I was blessed to find this hidden gem in 2011. Prior to Zoey apartments, our street was tucked between woods and golf course…only a few walkers and golfers knew about this place. Even today, since the removal of the trees along Riverside, very few people know about the stately homes hiding in Penick Place. Even with the rich history surrounding the subdivision and the homes in it…Penick Place remains a cherished Austin secret. I fell in love with the mid-century house immediately: the trees, the privacy, the architecture, the space, the storage, the lot...and very quickly, the neighbors.
My father was 90 at the time and the plan was to build him a home close to me until the end. We hired an architect, Jay Bolsega with Element 5, to design the guesthouse for an aging parent, take advantage of views, keep privacy between the two homes, and for dad...well, he still had trouble downsizing from 2400sf and 3 car garage to “guesthouse” size. We did our best to make it well appointed while realizing that over upgrading and designing with his unique style wouldn’t be a wise long-term investment. His demands were: a large master and a large office. He of course needed wide doors and no steps to plan for less mobility. I am very proud of our creation and am sad to let it go. But know that love, care and compassion is in the foundation of the guest house. Papa went to assisted living in 2015 and passed away at the ripe old age of 96 the following year.
Speaking of foundations...the back patio slab is part of the foundation; it’s not a separate pour like most patios. There is a natural gas outlet near the kitchen back door so you can grill with ease. By the sliding glass doors you will find space for outdoor dining and living.
Prior to construction we did a soil test conducted by M Law. All permitting and inspections were done in accordance with the City of Austin, and we went above and beyond on the building standards. To our surprise the property did not have clay soil, and did not require special consideration; however, we chose the strongest, most expensive version of the foundation offered by M Law anyway. The house was oriented in order to enjoy the 5th tee box of Riverside Golf Course while taking care that the windows in the living room looking towards the main house, were put high enough to avoid seeing each other inside or outside each other’s respective houses.
While we could have chosen a modern style to compliment the midcentury modern, we decided it was not financially prudent to build mid-century modern and contemporary modern would have stuck out like a sore thumb. So we decided to mimic the mid-century ranch style of the rest of the homes on our street. An added bonus is when people come over expecting a small ranch style home with low ceilings and are surprised with 10 and 13 foot ceilings and expansive nature and golf course views. (For my Dr. Who fans…I like to kid it's like the TARDIS.)
Energy wise, we installed a gas tankless water heater and framed the exterior walls with 2” x 6”s vs the typical 2” x 4”. The insulation is part blown and part foam for those tight corner spots due to the vaulted ceiling. 5606 Penick is part of a subdivision called Penick Place and was created in the late 1940s by Austin golf legend, Harvey Penick. Penick started working at the Austin Country Club when he was just a teenager. He honed his skills, became a golf pro and shared his gifts with the Austin Country Club for the next 50 years! He then brought the Austin Country Club to east Austin. He helped build and design what we now call Riverside Golf Course. ACC bought the golf course a couple decades ago. Some of the holes had to be moved around, but it’s my recollection that the 5th hole is one of the only, if not the only originally placed hole. It is supposed to stay that way because Harvey Penick's house is the cute little, one story house next to mine. Mr. Penick was not only a golf pro, but was the coach for the University of Texas, men's and women's golf programs for decades! You’ve probably heard of two of his students, who he coached right here in our little corner of the world: Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw. There is an amazing story that will make you bawl, about Ben Crenshaw winning the Masters immediately after hearing of Harvey Penick's death. Penick's coaching style included deep, life lessons to master the game of golf. Thus, his book, The Little Red Book, is the best-selling sports book ever written.
Though Penick's infamy cannot be matched, the owners of homes on Penick over the years also held great history. The original owner of my home was on the Board of Directors of the Austin Country Club. Clearly, at the time, he spared no expense. He did many innovative things for 1957 i.e. air conditioning, slab foundation, drain in the foundation for the water heater, swimming pool with speakers, pool-house with toilet, sink and showers and solar heated showers just to name a few. (I learned about this from old flyers left from what my best guess is the 80s. I have them out for viewing in the sunroom.) I learned from a friend that visited, that he had been here as a little boy (70's.) They were visiting a family friend who was a high ranking officer at Bergstrom. He apparently was the officer that would rally the pilots should a nuclear attack be ordered by the President. When I learned this, it explained the “Intercontinental Security System” (camera) at the front door. It still scans when front light is on. I found it so fun, though I never took the time to find out where it sends information!
I learned about the pool with speakers in it when Harvey Penick's son was hanging out by our back fence. He was with the co-author of his dad's book and they were reminiscing and working on another book. He said as a boy, he was allowed to come over and use the pool and loved it because he could hear music in the water. The pool has been filled obviously; but the yard is screaming for another!
The other owners on this street include the owner of East Side Lumber, hall of fame Austin singer/guitarist, owner of Charlie's gay club, and a pioneering attorney and advocate for Barton Springs protection...all lived here in 70's, 80's or still living here. Penick's home is owned by an amazing couple who I think deserve high respect for their work, but will refrain from disclosing their private stuff. Only 3 of the 7 of us have not lived here 25 years or more. I had hoped to be one of those.
I am selling because of what would seemingly be a sad story. But I promise you it is not. If you have read this far, you know my father (and I was an only child) passed here. While sad, it was exactly how we planned it. It was filled with much respect, love and joy; which if you knew us and our French background, you'd know we were a pretty hot-headed pair together. I was also married for 20 years until 2018. We moved here and planned to be married forever, like all couples. We thrived in business and in our relationship here. My son was in college, but he and his buddies had no hesitancy to come stay here for Austin festivals and just to visit and enjoy the vibe. As opposite a selling point as it may seem, this home spurred my divorce. I became more grounded here, more aware of nature, simplicity, authenticity, etc. Because of that, it shined a light on a marriage that was an excellent friendship but lacking in areas needed to honor each of our souls. Let me digress a moment.
When we first came to see this home in 2011, to consider buying it, we walked the golf course after looking at the house. Next to the green of the 5th hole is likely the most magnificent, awe-inspiring oak tree you will ever see…especially in the city. That tree spoke to me that day. It said, yes, buy this home. Yes, there are things for you here that are meant for you. And so we did. Later I learned the tree is also a bit famous. I don't know the whole story, but I know it is called Guardian Tree. There's a painting of it in the golf club. It is clearly the parent of all the oaks you see on the golf course...or uncle, grandparent...you get the gist.
Guardian Tree was correct to call me to this place. I believe it calls the next owner of this home too. And while I hope your path is different than mine, regardless, this home and property will inspire you, your family, and your friends to be more true to yourself and more grateful. I am being called to simpler life. Caring for two homes and 1 acre of land has been a tough thing for a newly single lady exploring new areas of her life. It has taken me a year and a half to realize it is time to pass the torch. Much has been done to leave it better than I found it, though I wish, and will likely always wish, I could have done more. I believe this home is destined to grow along with it's owner...not just in tile, floor choices, paint colors, etc....but mental, emotional and spiritual growth. And if you don't believe in all that...well...it's still just a badass piece of architecture in an amazing location!