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Michael Barnes

Boggy Creek Farm + French Legation at 175

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While we celebrate the 175th of Austin’s two oldest houses, check out the rest of this story that ran in the Statesman today.

Two Austin houses turn 175 this year.

You know one — the French Legation — as the “oldest house in town.” Locals and tourists love this Creole-style home that rests on a steep crest; it was built for Alphonse Dubois de Saligny, France’s chargé d’affaires to the new Republic of Texas. A museum since the 1950s, it hosted a 175th birthday fête on March 5.

You are probably familiar with the other handsome house — Boggy Creek Farm — because of its organic foodstuffs rather than its history. Yet builders likely finished both structures, the latter for settlers James and Elizabeth Smith, almost simultaneously in 1841 in what is now East Austin.

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This topographical map of Austin, originally drawn by William Sandusky, shows the land in East Austin divided up into farms to feed the city. Boggy Creek Farm is located on floodplains near the letter “A.” The French Legation is perched atop the hill — Robertson Hill — just east of East Avenue.

Epistolary evidence unearthed by Boggy Creek co-owner Carol Ann Sayle suggests that her home — almost identical in floor plan to the French Legation — was ready for a party not long after the embassy, a few miles away, was furnished.

On Dec. 24, 1841, a supper celebrating the wedding of James Smith’ son, Alfred, took place by the creek. One of the invited guests was President Sam Houston, not the sort of personage one would invite to an event staged in a frontier lean-to.

“President Houston walked with crutches from his carriage, as his ankle still hurt from the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836,” Sayle says. “He was assisted by a major of the Texas Army. The President pronounced the food ‘doings’ as ‘first rate throughout’ in a letter that he wrote later that evening to his wife Margaret, who was living in Houston.”

Longtime backers of the French Legation, Sayle insists that she and husband, Larry Butler, seek no competition with fans of the museum, owned by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. Boggy Creek Farm will celebrate its 175th anniversary with docent-led tours and free refreshments on June 11-12.