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.
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.