When 30-year-olds Washington and Mary Hill engaged local builder, designer, and businessman Abner Cook to construct a fine Greek Revival house on nearly 18 acres of land northwest of the city of Austin, they never dreamed that they wouldn’t even spend one night in their beautiful home. But changing fortunes and overextended ambition meant that the Hills had to sell.
The Neill-Cochran House Museum then became a boarding house and, later, a rental property for Lieutenant Governor Fletcher Stockdale and for the Federal Army under George Custer.
The site got its current name from two of the families who called the limestone rubble mansion their home. The Neill family purchased the house in 1876. Andrew and his wife Jennie outfitted their new home with impressive walnut furniture and made their mark in Austin and Texas social and political circles. They were known for their lavish parties as well as the library Andrew, as an attorney, filled with books. The Cochrans moved into the home in 1893 when Thomas Cochran was appointed a Texas District Judge. Thus began over six decades of residency; four generations of Cochrans called the house home through World War I, the Roaring 20s, World War II, and through the 1950s.
While the main house is a tribute to Greek-Revival with its massive overhanging porch ceiling supported by 26-foot tall wooden columns, the dependency was built to reflect its use as lodging for the masons and carpenters who crafted the main house. Originally built by and for enslaved people, and later housing servants who worked on the property, it had a dirt floor, ladder access to the second floor, and bare stone walls. It is the only secondary building that survives from the 1850s and is the only intact slave work and dwelling place still standing in Austin.. The Neill-Cochran House Museum is the sole museum in Austin dedicated to the city’s history from its founding into the 20th century.