11 Aug

Friends Trip – Granite and Green Mountains: American Art and History Up East

Join the Friends of the Neill-Cochran House Museum for a six-day adventure in the history and artistry of New England.

The granite of New Hampshire and the Green Mountains of Vermont embraced an impressive range of artistry around the turn of the 20th century, including poets Robert Frost and E E Cummings; painters Winslow Homer and Maxfield Parrish; and America’s foremost sculptor in this period, Augustus St Gaudens, who anchored an artists’ colony at Cornish. An itinerary related to these figures will complement visits to famed houses from Georgian times to Frank Lloyd Wright.

Itinerary Overview –  June 25-30, 2017

Portland, Maine

City Tour
Wadsworth-Longfellow House (1785ff., childhood home of the famous poet)
Portland Museum of Art with special private visit to Winslow Homer’s Prouts Neck Studio
Portland Head Light


McPhaedris-Warner House (1716, earliest urban brick house in northern New England)
Moffatt-Ladd House (1763 elegant Georgian mansion; Portsmouth furniture; NSCDA property)
Lunch with New Hampshire Colonial Dames
Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion (1740ff., harbor-side home of first royal governor)

Lake Champlain

Shelburne Museum of Art (exceptional fine art and vast collections of American material culture)
Vermont State Capitol at Montpelier

Dartmouth, Cornish, Plymouth, Windsor

St Gaudens Studio (home, studio and gardens of America’s greatest 19th-century sculptor)
Cornish-Windsor Bridge over the Connecticut River (longest wooden covered bridge in the US)
Calvin Coolidge Homestead (1870? boyhood home and site of Coolidge’s Presidential oath-taking, 1923)


Currier Museum of Art, internationally renowned collection of European and American art    Zimmerman House (1950, Frank Lloyd Wright), observing the Wright 150 Robert Frost Farm (time permitting)

Featured Historic Hotels

2 nights in Portland at historic Regency (1895) in the Old Port District
3 nights at Inn at Mill Falls, Meredith NH, on Lake Winnipesaukee

Other inclusions

Porterage, breakfast daily, 2 lunches, 3 dinners, all ground transportation (chartered coach daily), museum admissions, guides and gratuities

Additional Costs

$200 gift to support operation and programs of the historic Neill-Cochran House Museum (Abner Cook, 1855)
Airfare via United Airlines (schedule pending) via Portland and/or Manchester; travel protection

Click Here to download a form with more information, including notes on different costs and accommodations. Then be sure to reserve your spot by mailing the printed form and your deposit to:

Karen Bluethman, Heart of Texas Tours
8501 Silver Ridge Drive
Austin, TX 78759

Have questions or concerns? Contact Karen Bluethman at (512) 345-2043 hottours@sbcglobal.net.

11 Aug

May 13-21 – West Austin Studio Tour comes to Neill-Cochran

Neill-Cochran House Museum goes WEST

An overlay exhibit featuring 14 local contemporary artists

Seeger.Travis - woven sphere (1600x1600)
macqueen.lucy-Before (1600x1600)
Fritz.Julie-3 (1600x1600)
Finfrock.Cheryl-In Between Breaths _ Long Before Words_12inches x 16inches_acrylic on claybord_2016
Sarkin.Shakti_PedernalesFalls_L (1600x1600)
Fox.Kristen-Agave II (1275x1600)
Finch.Paul - Vanessa (1600x1600)
Primeaux 1 (960x960)
Holman.Sona -A Delicate Balance
Cook. Thomas-ThePleiadsFolio (944x944)

The furnishings and architecture of the Neill-Cochran House Museum ground us in a handful of different times; to walk in the door is to in part step into the 19th and early-20th centuries. As historians and preservationists, what we like most about hosting individual artists for WEST is that it allows us to see the difference between the Austins of the 1850s, 1870s, 1900s, and so on and the Austin we live in. Does that difference go beyond the modernization we can easily imagine or is it better thought of as a change in tastes and aesthetics in its own right?

However one reads our historic site against this display of the creativity of our present, we think that you’ll enjoy this unique exhibition of Austin artists in one of the oldest extant structures in town.

Exhibition Hours – WEST 2017

Free Admission

Saturday and Sunday, May 13-14 – 11am to 6pm

Tuesday through Friday, May 16-19 – 1pm to 4pm

Saturday and Sunday, May 20-21 – 11am to 6pm

Hat’s off to our artists! 15% of artwork sales benefit the Neill-Cochran House Museum

Opening Night Reception

Saturday, May 13th, 5PM to 7PM - FREE

Join us for an evening of conversation and complimentary refreshments to celebrate the opening of our second cooperative exhibition of contemporary art in our unique historic space.

On site parking is available free behind the museum; additional neighborhood parking is available on Leon, Robbins, and 23rd streets. Paid garage parking is available at 23rd & Pearl streets.

11 Aug

May 7 – Get it in Print: Basic printing techniques


How did you type something like this before the internet, before computers, or even before typewriters?

The simple act of producing perfect, identical letters at the touch of a button is a very recent development. Even the typewriter as some of us came to know it wasn’t commercially available until 1873–nearly 20 years after the Neill-Cochran House was built and 34 years after Austin’s founding. Even then, the typewriter can only make one (or a few) copies of what you type. More complicated processes go into printing newspapers and books, many of which did not become computerized until the 1970s.


Because our lives have changed so much by the ability to copy and print sentences and images quickly and inexpensively, we decided to get into the lab this month and see what printing was like in its earliest forms.

Did you remember to proofread?

History lab experimenters will be able set up and print their own messages as well as a few pre-made images. Remember that everything prints backwards! This activity is best suited for experimenters ages 8 & up but younger children are always welcome to work with a grown-up.

Weather permitting, we will also have croquet in the lawn and music on the front porch.

11 Aug

April 14 – Easter Egg Dye-O-Rama

Easter 2016 - 4
Easter 2016 - 3
Easter 2016 Eggs

What is Easter Egg Dye-o-Rama?

Hands-on fun? Check!
An Easter event that doesn’t revolve around candy or plastic? Check!
Multiple indoor and outdoor activities suitable for ages 3 & up? Check!
Free? No need to RSVP? Double Check!

Join us this Good Friday for one of our most fun-filled community events of the year, as we open up the house and grounds for an afternoon of old-fashioned
Easter egg dyeing, lawn games, and a chance to get to know one of Austin’s oldest landmarks at your own pace.

Easter egg dyers of all skill levels are welcome! Bring your own boiled (or blown!) eggs and we’ll provide wax resists, vinegar baths, and dyes, and, of course, take care of all of the clean-up. (We’ll also have prepared eggs available for purchase on a first-come, first-served basis)

When you’re done working on eggs, enjoy a round of badminton under the shade of our 140 year old pecan tree and try a mango-hibiscus iced tea, a fresh-squeezed lemonade, and maybe even a rice krispie, too!

Ok! What do I need to bring and when does it all start?

Friday, April 14th
12pm to 4pm

Bring your own blown or boiled eggs (no raw eggs, please!) and we will supply all the dyes and decorations you need free! We will also be providing blown and boiled eggs on a first come, first served basis at the following prices:

Blown egg – $2 each
Boiled eggs – $3 for 6 or $5 for 12

No RSVP required! Follow our facebook page for event updates and to invite friends to join in the fun!

Parking is free to visitors in the museum lot located off of 23rd street. Additional paid parking is available at the University Towers parking garage (map) at 22nd 1/2 street and Pearl.

Don’t forget to thank your volunteers!

We simply could not continue to host Easter Egg Dye-O-Rama without the help of our friends at Little Helping Hands. There’s nothing little about the impact they have here and elsewhere!

11 Aug

April 13 – Abner Cook Award 2017

Why Abner Cook?

“To give you an account of his life would be in a certain sense to write the history of this city,” said Reverend Richard Smoot of Abner Cook in 1884, nearly a full 45 years after he arrived in Austin at the year of its founding. Known for the quality of his work and his honest dependability in business, the architectural history of our city begins with Cook: The Hotchkiss House (1851-52), Woodlawn (1854), The Governor’s Mansion (1854-56), The Philips House (1854), Sweetbrush (1854), and our own Neill-Cochran House (1855-56) represent a majority of the 10 oldest structures extant in Austin. We give the Abner Cook Award to those who work to preserve or articulate this and other elements of our shared history.

Why Joe Pinnelli?

This spring, we invite you to join us in expressing our gratitude to Joe Pinnelli both for his careful stewardship of our historic house during its restoration and for his leadership in historic preservation across Austin and Texas including his award-winning restoration of the Neill-Cochran House from 2015-16. As the principals of the J Pinnelli Company, Joe and Janis Pinnelli have built a reputation as the premiere contractors for restoration of historic buildings. As an individual, Joe has served as a leader in the preservation community, having been appointed by Governor Ann Richards to oversee the restoration of the Texas Capitol and having served as the chairman of the Heritage Society (now Preservation Austin). In addition to their work preserving Texas History, both Joe and Janis have long-standing commitments to the community as a whole. Janis was both recognized by the YWCA of Greater Austin as Woman of the Year for Community Service and  inducted into the Austin Women’s Hall of Fame. Joe has been equally active, having served as Board Chair of SafePlace and Avance Austin.

For all of these reasons, it is our sincerest pleasure to honor Joe Pinnelli this year with the Abner Cook Award.

Why Us?

The Neill-Cochran House Museum makes preserving and reflecting the experience of some of Austin’s earliest residents its mission. Since its reemergence in the fall of 2015 after multiple stages and multiple years of careful restoration, the Neill-Cochran House Museum is now growing by leaps and bounds.  We have expanded our programming to include hands-on, history of STEAM workshops (History Lab), participation as a collaborative exhibition site in the West Austin Studio Tour, a makers’ workshop (Making History), and collaborations with the Bullock, the Briscoe Center, the Austin History Center, and the Governor’s Mansion resulting in our annual attendance increasing more than three-fold between 2015 and 2016. With the support of Humanities Texas and the Summerlee Foundation, we are currently developing an educational program designed to effectively and efficiently serve AISD students (including financial support to cover the cost of field trips from Title I schools) to be unveiled in Fall 2017. Simply put, this is a watershed moment in our development as a resource to our community.

As we honor Joe, we also invite you to support our mission to use our preserved past to inform the present and educate for the future. We preserve and present the groundwork of a growing Austin, Texas, and United States; the inspirations, observations, and cautions that we as a community may draw from our visible and tangible history are relevant and needed now for individuals in our society, for a public school system which struggles to bring history to the classroom, and for a city which as changed so rapidly.

Pledge a Sponsorship or RSVP

Abner Cook Award Honoring Joe Pinnelli - April 13th, 2017 6pm-8pm

Whether as a sponsor or as an individual attendee, join us in honoring Joe Pinnelli, his leadership in historic preservation, and our community’s need to access its shared past.

Questions about sponsorship, this event, or, prefer to give offline? Call us at 512.478.2335 or send us a note.

This Year’s Abner Cook Award is Generously Sponsored by:

Visionaries – $5,000 or more

Dorothy Knox Houghton

Frances & George Ramsey

Architects – $2,500-$4,999

Harriet Christian

Master Builders – $1,000-$2,499

Karen Pope

Eliza Morehead

Caroline Caven

Liz Maxfield & Ross Pumfrey

Betty Bird

Laura Caven

Janet Francis

Sam, Sonia & Sharon Wilson

Richard Slaughter
in memory of Hallie G. Slaughter

Tyson & Nicole Tuttle

The Paramount Theater

Fran & A.R. Perez

Mary & Charles Teeple

Jan Bullock & Robert Green

Trey & Gay Lynn Wilson

J Pinnelli Company

Dillon & Cissie Ferguson

Artisans $500-$999

Laura Bohls

Candace & John Volz

Margaret Buescher

Joan Burnham

Susan Spruance & Earl Hunt

Susan Morehead

Vereen Woodward

Dolly & John Barclay

Roy Spence

Dealey Herndon

Diana Morehouse

Harriet Rutland

Ann Daughety

Jay Farrell

11 Aug

April 2 – NCHM at Work: Simple Machines

Block and tackle

What’s so simple about machines?

What is a machine? Many of us think of machines as things that do work for us, but we don’t often think about the machines that make our work go farther than it would on its own. If you want to lift a 200 pound weight, you could use your muscles (if you’re already really strong), or you could use a lever or a set of pulleys to make your work easier.

But rather than making our work easier this month, we went into the lab to figure out what makes simple machines work and to build a few models both large and small that we can experiment with.

Use the force!

History lab experimenters will be able to test their hypotheses on two full scale models of a first-class lever and a block and tackle (recommended for ages 10 & up or 6-10 with help from an adult or parent). We will also build our own force meters to investigate how pulleys, levers, and other kinds of simple machines make work go farther (recommended for ages 10 & up).

Weather permitting, we will also have croquet in the lawn. Bonus points for simple machines experiments who can guess what kind of simple machine is used to play croquet.

11 Aug

March 5 – Bright Ideas: The Lightbulb and the Electric Motor

Faraday disc
Electricity 2

Without ever being shocked,

Sunday Funday learned some really interesting things about lightbulbs and electric motors

Sunday, March 5th – 1pm to 4pm – FREE

“Is that really a lightbulb, or are you just having a great idea?”

This month, we at the History Lab have been thinking about electricity–specifically, about where it is in our lives and where it isn’t. When the Neill-Cochran House was completed in 1856, having ample indoor light at the flip of a switch was practically unimaginable. Today, we have to remind each other to turn off the lights before we leave the house. Meanwhile, next time you see a Tesla zip by you, think about the fact that from the early history of the automobile (aka horseless carriage) into the 1910s, it wasn’t clear whether gasoline engines or electric engines would become the standard.

With these things in mind, we rolled up our sleeves and decided to take a closer look at the well-known lightbulb and not-quite-as-well-known electric motor*. Here’s what we have for you, fellow experimenters, this month.

*electric motors are everywhere, even if they aren’t in that many cars

Re-inventing the lightbulb and the motor

Using nothing more than household batteries, History Lab experimenters can re-create some of Edison’s earliest attempts to find a filament that would give good light without burning too quickly AND build a simple model electric motor. We recommend this workshop for experimenters ages 8 & up, but younger children are welcome to work with an older child or an adult.

Questions about this event? Shine some light on our inbox or give us a call at 512-478-2335.

11 Aug

The Woman Must Marry, Else How Live: The Culture of Weddings from 1850-1950


The meaning of getting married

The American Wedding evolved alongside the material culture and social norms of the United States and the individual communities within it. The wedding ceremony did not exist as a fixed concept in most people’s minds until the middle of the 19th century. Weddings were the pragmatic products of their immediate environment rather than public celebrations–and displays of wealth.

This exhibit traces the culture of weddings as they took place in Texas from the beginning of the wedding as a common set of standards in the 1850s to the dawn of the more public and elaborate wedding that we experience and know today in the 1950s. Incorporating period textiles as well as original texts on the planning of weddings in the 19th century and the etiquette of courtship, we turn our focus not only on the material aspects of weddings but also on the social context in which men and women were married. As the setting and styling of the wedding evolved, so did common ideas of what men and women ought to do–including whether their love for each other was an indispensable part of a good marriage.

From the pragmatic ceremony staged at home (and sometimes without a minister or member of the clergy) to the publicly advertised gathering at a large civic space and from the practical union of a man to a woman whose vocation was the rearing of children to the centering of love and romance in the common understanding of weddings, we get married just as we live. The more we look at the historic context of weddings, the more we see that the way we understand the symbolism, pragmatism, and social implications embedded within the moment at which a marriage begins is not absolute but rather anchored in our own present.

Cake Topper Final
Jones Wedding Dress (with bride, too) (657x900) (2)

The Woman Must Marry, Else How Live? Opening Reception, Thursday, March 2nd, from 6:00 to 9:00pm

Amplify Neill-Cochran with complimentary cocktails by Freedmen's, a history of weddings, and live demonstrations of History Lab experiments.

We’re opening this exhibit in conjunction with our fundraising efforts for Amplify Austin 2017. (Read more about Amplify Austin here) Proceeds we raise during this event will go towards our $3,000 goal to fund another year of History Lab, our free, hands-on take on the history of technology and the arts.

We’ll be accepting live donations during the event by credit card, but you can also schedule your donation online anytime before March 3rd at 6:00pm.