIC were having a press conference,but we didn’t tell them what it was about. When
they came down we had the artist there and all these prints.”
NAWIC raised a total of $20,000 to spend on repairing the roof, including installing new decking.
“There’s a lot of things we could have done, should have done, and haven’t done” –Ken Wendler The appearance of the gazebo has changed over the years—the How could renovation prevent the gazebo from deteriorating again? Incorwood retaining wall around the pond has been replaced with ma- porating more resilient materials will slow the wear. “The kind of plywood sonry, and the concrete benches have changed from white to brown. we used originally was right in the industry. But there’s a whole lot of other plywood available now. One of them is called marine plywood, and that’s But these changes resulted from intended renovations. Since the 1995 reno- what we’d use.” vation, the gazebo roof has once again fallen into disrepair. Weather and wear have torn holes anew into its graceful roof, its center skylight sports a Investing in these materials to repair the gazebo would bring it to its former glory and allow it to resist the elements for another generation. Nearing its hole, and paint peels away from the laminated beams. 40th birthday, the gazebo is a long decade away from the 50 year age Repairing the gazebo will require a replacement of the roof decking and required by the National Register of Historic Places, a distinction that would sheathing, says Ken Wendler, and this isn’t too big or costly a job. The honor its place in Austin’s history. Indeed, if the gazebo is to last until the glulam beams are in good shape, they simply need dressing up. The rest opening of its posterity box in 2069, it must last much longer than that. of the gazebo, including the piers, benches, and foundation, stand strong.
fill in a pond and reinterpret the design of an existing pavilion to create a “The city would
more inviting path down to the shore and the new pier, which would jut about 100 feet into the lake.” -Coppola
“Well, we only know one pond on Auditorium Shores and that’s at the gazebo.” says Pat Turner. In 2010 the Austin Parks and Recreation department hired TBG Architects, a large architectural firm, to propose improvements to the Auditorium Shores area with a budget of $400,000. The architects surveyed people from the hike-and-bike trail, leading to a plan focusing on mixed and active use along the shore. The architects reimagined the gazebo as a “pavilion” to accomodate these uses, such as a meeting place for runners and a threshold to the proposed pier. Lori Nill and Pat Turner found out about the proposed changes via the newspaper. Upon Pat Turner’s initiative the Parks department and representatives from the architectural firm came together to discuss the future--and history--of the gazebo. At the behest of “Old Austin”, including Ken Wendler and Lori Nill, the architects revised the conceptual plan to leave the gazebo structure intact. Defended by its original patrons, the gazebo weathered this storm, however negotiations persist concerning the gazebo’s reflecting pond.
The proposition to fill in the reflection pond has surfaced beforeâ€” during the final part of the gazebo construction in February of 1970. At a town hall meeting in March of 1970, Lori Nill and her husband presented the case for the reflection pond. Councilmembers decided to reinstate the landscaping around the gazebo, including the pond, honoring the original scheme of the project and understanding that the cost of the landscaping would not be exorbitant. The city council set a precedent for honoring the integrity of the gazeboâ€™s design. Forty years has not changed the design intent of the gazebo. Yet the past forty years have witnessed the quickening pace of life on Auditorium Shores, which on any given day provides a place for running, cycling, dog-walking, and fishing. If the gazebo becomes a pavilion for activity, then its pond becomes the potential for a parking lot extension. Where does the gazebo fit amid these converging uses?
“We'd like to keep it as it was intended to
a place of solace, to read, or
bring friends, or have lunch, or have a meeting, get away from it all.” –Lori Nill
From the stories of “Old Austin”, the gazebo is tles beside it. People inhabit the gazebo differently
a place of tranquility, distinct from than they inhabit the trail and the
the activity that busbanks of Town Lake.
27 couples have passed over the threshold over the past nine years, just married. People gather for a reception following the annual memorial service for the homeless. A family leans on the benches, the dad pointing the Austonian, explaining that when it is finished it will be the tallest building in Austin.
“Why does one have to encompass the other?” – Pat Turner, about the proposed pier
If the reflection pond is removed, the experience of the gazebo will be linked directly to the busy part of the hike-and bike trail. If the gazebo becomes a place for runners and dog walkers, passerby will more likely pass by than pause and admire the gazebo or enjoy the view framed within. Uses may be accomodated elsewhere. A fisherman’s pier can fall anywhere on the lakeshore. Runners meet at Mopac bridge, says Ken Wendler, not near First Street.
clearly you folks are not runners”-Ken “…
Wendler speaking to the planners of Auditorium shores
Town Lake Gazebo provides a contribution deserving preservation. The legacy of local history, the power of communal voice, and the promise of restful serenity right at the edge of the lake and the evolving city-these things remain quietly embedded within the graceful form of the gazebo.
With the intent to last a hundred years, the gazebo will reach its 40th birthday in need of its second renovation. â€œOld Austinâ€? comes together again to defend the gazebo from alteration and fight for its preservation. Yet the larger Austin community, especially the parkgoers who enjoy the gazebo, have the final say in it future. It is now the responsibility of those who care for this structure and is lake to make their voice heard, and to carry on the delight of the gazebo and its graceful reign on the shores of Town Lake.
I prepared and repaired my questions before meeting Pat Turner and Lori Nill. So deeply do they regard the work they built on Auditorium Shores that my questions faded, answered one way or another by their stories. I thank them for their time and grace, and for trusting me to digitize their newspaper clippings and photographs.
Thank you, Ken original Kerbey
Wendler, for Lane. Your
your time and introducing stories have been truly
me to the enlightening.
I thank my professor, Monica Penick, for encouraging me throughout this process and aquainting me in such a profound way to the world of historic preservation. I hope for the best in getting the gazebo under a historic register. Thank you to Donna Bohls
and the Parks Department for answering my questions.
While I have deeply enjoyed this project I realize that it does not end with this publication. May discussion about the gazebo continue, and may its place in Austin be asserted soon.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Austin Dept. of Parks and Recreation . Town Lake acquisition and development, phase I . Austin. "Austin Treasures: Online Exhibits from the Austin History Center." Public Spaces: Town Lake. City of Austin, Web. 12 Feb 2010. <http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/ library/ahc/green/public1.htm>. Coppola, Sarah. â€œImprovements planned for Auditorium Shores.â€? Austin-American Statesman 22 Jan 2010, Print. "Minutes of the City Council: March 5, 1970." Austin City Connection. Austin City Hall, Web. 23 Feb 2010. <http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/edims/document. cfm?id=24640>. "Pat Turner Awarded NAWIC Pin." Austin Construction News June 2003, v.3 no.6: 2. Print. "The Gazebo at Lakeside." Austin Statesman June 4, 1969, Print. Ohlson, Jen. Every Town Needs a Trail. 1st ed. Austin, TX: Pathway Productions LLC, 2007. Print. Policy Committee on the Use of Parkland, . Special events in Town Lake Park : report of the Policy Committee on the Use of Parkland. Austin: 1989. Print. Williams, W.T. Specifications, contract no. 65-PARD-1, landscape construction at Town Lake on Auditorium Shore. Austin: 1965.
PHOTO CREDITS 4 top to bottom: The Advertiser 12 Apr 1967 Austin Construction News Jun 2003 Jen Ohlson 5 Austin American Statesman 7 Jun 1970 6 left to right: City of Austin website <http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/> Austin-American Statesman year unknown 7 The Advertiser 12 Apr 1967 8 left to right: Fannie Davis Gazebo Dedication Program Construction Itemization Form, Anken Construction 9 Austin-American Statesman 27 Jun 1968 10 clockwise from bottom Google Maps City of Austin website <http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/> 11 Town Lake Monitor Fall/Winter 1985 12 Austin-American Statesman year unknown 13-15 Personal photo collection of Lori Nill
16 left to right: Austin-American Statesman year unknown City of Austin Press Release, 7 June 1970 17 Texas Cities Calendar, unknown year 18 Ralph Barrera, Austin-American Statesman year unknown 19 Taylor Johnson, Austin-American Statesman year unknown 20 clockwise from bottom right: Time Out April 8-14, 1989 Austin Business Journal year unknown Personal photos from Pat Turner 21 left to right : Lithograph print by Lynne Hough Lynne Dobson-Keeble, Austin-American Statesman year unknown 24 Map from Austin Parks and Recreation Dept. w/commentary from Linda Scott, Austin-American Statesman 22 Jan 2010 25 Bill Reaves, Austin-American Statesman 28 Feb 1970 27 Jay Janner, Austin-American-Statesman year unknown All other photos copyright of the author