14 Oct

Collections: Xavier Sprang Melodeon

Melodeon, c. 1860-1890, Xavier Spang, Rosewood and Cast Iron.
Gift of Mrs. Gordon West, 1959.09.01

The melodeon is an American invention from the first half of the 19th century. Although melodeons were very popular before and during the Civil War era, they are seldom seen today. Housed in a piano-like case, a melodeon is a small reed organ with a five or six octave keyboard. Back in its heyday, Americans preferred the melodeon over the piano for its durability, lower price, and the advantage of seldom needing maintenance and tuning. Two men in Buffalo, New York – Jeremiah Carhart and Elias Parkman Needham – invented the melodeon. They had sought to improve the previous-existing pump organ and created an instrument that, instead of using pressure bellows like the European harmonium, used suction bellows. In the mid-19th century, it was common for well-to-do families to have a melodeon, often situated in the parlor, and to use it for entertaining guests and family members. During the Cochrans’ residence, the Neill-Cochran House was often filled with music. The Cochran family had a Victrola, and a piano is visible in the back parlor of the 1914 photographs from Bessie Cochran’s wedding.

The Neill-Cochran House Museum melodeon was made by Xavier Spang, a mid-19th century organ and melodeon maker from Syracuse, New York. Spang advertisements first appear in 1860 and disappear after 1890, leading us to believe that he went out of business shortly before the turn of the century.

Images copyright Neill-Cochran House Museum, 2015. All rights reserved.

08 Aug

March 25: Easter Egg Dye-O-Rama

What is Easter Egg Dye-o-Rama?

Hands-on fun? Check!
An Easter event that isn’t candy-centric? Check!
Multiple indoor and outdoor activities suitable for ages 3 & up? Check!
Free? No need to RSVP? Double Check!
Arts and crafts you get to take home, but don’t have to bring supplies for? 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 badmintonspend time in one of Austin’s oldest landmarks at your own pace.

Easter egg dyers of all skill levels are welcome! Boiled eggs are available free of charge; blown eggs will be available for a suggested $2 donation. We’ll provide wax resists, vinegar baths, and dyes, and, of course, take care of all of the clean-up. And, when you’re done with working on eggs, enjoy a round of badminton or croquet under the shade of our 140 year old pecan tree and try a mOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAango-hibiscus iced tea, a fresh-squeezed lemonade, and maybe even a rice krispie too!


Ok! Tell me all the details!

Friday, March 26th
12pm to 4pm

No RSVP required! Follow our facebook page for event updates and to invite
friendsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 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.

The event is free, but we suggest a $2 donation for blown eggs (feel free to bring your own!) and a $1 donation for refreshments.

07 Aug

March 22: Generations on Paper Exhibit Opening

On the Exhibit

Preserving the Pease Family Collection at the Austin History Center

PICB 03202 (2)

Richard Niles Graham (1881 – 1959)

This exhibit highlights the Pease, Graham, and Niles families and their impact on Austin and Texas. The exhibit also tells the story of their family papers, housed at the Austin History Center and recently processed in order to be available to researchers. The papers consist of materials related to the family of Elisha Marshall Pease, who was governor of Texas from 1853 to 1857 and from 1867 to 1869, and his wife, Lucadia Christiana (Niles) Pease. Like many Austinites, they were not natives, but once they arrived they fell in love with the city. They and their descendants left behind a wealth of records and information that document life in Austin and Texas in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Included in the exhibit will be documents from Pease’s terms as governor both before and after the Civil War, deeds and contracts that document the institution of slavery in Texas, and photographs of and correspondence to and from family members.

Abner Cook

Abner Cook, master builder and designer of Hill (Neill-Cochran) House and Pease Mansion (Woodlawn)

19th century Austin Connections and a Closer Look

A (much) smaller town

Elisha Pease almost certainly knew of the Neill-Cochran House during his time living in Austin; like Washington Hill, the original owner of the Neill-Cochran House, Pease had hired Abner Cook to construct for him a grand residence in the Southern Greek Revival style. As one of Austin’s few links with its Antebellum and Reconstruction Era past, we are especially excited to welcome this closer look at what the Austin History Center’s work on the Pease Collection can show us about our city’s origins.


Tuesday, March 22nd Opening Reception


Freedmen’s Bar, based out of the only surviving structure from Wheatville, a freedmen’s town in (then) North Austin

Join us from 6:30 to 8:00 pm for an exhibit preview and opening reception, including a presentation by AHC Manager Mike Miller at 7 pm entitled, “Eyewitness to an Emerging Texas: The Papers of Governor Elisha Marshall Pease”. Though we will not be offering Lucadia’s favorite Milk Punch, Freedmen’s Bar, itself based out of the 1869 Franklin-Franzetti building, will be providing complementary vintage-inspired cocktails for the evening.

The event is free and open to the public. We encourage visitors to RSVP free online.

06 Aug

March 20th: The Train to Crystal City

From 1942 to 1948, trains delivered more than 6,000 civilians from the United States and Latin America to Crystal City, Texas, a small desert town at the southern tip of Texas. The trains carried Japanese, German, Italian immigrants and their American-born children. The only family internment camp during World War II, Crystal City was the center of a government prisoner exchange program called “quiet passage.” During the course of the war, hundreds of prisoners in Crystal City, including their American-born children, were exchanged for other more important Americans – diplomats, businessmen, soldiers, physicians, and missionaries – behind enemy lines in Japan and Germany.

read more
06 Aug

March 8: Stitching Memory: A special exhibit reception

IMG_2077An Evening Behind the Cordons

As a historic house museum, we strive to bring the lived experience of the 19th and early 20th centuries to life. Stitching Memory is an exhibit that takes us across 5 distinct techniques and design aesthetics, leading us further not only into the American household, but into the intimate and wordless realm of often anonymous women’s craftsmanship, attention, and care.

Pope Quilt 1
For this special evening, we invite you to come behind the cordons to see these exquisite examples of American quilting and talk with the exhibit creators about the research and preparation that went into this exhibit. Additional elements of the museum’s textile collection will be on display for the evening.

Tuesday, March 8th
Print6pm to 8pm

Free with complementary wine and light refreshments;
$10 suggested tax-deductible donation to our first-ever Amplify Austin Campaign

Like what you see here, but can’t make it to the reception? Stitching Memory will be on view through March 14th. Stop by and visit, or contact us to set up an appointment to come see this exhibit outside of our regular hours. If you like what we do, share your enthusiasm and show your support for us today!

06 Aug

March 6: Sunday Funday: Invisible Ink

The Secret Side of the Neill-Cochran House Museum

Invisible Ink1

What about invisible ink?

Methods of producing invisible messages have existed since antiquity, and though the principles of making and developing inks are well known, even as late as 2011, the US Government was hesitant to declassify documents written about (and with!) invisible inks.

This Sunday, we will experiment with the 3 common principles of making and reading messages written in invisible ink – developing with heat, developing with acid-base reactions, and visualizing using ultraviolet light – all with safe, non-toxic materials. How do you disguise and deliver an invisible ink message? Which kind of ink works best? We’ll let you be the judge.

Invisible Ink3

Oh! Sunday Funday with invisible ink!

Museum staff and volunteers will be on hand to supply message making materials and help with developing messages using gentle heat, fruit juice, and ultraviolet light. Especially shrewd spy-investigators can also try their hands at deciphering hidden messages in sample prepared documents and in completing our spy-themed museum scavenger hunt.

Weather permitting, we will also set up snacks and lawn games on the museum’s front lawn.

Join us this Sunday from 1 to 4pm. No RSVP required, but if you want to invite a friend, sign up and share on our facebook page.

Special Announcement!

PrintWhether this is your first Sunday with us or whether you’re coming back for more, this Sunday is especially important because we’re participating in Amplify Austin for the very first time! Sunday Funday will always be free, but if you like what we do, schedule your donation on our Amplify Austin page, come back and visit us on Tuesday, March 8th for our Stitching Memory’s reception, and spread the word about what we add (do to amplify?) our community. Our goal is to raise $2,500 to make Sunday Fundays bigger, better, and, well, funner next year. Help us show Austin how much our little old house means to the community!

05 Aug

February 7: Sunday Funday: Pop-up Books

Pop-Up History


A volvella used by medieval astronomers


While books with sliding and moving images date back at least to the 13th century, the pop-up book as we know it was not mass produced until 1930. By designing and building our own pop ups, we’ll get to think a little bit about the know-how it took to bring these familiar childhood books into our homes and lives – and have fun being creative, too!

Long before one could pick up a tablet and conjure up a streaming video at the touch of a finger, the pop-up book was a popular sensation because of the way it engaged the imagination in a way that flat images and text never could. In fact, some of the earliest moving image books were anatomy texts; if a picture is worth a thousand words, pictures that move in 3 dimensions must be even more valuable!


An example of a 1930s pop-up

Staff and volunteers will be available to help with designs and pop-up book making, and we’ll also have pre-made pop-ups that younger kids (or anyone so inclined!) can decorate. Hint: pop-up cards make great valentines!



An Afternoon at the Museum


A simple pop-up valentine

Throughout the afternoon, the historic house will be open for informal and self-guided tours. For those who wish to look more closely and carefully at some of the details of the architecture and historic furnishings, there will also be a museum seek-and-find guide (age appropriate to 7-11).

Weather permitting, we will also set up snacks and lawn games on the museum’s front lawn.

“Drop on by!”


Another simple pop-up pattern

Sunday-Funday-ers never need to RSVP, but if you like what we’re up to and want to invite some friends, RSVP on our Facebook page.

Think there’s no place to park in west campus? We can help! Parking is 100% free in the 40 space museum lot off of 23rd street between San Gabriel and Leon. Overflow parking is available on the street or 1 block away at the University Towers parking garage.