AUSTIN — The family that lived for decades in one of Austin’s most iconic homes, an old pink-and-white Victorian, fought for years to save it from being torn down.
The 127-year-old house was buckling beneath its age, and Yolanda Anderson’s family couldn’t afford the laundry list of urgent repairs, so the prospects of saving the home seemed dim.
But just days before throwing in the towel and giving up hope of saving their house, the Anderson family found a buyer with the skills and the will to restore it.
“It’s the next best thing outside of doing it ourselves. It was a lifelong dream of keeping it in the family and continuing to present it to the neighborhood because so many people love it,” Anderson said.
The house at 556 N. Central Ave. is one that most who have lived in Austin would recognize in an instant. Its pink and white pallete makes it an unmistakable landmark for locals. It sits along one of the main thoroughfares in Austin, contributing to the neighborhood’s character with a unique look that gives that area a distinct sense of place.
The old house was in terrible shape when Anderson’s parents initially bought it in the 1980s. They got the house at an auction where nobody else made a bid. If they hadn’t purchased it, the home likely would have been condemned and demolished, Anderson said.
Her father became home’s caretaker, and he restored it piece by piece with his own hands. He painted it pink because it was the favorite color of Anderson’s mother.
“We’ve had all kinds of foibles with the house. When daddy was there… we would fix it. It was kind of daunting. Especially with older houses, you have to get special materials because of the way the house is built. The prices are exorbitant. It’s not like your regular repair,” Anderson said.
The pink house became a treasure for the Anderson family and for the surrounding neighborhood.
But the family — and the house — fell on hard times. In 2005, a fire damaged the roof, and the Anderson family just didn’t have the financial resources to fix it up and prevent the building from deteriorating further.
Anderson’s father also grew older and unable to keep up with the considerable maintenance the house needed before he died in 2017, leaving nobody with the skills to keep up the delicate old home.
Since then, the house has been in dire need of a new roof and repairs to the wraparound porch. Anderson spent the past decade seeking help from groups like Habitat for Humanity and applying for grants to pay for the repairs, but never received any funds, she said.
With the help of realtor Jeanne Keating, she launched a GoFundMe in 2019 to raise money for the repairs, but “it wasn’t enough to even put a dent in it,” Anderson said.
Anderson wanted dearly to keep the house in the family. But, out of options, she decided to put the house on the market to find a buyer who could afford to preserve the house so the community would not lose another piece of Austin’s history.
“That was one of the things my family was trying to prevent. We saw all the vacant lots and houses being torn down. With the love and the heart and the hard work, even if we lacked the major funds, we were able to jump in and save this one so it wouldn’t come to the same fate,” Anderson said.
There was a lot of interest in the house, and Anderson did over 100 showings for prospective buyers. But each time, the deal fell through due to the enormous cost of the repairs needed, Keating said.
“The work that needs to be done in it far exceeds what the property was worth,” Keating said. “Until you could find somebody who could appreciate the house for what it was as a staple in the community, it just wasn’t going to work.”
Most potential buyers made extremely low offers on the house because they intended to tear it down and build something more profitable on the land, Keating said.
“They only wanted to buy the lot. They didn’t want the house,” Keating said.
Unwilling to let the house be demolished, Anderson buckled down and waited for two years for the right buyer. It wasn’t easy, she said, and keeping the house standing was expensive, leaving her family in a dire financial position.
By the end of December 2020, Anderson was at the end of the line and resolved that in the new year she would “decide to stop our efforts,” she said. But just days before the deadline, Keating found a family that had the skills, the know-how and the dedication to take on the house. The buyers declined to comment on the sale.
“I’m so happy and so grateful and so glad to have found such sweet people to be able to come in,” Anderson said. “They remind me of us when we first came here. I was really young when daddy first bought it, and the way we got together to bring out the beauty of the house.”
The sale almost fell through the day before the new owners closed on the house. After the series of blizzards in February 2021 dumped several feet of snow on the house, the basement flooded from the snowmelt. But despite the added water damage, the incoming family still loved the house and resolved to move forward.
The house may end up looking different after the repairs to the roof and the porch. It might not even have its signature pink paintjob, Anderson said. But she is glad it will live on and continue to hold timeless memories of her family, she said.
“It’s a bittersweet ending. We’re still having a hard time, it has so many aspects of my dad in it,” Anderson said.
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