When surveyor Washington Hill wanted a home built on his 17.5 acres outside of Austin, only one master builder would suffice: Abner Cook. Responsible for notable Austin spaces like the Governor's Mansion and the First Presbyterian Church, Cook completed Hill's abode in 1856. By that time, however, the Hills could no longer afford the residence, which the State of Texas soon leased and turned into the Texas Asylum for the Blind. So begat a long line of new identities for the building, which went on to house lieutenant governors, colonels, judges, and, for more than two years during Reconstruction, injured Civil War troops.
Under the care of the National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in The State of Texas, Hill's dream home is now the Neill-Cochran House Museum. Emblematic of the structure's Greek Revival style, Doric columns greet visitors before they explore the historic interior on staff- or docent-led tours. These only skim the surface of the museum's activities?frequent happenings range from seminars by leading historians to events for youngsters like the Easter Egg Dye-o-rama. The museum can even be rented for special occasions, including art shows, teas, and weddings.
Everyone has a different vision of how their living space should look, which is why ART on 5th fills its three-level, 6,000-square-foot gallery with art to suit all tastes. Works by notable names such as Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Theodor Seuss Geisel—better known as Dr. Seuss—rub shoulders with rotating collections from some 60 lesser-known artists.
In addition to displaying fine paintings, ART on 5th offers custom-framing services, and backs each of its frames with a lifetime guarantee. The store’s artisans meticulously choose a flattering frame for each piece from more than 3,000 styles—helping artwork mesh stylistically with its destination, be it a living-room wall or an endless hall of mirrors. They eschew colored, paper mats in favor of neutral-toned, hand-wrapped linen mats, leaving some wiggle room between art and frame and imbuing each piece with richness and depth. Each frame is hung with kevlar, a bulletproof material that prevents damage caused by rusted hanging wires and showboating ’80s action-movie stars.