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Michael Barnes

Miller Blueprint, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Camino Real de los Tejas, Marriage Equality and more

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Miller Blueprint building on East 10th Street in 1944.

Miller Blueprint building on East 10th Street in 1944.

BUSINESS + HISTORY = 140 Years of reimagining for Miller Blueprint family. Taken from my story in the American-Statesman: ” Luci Miller fans out the photographs, postcards, maps, yearbooks, directories and other printed material on a broad table. Each time she gently lifts an item, the president of Miller Imaging and Digital Solutions — formerly Miller Blueprint — relates a fresh story. When your family has been in business in downtown Austin since 1876 — Miller Blueprint goes back to 1920 — you have plenty of stories to tell. “When we were on Congress Avenue, they hung the blueprints out of windows over Congress to dry,” Miller says of the company’s first location. “It was a wet process. My grandfather also had Southwestern Aerial Surveys Inc. In World War II, their plane was requisitioned. That was the end of the flying business.” In the late 19th century, Miller’s great-grandfather R.C. Lambie and a business partner, Francis Fischer, ran a general contracting company that built several of Austin’s most recognizable structures. It was based at 116-120 W. Fifth St., and following family tradition, Luci and her sister, Ida Miller, still own that building, now used as a nightclub.”

Collene Sweeney designed the botanical images for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center speciality license plates.

Collene Sweeney designed the botanical images for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center speciality license plates.

NATURE + CHARITY = Creating the botanical art for wildflower license plate. Taken from my story in the American-Statesman: “A few years ago, botanist Flo Oxley was teaching plant taxonomy at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The center’s director of plant conservation and education was frustrated by the inadequacy of the scientific drawings used to explain each plant’s parts. Collene Sweeney to the rescue. Recommended by a fellow master gardener in Georgetown, Sweeney had enjoyed a long career as an industrial designer at IBM, helping explain technology to users. Now, each Thursday, she makes the 84-mile round trip to volunteer at the center as a plant artist. She’s executed some 200 mostly black-and-white drawings, which can be viewed at wildflower.org.“I show up and say, ‘What do you want me to draw today?’ ” a sun-mellowed Sweeney says with a soft smile. “They say, ‘Follow me.’ We’d go out and pick something. ‘We need to work on these.’ I draw them freehand.””

Steven Gonzales, director of El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail Association, points out direction Spanish would have anticipated the invading French would have taken.

Steven Gonzales, director of El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail Association, points out direction Spanish would have anticipated the invading French would have taken.

HISTORY + TRAVEL = Poking around the likely site for 1730 Spanish missions. Taken from my story in the American-Statesman: “Steven Gonzales picks up a shard from the clearing. “This is what you’d expect to find,” he says about the roughly triangular piece of enameled pottery. “Except that this is obviously modern.” Gonzales, director of the Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail Association, casually surveys a site on the Montopolis bluffs that has been leveled for new construction. He points over the treetops to the east. “The Spanish usually established their settlements on hills and bluffs on the south and west sides of rivers and streams in Texas,” he says about the three missions established on the Colorado River in 1730. “Because their main concern was a potential French threat coming from Natchitoches, Louisiana, at the eastern end of the Camino Real.”

Photo by Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg.

Photo by Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg.

LAW + HISTORY = Court ruling affirms deepest principles. Taken from an editorial in the American-Statesman: “The U.S. Supreme Court put an end to state-endorsed marriage discrimination on Friday, following the legal logic it laid out two years ago when it struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act for violating the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. Same-sex marriage is now a constitutionally protected right. Marriage equality is a reality. Texas was one of 14 states affected by Friday’s historic 5-4 ruling — one of 14 laggards that can no longer enforce their bans on same-sex marriage. Shortly after the Supreme Court released its decision, Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir began issuing same-sex marriage licenses, calling Friday “a joyous day.”“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote poignantly for the court’s majority, which also included Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.”