15 Aug

Experience’s Treasures

What our collections say about who we are

Why do we collect? What do we collect? What does it mean to have a collection? In an age defined by consumerism and the easy availability of things, how do we determine which objects we will carry with us through life?

Consider it from our perspective: the only reason that the objects in our collection (whether they date from the nineteenth century or before) have survived is because they were prized for their beauty, their inherent monetary value, their utility, or because of their owners’ sentimental attachments. In most cases, objects fit into more than one category and serve to show us the human dimensions of their particular histories.

The Sonnenberg collection, on display in our gallery from September 2nd through December 17th, presents a century of one family’s collecting, and explores the ways in which the objects we hold on to document our interests and our journeys through life. Throughout their lives, the objects the Sonnenbergs have prized are not simply things, they are signposts for meaning in both relationships and experiences. An eclectic collection that features fine art, folk art, and ephemera, Experience’s Treasures will challenge viewers to consider our relationship to the objects that surround us in our own lives.

Basket Small
Ark small
Women small
Uncle Sam small
Sailor small
Rooster Small
Coyote small
Ceramic Guys Small
Bowl small

Experience's Treasures Opening Reception: Saturday, September 23rd 4:00 to 6:00pm

We invite you to join us for an evening of conversation about the questions we raise in this exhibit. Complimentary beverages served.

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

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

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.

11 Aug

Feburary 19 – The Senator versus the Regulator

Anti-regulation Texas squares off against the comparatively recently-formed Federal Power Commission. Returning to our look at the red scare politics of the 1950s, this month we turn to an early moment in Lyndon Johnson’s political career that would foreshadow the energy crisis of the 1970s. Bill Childs joins us for his talk, “The Senator versus the Regulator.”

read more
11 Aug

Remembered By Hand: Family Histories Illuminated

The Crazy Quilt Comes to Life

In a blaze of kaleidoscopic color, the late 1870s saw a fad rush in that took the United States by storm.  In a few short years, the crazy quilt was born, reached its zenith, and began a slow descent towards obscurity.  But within those years, the crazy quilt was king.  Magazines raved and shared tips and patterns for quilting.  Companies sold templates for embroidery, appliqués aimed directly at crazy quilters, and even grab bags of crazy quilt fabric.

Most crazy quilts share several characteristics.  First, they are not really quilts at all.  There is no “quilting,” that is to say, no stitching of a top fabric to a bottom fabric through a layer of batting.  Crazy quilts typically had no batting, often were never finished, and where finished had a silk or cotton backing that only loosely connected to the top.  Crazy quilts also typically featured silks and velvets, unlike most patchwork quilts, and elaborate embroidery stitching covered seams within blocks as well as between them.  Many quilts incorporated lace, appliqués, ribbons, hand-painted fabrics, and even beads and mirrors.  They provided women the opportunity to share their needlework skills in a context far more elaborate (dare we say flashy?) than a patchwork quilt or even a sampler.

The Centennial Exposition: Cultural Influences

Though precedents do predate the 1870s, the cultural phenomenon of the crazy quilt emerged directly from the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876.  This World Fair had a great influence on American culture, with millions visiting the fair and even more exposed to the exhibits through magazine articles.  Among other new trends, the Fair coincided with the first mass-marketing of Japanese culture outside of Japan.  This can be seen in the emphasis on printed fabrics, vibrant and exuberant color, and the many fan motifs incorporated into the quilts.

This exhibit brings together six crazy quilts from the Neill-Cochran House Museum’s permanent collection.  All of the quilts share characteristics, most notably an emphasis on velvet and silk fabrics and embroidered seams.  However, there are notable differences between the different quilts as well.  Some are backed, while others appear unfinished.  One quilt incorporates small mirrors, another pipe cleaners, and several are hand-painted.   All of the quilts reward close inspection and speak across the 100+ years since their creation to share the stories of their makers.

The preservation of some elements of our quilt collection is funded in part by a grant from the Quilter’s Guild of Dallas, Helena Hibbs Endowment Fund.

This exhibit will be on view from February 7th – February 25th, timed to coincide with quilt exhibitions by the Briscoe Center and the Texas Quilt Museum.