Old Austin may be gone but “the finest hotel in the South” is still offering residents a shave, cut and style from yesteryear.
The Driskill Hotel, 604 Brazos St., will host Finley’s Pop-up Barber Shop, featuring old-timey grooming services, from May 19-29 as part of the hotel’s initiative to “reimagine” its past historic events.
The hotel previously revived its afternoon tea time and self-guided art tour in its pursuit of celebrating the building’s history.
Finley’s is meant to emulate The Driskill Barbershop, director of events Ashley Famalette told Austin, the hotel’s immensely popular men’s barbershop that opened in 1909 but closed shortly after due to changes at the hotel.
The barbershop opened in 1909 and was extremely popular among businessmen and politicians. (The Driskill)
“Really, The Driskill was the spot to stay if you were coming to Austin for politics or business,” Famalette said. “So (The Driskill Barbershop) was very, very popular because of its location in The Driskill.”
The concept of Finley’s was created by friends Darren Peterson and Scott Finley, who wanted to bring back luxurious vintage grooming.
From the hotel’s Chisholm Trail Room, Finley’s will offer six different services that are geared toward men but welcome all:
- The Driskill Haircut, $50, with a hot lather neck trim and shoulder massage.
- The Driskill Beard and Mustache Trim, $25
- The Driskill Clean Head, $50, with a straight razor, oils and moisterizers.
- The Driskill Clean Shave, $60, with cold and hot towels, essential oils and a facial moisterizer.
- The Driskill Electric Fade, $60, a skin taper fade cut with all the same treatments as a haircut.
- The Driskill Razor Fade, $65, a “military reg” with all the same treatments as a haircut.
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Austin’s only remaining intact slave dwelling is finally getting the TLC it deserves as it begins a $500,000, 12-month restoration that will take it back to the antebellum period this month.
Located at the Neill-Cochran House Museum, 2310 San Gabriel St., the Slave Quarters will be reintroduced to the public with new programming and an overnight stay from Joseph McGill, founder of The Slave Dwelling Project, on April 23. It will mostly be open to the public in the 12 months it is being restored.
Rowena Dasch, NCHM’s executive director, and Tara Dudley, historic preservation consultant and UT architecture assistant professor, said since 2016 they have been working to research the building’s history and undo changes made since it was last inhabited by enslaved people. By reverting the dwelling back to its original form, they hope it can show the full spectrum of history in Austin.
The Neill-Cochran House in the 1850s. (NCHM)
“There are many individuals who feel like they don't have agency or ownership of that history and that information and we definitely want to be able to open those doors and have those conversations and to hear those voices from the community,” Dudley said. “That history that is either less known or ignored, but definitely marginalized and continues to be in many ways.”
McGill, a former Civil War reenactor, said he founded The Slave Dwelling Project in 2010 to bring attention to the history that has been swept under the rug. McGill, who doesn’t often visit Texas and said the monument is a rarity, does this by sleeping in these structures and giving fireside chats.
“We, as Americans, are proud and we should be proud because we are members of probably the greatest nation on this planet, but in obtaining this greatness we committed some atrocities along the way,” McGill told Austonia. “Recognizing these atrocities should be what we all do. There's this effort to quash that element of our history by proclaiming it prohibitive to our youth and I think that's going in the wrong direction.”
Dudley said the building was likely built by enslaved individuals working for Abner Cook—a prominent builder behind the Texas Governor’s Mansion—with 14-inch thick walls, four inches thinner than the main house, and packed dirt floors that would be upgraded to brick pavers in the 1960s.
Since the exterior of the building most likely looked very similar to now, Dudley said restoring the Slave Quarters interior to its pre-1865 state required learning about the previous inhabitants:
- Lam, a 10-12-year-old boy leased by the School of the Blind to teach students to weave baskets in the 1850s.
- Jacob Fontaine, founder of one of the first Black newspapers west of the Mississippi who worked a block away in Wheatville.
- Maggie, a laundress whose handmade laundry soap was prized by the Cochran girls.
The lives of the enslaved individuals who inhabited the home revealed that the ground floor would have been a mixed-use laundry room workspace. After stabilizing the foundation, further restoration will include stabilizing the chimney and reintegrating the first and second floors with a trap door.
“We've been saying all along that this isn't about replacing a narrative, it's about rebalancing it so that you'll have a real understanding of the experiences of all of the people who have been associated with our site,” Dasch said.
Dasch and Dudley said having McGill visit “is like having the Rolling Stones” come to town, encouraging locals to stop by for a panel conversation from 2-4 p.m. on April 23 and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on April 24 for free programming and educational activities.
“Texas was essentially one of the last bastions for slavery in the United States and Austin was a part of that,” Dudley said. “In many ways, the Slave Quarters building and the Neill-Cochran House Museum site is a fulcrum to being able to turn toward many of these stories of Austin history, particularly as they relate to race relations.”
The sign of the formerly beloved Armadillo World Headquarters is going once, going twice, for a hefty $35,000 starting bid through world-renowned auction house Sotheby’s.
However, some fans, former employees and performers of the music hall told the Austin Chronicle the sign was stolen.
The piece: Reading “Armadillo World Headquarters Concert Hall,” the 16-feet long wooden sign was created by former AWH staff member Don Cowley in the late ‘70s. The sign once hung over the club’s entrance and is estimated to be worth $50,000-$70,000.
The sign was modelled after Camel cigarette lettering. (Sotheby's)
The provenance: According to Austin Museum of Popular Culture executive director and former AWH staff member Leea Mechling, the sign was stolen shortly before the ‘Dillo closed in 1980. Menchling lost track of the sign until 2011, when a man contacted AusPop asking if they would buy the sign for $100,000 and was listed on eBay for the same price. Menchling said they declined to purchase the sign, suggesting he donate it. The piece resurfaced on Friday afternoon on Sotheby’s, one of the world’s oldest and largest fine art brokers.
Per the Austin American-Statesman, the sign is currently owned by San Antonian Michele Krier, who said it was purchased at auction from then-AWH founder Eddie Wilson and given to her by her ex-husband on her birthday in 1984.
Wilson, who left the business before its closure, said he also believes the sign was stolen. However, Wilson has held many auctions selling Armadillo art in the last decade.
Armadillo fans are getting public with their frustration over the auction, like The Nobelity Project co-founder and former AWH magician Turk Pipkin, who called out the auction house on Twitter yesterday.
Hey @Sothebys - why are you auctioning a sign that was stolen from Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin? Do you specialize in stolen art? https://t.co/pk1Ec76eys
— Turk Pipkin (@turkpipkin) January 20, 2022
Sotheby's policy on stolen art: “As part of Sotheby’s efforts to support only the legitimate art market and to combat the illegitimate market in stolen property, Sotheby’s has retained the Art Loss Register to check all uniquely identifiable items offered for sale in this catalog that are estimated at more than the equivalent of U.S. $1,500 against the Art Loss Register’s computerized database of objects reported as stolen or lost.”
Menchling said she thinks the sign is an “important relic” to Austinites who are old enough to remember rocking out at the ‘Dillo, though she still has the original logo sign, which she thinks is more important.So far, the highest bid is at $40,000. The auction ends on Jan. 25 at 2:56 p.m.
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