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April 5, 2020
Home Architecture & Design Mid-century Lakeside Gazebo in Downtown Austin Added to the National Register of...

Mid-century Lakeside Gazebo in Downtown Austin Added to the National Register of Historic Places

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With its distinctive mid-century Googie-style roof, the Fannie Davis Gazebo has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The structure is under the stewardship of the city’s Austin Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) system, which announced the gazebo’s new status today.

“The gazebo is one of Austin’s modern architectural gems, hidden in plain sight,” said Gregory W. Smith, National Register Coordinator with the Texas Historical Commission.

When it was finished in 1969, the gazebo was the first public structure built in the effort to beautify the south shore of what was then known as Town Lake. The lake was a relatively new feature in downtown Austin. It had only just been constructed by the construction of Longhorn Dam in 1960, and its shoreline lacked any public amenities or features.

In 1966, inspired by Lady Bird Johnson, a national leader in environmental beautification and later the honorary co-chair of the Town Lake Beautification Committee, the Austin Chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), began planning and raising money for the gazebo. Among the NAWIC members was Loretta Nill, whose husband, architect J. Sterry Nill, designed the gazebo.

It cost $6,000 to build though it was only completed thanks to thousands more in donated building materials and labor.

The gazebo in 2019.
The Fannie Davis Gazebo in 2019. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In 1984, the gazebo was named for Fannie Davis, a founding member of the Austin chapter of NAWIC.

Design-wise, the gazebo remains remarkably unchanged since its original construction, though it has received renovation work over the years. On a spit of land between the lake and a man-made pond, the gazebo has a distinctive hyperbolic paraboloid roof. According to several reports, Nills said it was inspired an inverted morning glory.

The futuristic, space-age mid-century architectural style known as Googie is most known for upswept roofs with curvaceous, geometric shapes. It was popular for roadside commercial architecture — gas stations, diners, motels — particularly in California.

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
Jeanne Claire van Ryzinhttps://sightlinesmag.org
An award-winning arts journalist, Jeanne Claire van Ryzin is the founder and editor-in-chief of Sightlines.

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