Here’s the letter pasted on the reverse side of that Austin house photo. Dig that letterhead, huh? The letter tells us a lot about who Joe Lee was: State Revenue Agent of Texas, crony of Governor Sayers, family man, and… connoisseur of foliage, apparently.
And yet it didn’t tell me much that could help me find out what happened to the house. From Ammie’s scrapbooks we figured out that its address was 1108 Colorado Street, which, according to Google maps (see link) is right across from the State Capitol. And we could see on the map’s street view feature that the house was no longer there. But it had been an important house, right? What happened to it? There had to be the history of it somewhere, or at least another picture.
I spent a whole afternoon online trying to follow the clues in the letter, looking up places where Albert Sidney Johnson (ahem, Johnston) had lived, and later, Joseph Sayers. I had no luck, and much later I would figure out that Joe Lee got some of his facts wrong.
One day, though, I was going through an online photo archive on the Austin History Center’s website, and I found this image—a glass-plate stereoscopic photo of the view from the Governor’s Mansion. I knew the house was in the same neighborhood, so I peered in as close as I could. Sure enough, there, off in the distance, was the house.
The photo description said the view was of the “Cook house and quality shop, 1104 Colorado,” which made no sense to me. It wasn’t even the right address. But eventually I figured it all out. You’ll see.