The Story of the Shipe Log Cabin

Everyone is eager for construction to begin on Shipe’s new pools and bathhouse.  Despite some delays related to design adjustments and the permitting process, groundbreaking is still planned for late fall.  The Friends of Shipe Park (FOSP) will provide a detailed timeline for construction as soon as we have the final information from the project managers.

Meanwhile, FOSP is gearing up for a fund raising campaign to completely restore the historic log cabin.  Although the cabin will be outfitted with new ADA accessible bathrooms, the budget for the pool renovation will not cover much-need repair of the cabin’s exterior, especially the roof.  We would sure hate to see our poor neglected cabin sitting there surrounded by the new fantastic pool complex.  To begin our neighborhood conversation of how to restore the cabin, FOSP wanted to share some of the cabin’s history with you.  This information is taken from a thorough assessment of the structure that was prepared by Limbacher and Godfrey Architects, who were part of the design team for the new pool.

The development of Shipe Park began in 1928 as part of a city-wide parks beautification program funded by a large public works bond issue.  Within a few months of the bond election, the City Council authorized the purchase of the land from Monroe Shipe at a cost of $6,500.

Hugo Kuehne, vice chairman of the newly established Parks Board, was among those who took an active role in the design and development of the park. Kuehne founded the School of Architecture at the University of Texas in 1910, and served as a professor until 1915. He continued to practice architecture in Austin until 1961, and designed a wide range of notable residential, commercial, and public buildings including other “shelter houses” at Little Stacy, Pease, Eastwoods, and West Austin Parks.  The design of these shelter houses is attributed to Kuehne, based on photographs of them, including the one shown here in his personal files, now archived at the Austin History Center.

The shelter house at Shipe is different from others because of its rustic cedar log exterior, perhaps inspired by log cabin that existed on Avenue G at the time of the park’s construction. The two pens of the “dog trot” log cabin flank a central breezeway, which was intended to be used for play and performances. These community activities continue today, with piñatas hung from the rafters and picnic tables arranged for birthday parties, as well as the breezeway serving as a stage for live music at It’s My Park Day events.

The log cabin was built in 1930 and was the first of several structures built for play and recreation at Shipe Park. The Recreation Department held organized play programs during the summer months. The adjacent wading pool was opened at the site in 1932 or 1933.

The park’s swimming pool was built in 1934, using $1,500 of materials and equipment provided by the City of Austin. Labor was provided through the Civil Works Administration, or CWA, one of many relief-era programs available to Austin at the time. The pool was opened on May 15, 1934, making it one of the oldest neighborhood pools in Austin.

The major issues at the Shipe Park log cabin are related to structural degradation of the roof framing, and related deterioration of the wood shingle roof and decking.   The log walls show some deterioration due to possible insect boring activity, and to rodent damage. The chinking material between the logs is uneven or missing, and needs to be replaced using uniform material according to historic preservation guidelines.

Despite many years of “deferred maintenance” – one of many unfortunate outcomes of an underfunded parks department – the Shipe Log cabin is a remarkable and beloved structure unique to the park, and it’s important to preserve and maintain it for future use.

Want to learn more and get involved?  Stay up-to-date on this site and on the Friends of Shipe Park FaceBook page or email Jill Nokes with questions and ideas.

By Jill Nokes

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