Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Locals petition for historical designation of mini golf course

Naina Srivastava
A couple plays mini golf at Peter Pan Mini Golf on Sep. 20, 2023. The family-owned business has operated for 75 years.

Margaret Dismukes Massad grew up watching her father hand-sculpt and paint each figure that decorates Peter Pan Mini Golf. Seventy-five years later, the business faces the possibility of closure.

Opened in 1948, Peter Pan, managed by Dismukes Massad and her husband, Julio Massad, sits on land controlled by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. In February, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission, which determines how agencies operate, recommended a third-party trustee to manage the land. Dismukes Massad said she and her husband have received no communication since.

“We reached out to the contact, the attorney at Texas Juvenile Justice and he said ‘We can’t talk to you about the lease until the trustee is in place,’” Dismukes Massad said. “So that’s kind of where we sit right now, waiting on them.”

With only six months left on their lease, the owners are exploring another way to keep Peter Pan alive: getting it recognized as a historic landmark.

“We don’t have any knowledge that (the trustee doesn’t) intend to renew,” Dismukes Massad said. “We’re just trying to get a little bit ahead of it, not knowing what their intentions might be.”

Becoming a historic landmark would change the property’s zoning and allow the business to continue running. All business decisions from there would be made in partnership with the city considering historical importance.

An online petition created in August calling for support for the designation received over 24,000 signatures in seven weeks. Petition creator Natalie Becker said she’s visited the golf course since she was born.

Becker said she and a friend spread the word about Peter Pan’s dilemma and the petition through group chats, emails, social media and physical posters.

“My basic thought is this is the easiest thing to petition for,” Becker said. “Everybody loves Peter Pan. Nobody wants anything to happen to it.”

Ben Heimsath, chair of the Historic Landmark Commission, said the city has three criteria for historic designation: architectural value, community value and association with significant individuals. Heimsath said Peter Pan has all three.

The process to become a landmark takes around six months, Heimsath said. After a vote by the Historic Landmark Commission, the request is passed on to the Planning Commission and City Council.

If the petition reaches 20,000 signatures from registered local voters, the ordinance goes directly to the city council. Becker said not all of those who signed the petition are local registered voters.

Many visitors, including Becker and resident Mary Duncan, have come to Peter Pan since childhood. Duncan said she now brings her three-year-old grandson to the golf course.

“(My grandson) gets to choose what we do and ever since his first introduction to Peter Pan golf that is what we do,” Duncan said. “It is our place.”

Dismukes Massad said University organizations regularly host events at the golf course. In the past, groups included the McCombs School of Business, sororities, fraternities and spirit groups, she said. University alumna Vidhya Krishnan said she first came to Peter Pan for a fraternity event.

“I hope that it gets saved and I hope that it gets to be a landmark,” Krishnan said. “I know that’s a long process but I’m hopeful and I believe the community of Austin and UT will help with that.”

The community’s passion for preserving Peter Pan is what Dismukes Massad said has kept the process rolling.

“The connection that people have is real emotional,” Dismukes Massad said. “This is part of what old Austin was, the old ‘Keep Austin weird.’ This is it.”

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About the Contributor
Naina Srivastava, Senior News Reporter & Senior Photographer
Naina is a freshman journalism major from Mountain View, California. She is currently a senior news reporter and senior photographer at the Texan.