Elisabet Ney Museum a Finalist for $150,000 National Trust for Historic Preservation Grant

The historic 1892 studio and home of the noted sculptor is the only site in the Southwest chosen for the grant

Elisabet Ney Museum
The 1892 Elisabet Ney Museum is in the Hyde Park neighborhood. Photo courtesy Friends of the Elisabet Ney Museum.

The historic studio and home sculptor Elisabet Ney has been named a finalist for the 2019 Partners in Preservation: Main Street grant, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Elisabet Ney Museum is one of 20 sites around the country competing through a public vote for a share of $2 million in preservation grants, funded by American Express through the National Trust.

The nationwide campaign — #VoteYourMainStreet  — also spotlights the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. All of the sites selected this year are historic buildings and places that celebrate the contributions of women.

The $2 million in grants will be divided up between the sites that receive the most votes from the public at voteyourmainstreet.org/Austin through October 29. And individuals can cast as many as five votes a day.

The Ney Museum is eligible to receive up to $150,000, monies that will be used to restore the 18 exterior doors of Formosa, the name Ney gave to her limestone studio and home which she built in 1892 on the banks for Waller Creek.

The Friends of Elisabet Ney Museum have launched a campaign “Through These Doors: Women, Artists, Immigrants and Outsiders” to build awareness of the National Trust competition.

Ney (1833-1907) was a famed portrait sculptor in her native Germany before she emigrated to the United States. An intellectual and a gender non-conformist — she wore trousers and always used her maiden name, even after marriage — Ney moved to Austin in 1892 after 20 years in East Texas farming and raising a son. She built Formosa first as a sculpture studio, and only secondarily as a home. For years until she added proper living quarters around 1902, Ney often slept on the roof. Under trees outside her studio, Ney hosted many salons with like-minded progressive individuals.

Formosa, and surrounding 2.5 acres, became a museum in 1911. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Mayor Steve Adler at the Elisabet Ney Museum for the announcement of the grant challenge. Behind him is one of the 18 exterior doors in need of restoration work. Photo: Sightlines.

“This place and her legacy is so important to this city,” said Mayor Steve Adler at the campaign announcement.

Jack Nokes, chair of the Friends of Elisabet Ney Museum, said: “‘Through These Doors’ is both a nod to the original doors to the home, which are in need of repair as well as to a more universal theme of who walks through the door of a home and the doors through which women are allowed and disallowed to pass in their lives.”

On Oct. 27, the Ney Museum will host “Polkapocalypse: Through These Doors.” The free event will feature multiple polka bands (showcasing Tejano, Czech, German, Honky Tonk, Gypsy and Norteño cultures), a costume contest, dancing, food trucks and custom t-shirt printing. There were also be a participatory art installation commemorating the 19th Amendment/National Trust as well as on-site voter registration.