TRAVIS POST 76 BUILDING HISTORY
A wonderful Civil War Era Mansion !
The below is some history from the Plaque on the outside wall indicating the house is a "Recorded Texas Historical Landmark".
The "Charles Johnson House" Plaque
"Erected 1858 by Chas. Johnson, near the W.M., McGill Ford on the Colorado River. Built by fellow Swedes, of native stone from his own quarry and lime kiln. Walls are 18-inches thick. A stone-paved breezeway joined the two wings of the building. A long porch with six ionic columns was added, and the open breezeway closed, following the purchase of the property in 1924 as permanent home of the Travis Post 76, American Legion. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, 1966"
The Austin Statesman, Sunday October 19,1924
"Historic Ranch House Becomes Permanent Home of Travis Post, American Legion"
"Built in 1858 on the banks of the Colorado, many traditions of early days cling about the Charles Johnson Homestead. Over half a century ago there was a house on the Colorado River,above Austin,that was known all over Central Texas as one place where a friendless man could always find food and a place to sleep as long as he might require them. That old house is still standing now in the City of Austin.
On January 1, 1925,it will become the home of the American Legion and resume its duties as the headquarters for men who are 'down on their luck' and who need a helping hand for a time.
The old Johnson home has been a landmark in Austin for many years. Built in 1858 by Charles Johnson, a Swedish immigrant, who had been in this country only a few years but who had already established himself, this old house became the refuge for Swedish immigrants who had newly arrived and had not become settled. There were always a dozen or more of them there, it is said, and the number frequently ran over twenty-five. The men were employed in the rock quarry operated by Johnson or found other jobs and moved on to make room for another man who had not found himself in the new country.
The place itself is a beautiful example of the old style ranch home. It is of solid stone construction throughout, two stories in height with a wide wall running through the middle of the house. At one end there is built into the house a carriage shed where the fancy buggies of half a century ago rested. The rooms are extra large and will make excellent halls for the work of the Legion Post when it takes possession.
The ceilings are supported by magnificent cedar posts,squared and hewn by hand. The rafters are of the same material. In the back of the house is the old cistern in which rainwater for drinking purposes is still caught. There is also a massive milk and butter cooling stone tank and a smokehouse, in which meat was cured, built into the house.
The grounds of the house are made beautiful between nine large oak trees scattered around the premises when the house was built the whole countryside was covered with these trees, but the nine are the only survivors.
When Charles Johnson built his home on the banks of the Colorado River in 1858, he was far out of the city of Austin. The city limits then extended only to shoal Creek and the nearest neighbor was near the site of the Austin dam. So wild was the country at that time it was considered risky to live so far out of town on account of the Indians in the hills across the river. Though these Indians were frequently seen across the river and sometimes came across the ford just below the house, none of them ever made the least trouble, it is said.
Charles Johnson,the founder of the place,came to this country in 1854,an immigrant landing in Boston. The next year he came to Austin, where he made his home until his death in 1904.
Arrived here,he constructed a floating grist mill in the river near the present site of the city waterworks. Here he ground the grain for the farmers of this country until he moved further out of town in 1858 and founded his home near what is now Deep Eddy. Here he began making lime from the limestone of the hillside and quarrying the rock from this quarry. The original cornerstone of the Driskill Hotel was of this material.
During the Civil War Johnson was engaged in freighting from this city to the seacoast and into Mexico under the direction of the Confederate government. During all this time he never carried any weapon save a pocket knife,and his children assert that he never owned or carried a gun during his whole life,in spite of the fact that he lived in a community where most of the men carried pistols habitually.
His home was always open to any one who came, it being the boast of his children that the doors of the house have never been locked since they were put into place."
Other notes about the home from history files
Purchase of the Johnson home was approved by Post Commander J.C.Capt on October 14,1924. The purchase included a five and one-half acre tract fronting the Colorado River. The home was remodeled during May to August 1925. Other major remodeling projects have been accomplished in 1930, 1965 and 1991.
The red-brown square clay tiles flowing from the exterior gallery to the generous hall and the adjoining rooms gives a pleasant transition from exterior to interior space. Presently the home can be classified as a predominantly two story masonry structure containing a central hall from which one large meeting hall,kitchen,formal meeting room,and two rest rooms open off of a central hallway on the first floor. A central hall leading to a large hall, restrooms, and a storeroom comprise the second floor.
The impression of the large downstairs hall is that of an informal gathering place. The natural limestone coarseness and smooth paneling create a handsome contrast in texture and color which gives the effect of a hushed fireplace glow.