Preservation Austin is a nonprofit organization based in Austin, Texas that exists to empower Austinites to shape a more inclusive, resilient, and meaningful community culture through preservation. The organization works to advocate for the protection of historic structures, neighborhoods, and landscapes through education, outreach, and advocacy efforts. Preservation Austin was founded as the Heritage Society of Austin in 1953 and has since saved structures downtown like the Driskill Hotel.
For this community spotlight, I had the honor of Interviewing Executive Director, Lindsey Derrington and Board Member, Miriam Conner who are leading efforts toward a more expansive and equitable understanding of what Preservation means. They were introduced through work with Six Square and met each other at a photography show and the their friendship was immediate. Combining their efforts and expertise, they have worked collaboratively with the Board and Staff to shift Preservation Austin to meet the needs of a 21st-century Austin.
Miriam explains the significance of Preservation Austin to her: "My connection to Preservation Austin is deeply meaningful. My involvement with Six Square, a nonprofit dedicated to celebrating and preserving the rich black arts, culture, and history of Central East Austin, has given me valuable insights. Serving on the African American Quality of Life Commission and managing Pine Street Station, a creative artist warehouse that should have been preserved, further deepened my understanding of city policies and practices.
Through these experiences, I witnessed the unfortunate loss of many crucial historical businesses in East Austin that had served the Brown and Black communities. Preservation Austin, in its mission to protect and preserve the city's heritage, plays a vital role. It emphasizes that Austin's heritage is not limited to white spaces but encompasses all of us. This collective pride, which makes Austin truly Austin, is what we must preserve and celebrate."
Lindsey shares: "The historic preservation movement, and how we preserve, becomes very nuanced when understanding the impact of systemic factors like redlining, white flight and population density. Everybody’s voice and story should be heard - we preserve people's voices and legacy. We work to expand awareness and make people stewards - this is especially important in the Capitol of Texas.
Preservation Austin currently operates with only 4 employees who get to be creative and supported by the state, federal, and local community. Barriers to preservation include incredible development pressure. We work with our community to consider how we develop in a sustainable way along the I-35 corridor, with Project Connect and consider the impacts of gentrification.
Preservation Austin aims to promote a sense of place, foster community engagement, and ensure the preservation of Austin's historic character for future generations. They ask important questions such as How do we interpret history and plan for the future? They work to across sectors to eradicate misconceptions about preservation and demystify the preservation processes.
Efforts to align Preservation Austin with its mission include:
- Ensuring there is a diverse board represents the whole city with training grounded in equity principles
- Elevating underrepresented heritage, including sites significant to Black, Mexican American, Indigenous, and LGBTQ+ Austinites, and also women
- Supporting BIPOC candidates to Historic Landmark Commission appointments
- Working with the City to designate the African American Cultural Heritage District
- Creating a Legacy Business Month to celebrate longtime local businesses
- Working with community leaders to honor culturally significant places
This month debuts the inaugural Legacy Business Month in Austin!
Leg•a•cy Busi•ness (noun): A beloved local establishment open for 20 years or more that anchors a community and epitomizes classic cool.
From iconic music venues to Tex-Mex staples, legacy businesses are more than just establishments; they are the very foundation of Austin’s rich culture. This October, Preservation Austin is excited to launch our inaugural Legacy Business Month. This initiative is an effort not only to celebrate these businesses but also to ensure that they are recognized, cherished, and supported so that future generations can enjoy and learn from them.
Join us on October 5 for our KICK-OFF PARTY at Zilker Taproom, featuring a limited edition Legacy Business Month beer from Zilker Brewing Company, custom prints by GRZ Monsters, and music by Queer Vinyl Collective
Join us on October 30 for our CLOSING PARTY at The Historic Victory Grill and be entered to win prizes for most stamps collected!
Learn about this campaign and the businesses taking part in it at preservationaustin.org.
Skye Howell (she/her) is Potawatomi and Ottawa, a proud mother, wife, and volunteer in her community. She is an Organizational Consultant with Full Humanity, an Equity Advocate, Curriculum Designer, Keynote Speaker, and Storyteller. You can also find her on Medium. If you enjoyed reading this and want to support my efforts — you can buy me a coffee to help me write more stories. Your support makes a difference.