I recently visited two adjacent houses owned by the City of Austin: the O. Henry Museum and the Joseph and Susanna Dickinson Hannig Museum. Both are in Brush Square between Fourth and Fifth Streets. Admission is free.
The O. Henry Museum was the rented home of William Sidney Porter, his wife, Athol, and their young daughter, Margaret, from 1893-95. During this time William was employed as a teller and bookkeeper at the First National Bank of Austin. After moving to Houston in 1895, he was charged with embezzlement related to his employment at the bank. He was convicted, sent to prison in Ohio and began writing under the pen name, O. Henry. After his release from prison in 1901, he moved to New York City and became a successful writer. He never returned to Austin again.
During the 1930’s this house was saved from demolition, moved a few blocks to its present location and opened as a museum. Some of the Porters’ furniture and belongings are displayed in the home’s four main rooms and center hallway.
The Joseph and Susanna Dickinson Hannig Museum is right next door. As all Texans know, Susanna Dickinson was an Alamo survivor. As the “Messenger of the Alamo,” Santa Anna sent her to tell Sam Houston that resistance was futile. Texans also know how that ended.
Susanna and Joseph lived in this house in the 1860’s. In 2003 the house was moved 100 feet from its original location due to construction of the Austin Hilton Hotel. The museum, which opened after renovations were completed last year, features several exhibits about Susanna and other Alamo survivors. There is a small research library in the back room.
The annual O. Henry Pun-Off is held in the adjoining backyards of these houses. Bill and I attended some of this year’s Pun-Off back in May. We enjoyed listening to the warm-up band, The Greatest American Heroes, which specializes in TV theme songs. We talked for a while with a nervous first-time contestant (she later tied for fifth place). Unfortunately we could not stay very long and so we missed such exciting puns as: “Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.” and “Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.”