Pease Mansion is only minutes from downtown Austin—the hip epicenter of one of America’s most progressive cities—but it appears just-plucked from a sleepy Southern plantation. That impression doesn’t miss the mark by much. Built in 1853, the white brick mansion is a prized vestige of the city’s antebellum architecture. With two-story Ionic columns, a wide portico, and floor-to-ceiling windows (the old-timers’ cunning way around paying property taxes on doors), the home is a stellar example of Greek Revival architecture and a reminder that Austin’s roots run to the Deep South. (Not to say that the Wild West didn’t shape the town, too. As late as 1908, a frontier-style shoot-out shattered the peace in downtown’s elegant Driskill Hotel.)
Since its construction, the hilltop mansion has captured the imagination of almost everyone who sees it. Interior designer Mark Ashby was among the smitten. “From 1998 to 2000, I lived in an apartment in the neighborhood while the home was empty,” he explains. “I would walk onto the property and peer inside, thinking wouldn’t it be cool if somebody would buy and restore the property and bring it back to life?”
Ashby, a Louisiana native who was still cutting his design teeth after moving to Austin in 1995, has a perfectly capable imagination. But in his wildest dreams, he never suspected that he would be the one tapped to give the majestic house CPR. “When I got the call from the new owners, it felt too good to be true,” he admits.
Text by Candace Ord Manroe
Photographs by John Granen
Produced by Helen Thompson
Designers: Mark Ashby and Mary Ames, Mark Ashby Design, 902 E. Fifth St., Suite 209, Austin, TX 78702; 512/524-1220
Architect: Tom Hatch, Hatch + Ulland Owen Architects, 702 San Antonio St., Austin, TX 78701-2826; 512/474-8548, huoarchitects.com.