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Stories from Commodore Perry Estate

Stories from Commodore Perry Estate

Learn The Commodore’s Original Austin Spirit

E.H. Perry gave much to the City of Austin throughout his years as a successful entrepreneur and civic leader. It can be argued that Perry’s own personal character served as a template for Austin’s: it’s one of vision, imagination and humility. Perry saw details and possibilities in everything, and he wasn’t afraid to take action. Like Perry, in all his accomplishments that remained understated, Austin keeps itself authentic while earning fame as a hotspot for world technology industries and other market drivers. Get to know a few of Perry’s signature traits and you’ll begin to see a bit of the Commodore in the personality of his beloved city.



Risk Taker

Perry was brought up to have a good work ethic, and born with a great sense of humor. Those qualities made him a successful employee, but what made The Commodore his fortune was his courage. At 34, Perry took a huge risk on a new idea that paid off. When the young man’s employer, a distinguished cotton trading firm named McFadden and Brother, pulled out of the Austin cotton territory, Perry took the abandoned accounts (with the firm’s blessing) and ventured to Europe on his own, becoming the first cotton trader to export from the United States. He secured accounts with all the established countries across Europe and was a major supplier for Japan.

Perry’s courage extends to civic duty where he broke barriers and changed the course of history. In 1938, Perry used his influence to lobby for what would become the first ever Affordable Housing Project in United States history. It served as a model for the rest of the country and Perry, for a time, headed the Austin Housing Authority. “Commodore” E. H. Perry gave some of his fortune to the Austin Symphony so that people of all financial classes could experience live-performed musical art and all its benefits. For over 30 years, Perry worked closely with directors of the YWCA to see the program expanded in a time when many people discouraged females in fitness. Perry described the YWCA as “an important program that gives so much to our teen-age girls and young women.”



Nowadays there’s a creative spark that lights up the Austin sky and attracts business and entrepreneurs from all over the world. Cranes dot the city’s horizon. Multiple high-rise buildings are always being constructed to support the growth in industry and community. It’s hard to imagine the town when Perry arrived in 1902 with a population of just 22,000. E.H. Perry made his big dreams for the city happen. He loved Austin deeply and wanted to “make it a nicer place to live.”

When there was talk of moving the University of Texas, Perry put up the money needed to prevent the move and paid for construction to begin on a new football stadium for the school. Perry thought the city needed a hotel. So he built the Commodore Perry Hotel in the face of Conrad Nicholson Hilton Sr., who said it could not be done at Perry’s price.

He invested heavily in social groups and founded Austin’s first Book Club. He supported humanitarian causes like The Settlement Home for children in need, and was always looking for opportunities to bless the city in a way that would serve people in the community. People who share Perry’s passion for progress and innovation have made Austin a welcome home known for its ability to embrace challenges with optimism.



Authentic to the Core

No matter how successful Perry became, he never lost sight of his roots or his fragility as a man. He treated everyone from dignitaries to his house staff with respect and commonality. He was lighthearted, approachable and above all, a lifelong learner. The library in his office at the former Commodore Perry Hotel was reported to cover all four walls and included the works of mankind’s greatest thinkers.

Perry’s nickname – “The Commodore” – stemmed from when the Texas Governor at the time sought to give him an esteemed title for his civic vision and stewardship. In Perry’s self-deprecating humor and signature humility, he suggested “Commodore” since his only experience with a boat included its disastrous demise after being washed away in Lake Austin. Texas, of course, had no navy in the 19th century. However, when annexed as a state in the Union, Texas was permitted to dispatch its own Texas Navy, should the new state need to protect its Southern border. It was this historical Navy, Perry presided over as “Commodore”.

Commodore Perry might be proud to know that his humor, drive and inventiveness are still going strong in Austin today. The city and surrounding areas continue to grow. Austin is experiencing somewhat of a boom in recent years. Last year the metro area reached a population of roughly 2,176,000. Each day welcomes new citizens looking to partake in all the city has to offer. Commodore Perry Estate stands as a treasured historic landmark and a monument to what is possible if one never stops reaching for the stars.Stories from Commodore Perry Estate