Commission to rule on historical status of former professor's residence

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The Austin Planning Commission will vote on granting historical status to the former home of a UT physics professor.

If the commission approves the recommendation, it would deny UT's chapter of Phi Gamma Delta permission to demolish the house in order to build a parking lot and a new facility that would house fraternity members.

The house, located behind the fraternity's main house at 2707 Hemphill Park, is the former residence of Professor S. Leroy Brown, who created WCM, Austin's first broadcast radio station. The station eventually became KUT, Austin's National Public Radio affiliate.

Brown also invented the mechanical harmonic synthesizer, which is considered an early analog computer, according to the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History's website.

In August, the Austin Historic Landmark Commission unanimously voted to recommend granting historical status to the house.

The house was built in 1915. The fraternity purchased the property in 1995 after Martha Ann Zivley's Typing Service vacated.

Steve Sadowsky, Historic Preservation Office director, said the recommendation will go before the City Council, who could officially declare the house a historic landmark and prevent its demolition. He said the commission does not have to approve the recommendation for the City Council to vote on it.