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  • Writer's pictureNeal Spelce

A Fun Twist on the Owners of Austin's Most Famous Home

The historic Pease Mansion, or Woodlawn, was the subject of a lengthy front-page story in the Austin American-Statesman with the headline “Who Bought Historic Pease Mansion? One Year After Property Changed Hands, New Owner Still Hasn’t Revealed Identity.”

Pease Mansion (photo: wikipedia)

What makes this home so important? Well, first and foremost, it was the home of two Texas governors. And therein lies this fun story told to me by one of the governors, Allan Shivers.

The 8,000 square foot mansion, on almost 4 acres at 1606 Niles Road in West Austin, was designed by Abner Cook, the architect of the Governor’s Mansion near the State Capitol. It was completed in 1853 and has been classified as a historic landmark. In 1857, it was acquired by Governor Elisha Pease.

The American-Statesman’s crack reporter Ryan Autullo delved deeply in a well-researched piece on the history of the mansion, ending up with today’s still-unanswered question – who now owns this bit of Austin real estate? But how the home became the property of Governor Allan Shivers in 1957 was not mentioned. It was probably not mentioned because this little story was told to me by Governor Shivers and later recounted every time I asked the governor in private meetings to tell this story again and again. Let me fill in the gap.

Woodlawn Mansion (Photo: Library of Congress)

Woodlawn had remained in the Pease family for about a century when Allan and Marialice Shivers bought it. It was a historic moment. A Pease descendent, well-known in West Austin real estate circles, understood the significance and got Governor Shivers to agree to sign the closing documents on Woodlawn’s front porch in the last hours before Shivers presided over the inauguration of his successor. When Shivers showed up, dressed in his inaugural finery, he found the Pease descendent sitting at a card table with two folding chairs on Woodlawn’s porch. On the card table alongside the documents was a bottle of whiskey and two glasses. Caught up in the emotion of the historic moment, the descendent was teary-eyed and, well, snockered. Yep, he was drunk. And he kept pouring whiskey into the two glasses and urging the governor to share a toast to the occasion. Again. And again.

By this time, the Pease descendent was practically blubbering and babbling. The governor told me he also was beginning to feel the effects a bit as well. Hey, this was just before noon and Shivers’ term as governor was ending at noon when his successor took the oath of office blocks away on the steps of the State Capitol. The governor kept politely urging him to move along and sign the papers. At the last minute, the papers were signed and the outgoing Texas governor showed up for the ceremony a bit tipsy.

Inauguration of Governor Allan Shivers (Photo: Portal to Texas History)

But at least, Governor Shivers had a new home in Austin. They lived there for about twenty years. Whoever the new occupants of the Pease Mansion will be, they will have a lot to do to live up to the stories played out over the 170-year history of The Pease Mansion, Woodlawn.

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