Kirby Hall considers adopting house of former professor

Joshua Fechter

A fraternity may pay a local private school up to $25,000 to relocate the former home of a UT physics professor to the school’s property.

Phi Gamma Delta would pay between $20,000 and $25,000 to help move the former home of S. Leroy Brown, who in 1915 created WCM, Austin’s first broadcast radio station, a block away to Kirby Hall, a Pre K-12 college preparatory school located north of campus. Kirby Hall must decide by Dec. 15, when the fraternity plans to act on its demolition permit.

The fraternity wants to demolish or relocate the building and build two floors of underground parking, a soundproof room designated for parties and a new facility that would house fraternity members.

Matthew Thomas, director of admissions at Kirby Hall, said the school is still considering whether to adopt the structure and no plans have been confirmed. He said the school is currently asking contractors to provide cost estimates for interior renovation and building a new foundation for the house to sit on.

“There’s significant work to be done,” Thomas said.

Thomas said he does not know how much it would cost for the school to adopt the house, but it would cost about $50,000 to move the house. The fraternity would cover a portion of the moving costs.

The school would likely use the building to house offices or classrooms, Thomas said.

John Donisi, an attorney representing the fraternity, said the fraternity is open to another party adopting the house if Kirby Hall cannot do so by Dec. 15.

“We are hopeful that the arrangement with the Kirby Hall School will be successful, and we will continue to assist them in any way we can,” Donisi said.

In addition to providing partial funds for the relocation of the building, the fraternity said they will also help the school seek permits for the relocation process and prepare all legal documents related to the building’s ownership.

The city’s Historic Preservation Office sought to designate the house with historical status based on its affiliation with Brown and its Dutch Colonial revival-style architecture, as exhibited by its side-gabled roofs and parapets.

The Austin City Council and the Austin Planning Commission denied the office’s recommendation, but members of each supported efforts to relocate the house.

The house, built in 1915, is located behind Phi Gamma Delta’s main house at 2707 Hemphill Park. Brown lived in the house until his death in 1966. The fraternity purchased the property in 1995 after a local business, the Martha Ann Zivley Typing Service, vacated.

WCM, also established in 1915, used the call sign “KUT” during World War I, according to the Texas State Historical Association. However, WCM shares no lineage with the station currently known as KUT. According to KUT, the current incarnation of KUT was established in 1958.

Printed on Wednesday, November 14, 2012 as: Fraternity hopes to relocate home