Michael Bluejay's info & resources about

Michael Bluejay's Home Page | Email me

Home Austin Co-ops ICC History Articles & Resources

History of the ICC Student Co-ops in Austin, Texas

Last update: October 23, 2023

Notes & Sources: This history started with a document I found in the ICC office in 1999, which was uncredited and unsourced, and which I edited for style, I then added in bits from (then ICC GM) Brenda Smith's timeline from the same year. I then dug up official records in the office (deeds of sale, etc.), found out that much of what was in Brenda's timeline was wrong, and corrected it. I rewrote the 80's section from scratch, supplemented everything with an article from the August 4, 1989 Austin Chronicle, and added everything since 1999 as it happened, or as it was reported to me by former members. —Michael Bluejay

Timeline (mostly ICC)


The first student co-op in Austin forms, the all-male Campus Guild, on the University of Texas campus. Other co-ops form on campus soon after.


ICC forms as a social organization linking the various co-ops, but doesn't own or operate any houses of its own.


• Shangrila Co-op is located at the current site of the UT Alumni Center. (Lesa R. Walker)

• William Henry Raschke founded a co-op food store around 1940 or 1941 that served all the UC co-ops, fraternities, and sororities, until 1983. (Lesa R. Walker)


The Campus Guild moves off campus to 2804 Whitis, constructing their new building largely with their own hands.


Whitehall Co-op is founded, at 2500 Nueces. The wood frame house was built in 1896 by Captain John Harlan, who ran a steamboat on the Colorado River and helped Sam Houston's troops flee in the runaway scrape from Santa Anna's army. To this day Whitehall remains Texas' oldest co-op. (by Trish Callahan, excerpted from the Wheatsville Breeze, March/April 2004, p. 9; see 1973-74 for more)


Off-campus co-ops continually form in rented houses and then die off. The landlord might raise the rent too much or sell the property, or there would be too much turnover at a house and nobody would keep operating it as a co-op.

Whitehall was operated as an off-campus UT Women's Co-op in the 50s & 60s, with strict curfews and policies about male visitors.

1956 ICC reportedly voted unanimously to accept African-American students, but the attribution is under the headline, "UT dorms integrated", so it's a little suspect. (UT website) 


Royal Cooperative forms, but at a different location than where it is now.


• Royal resettles at 1805 Pearl.

• The original Theleme (2402 Seton) burns down.


ICC incorporates (on Jan. 22) with the specific plan of buying property so that co-ops wouldn't keep dying off.


ICC buys its first house, Holloway House, at 2510 Rio Grande, for $60,000, in August &emdash; $5k down payment, and two mortgages ($35k from the UT Ex-Students Association, and $25k from the seller. Today, seller-financing is rare.). Interest rate was 9%. The house was named after Sterling Holloway, an attorney who had helped ICC get started as a house-owning co-op organization. In Nov. 2004 Howard Lenett wrote to me:

"When Ernie Eden was here for the dedication he had an interesting story on how Holloway was also on the board of the UT Ex-Students Association and how he wrangled the first loan for the purchase of the house from the ex-students assoc. because the banks wanted to change a ridiculous interest rate and payment schedule. It was only because of Holloway's wheeling, dealing, and contacts that ICC could buy the house. That was a big reason to name the first house after him. Also, Ernie told stories on how the down payment and closing costs that were put into the orginal ICC houses were often borrowed from the houses themselves as loans since ICC wasn't able to go to other places to go for money. Since some of the houses had already existed and had savings that ICC borrowed from them to purchase the houses."

In 1977 Holloway House was renamed Prana House by its members. (See pics of Holloway.)

ICC gets its non-profit 501(c)(3) tax status.


New Guild. The Campus Guild is condemned, and the Guilders make a deal with ICC: They deed the lot and the condemned building to ICC for $10k on Aug. 31, 1972, in exchange for ICC creating a co-op to replace the Campus Guild. (The sale is signed by Dick Kingsley who was secretary of the Campus Guild, and Ernie Eden.)

ICC then mortgages the property for $40k (note from Austin National Bank, cosigned by Sterling Holloway) and uses it as a down payment on The White House, formerly a private women’s dorm, in August 1972, buying it for $120,000. The is financed by two notes. The new co-op is called the New Guild.

Initial rent is $90/mo. for singles (though another source says it was $865 for doubles for the LT semester, which would be about $93/mo.; it said singles were about $25/mo. higher). There is prepared lunch as well as dinner six times a week. But there were also many more members, since more rooms were doubles.) A year later, on July 4, 1973, the Campus Guild burned down.


ICC leases the It Doesn't Matter Co-op at 807 W. 25th St.

In 1974, ICC also purchases Lothlorien, an experiment with a small (7-person) co-op outside the University neighborhood for people who planned to stay around for many years. Many of the first people to live there are staff members, board members, or otherwise very active in ICC. Unfortunately, the original members leave one by one over the years and it is difficult to find replacements. In the summer of 1977 there are only three or four members living there, and ICC sells it in 1977 &emdash; the first ICC co-op to close its doors.

Unrelated to ICC, College Houses gets a DOE loan to build 21st Street Co-op and to acquire the buildings that would become the Ark (now Pearl Street Co-op) and Opsis. (Austin Chronicle, Aug. 4, 1989)

Also unrelated to ICC, in the early 70's members at the women-only Whitehall got a loan from the National Co-op Bank, bought their house, invited their boyfriends to move in (making it one of the first co-ed co-ops), and made it into the independent co-op it is today. (See 1949 for the source for this info.)


Most of ICC's houses are acquired. Of the eight houses we had in 2002, ICC buys six them during this time! (The other two: Avalon was leased in 1994, and HoC was purchased in 1981, though it was bought as a replacement for Holloway/Prana House.) Holloway & New Guild were discussed above; we then absorb French House (then Ramshorn, becoming French House in 1977), Helios (then Theleme), Royal, Seneca, and Arrakis into the collective.

Note: After starting out strong, ICC didn't purchase any new long-term houses in over 25 years! (although we did buy some junky apartments that we later sold, more on that later)


House of Commons. In 1977 Holloway is renamed Prana House (Austin Chronicle, Aug. 4, 1989) and is the crazy vegetarian hippie co-op, the HoC of its day. But Prana is old and small (16 members), so in 1981 ICC sells it to a sorority (via Thomas Bullard) and buys 2610 Rio Grande, establishing House of Commons as an even larger vegetarian hippie co-op. (We sell Prana for $180k, three times what we paid for it ten years earlier. Shortly thereafter, it burns down and is now a parking lot for the sorority.)

Though the building isn't up to code, ICC lets new members live there for free in the summer in exchange for their fixing it up to get it ready to open in the fall. The previous year it had been vacant, and before that it was the Crow's Nest, a ROTC house. (The walls are plastered with bullet holes when HoC'ers moved in.) The house is called New Prana briefly until one of the founding members of HoC, John Handy, came up with the House of Commons name, though the reason behind that choice is lost to history. Original members Cedar Stevens and Stuart Gourd started Austin Earth First! at HoC. Cedar, then known as Christi, and a freshman at the time, met Stuart when she walked in and saw him playing the piano naked. (The piano was disassembled and thrown away 20 years later, in 2003.) Cedar now runs Natural Magic, a pagan/wicca shop off North Loop, and Stuart is an administrative law judge. Forrest Jackson, who lived at HoC circa 1982-83, died from heart problems in early 2001.


Bad Expansion. ICC is in great shape financially, with several houses almost paid off, but there is about 25 years of deferred maintenance on the houses. Then ICC (i.e., THE BOARD) buys three small apartment buildings for $1.2 million. They finance it with regular mortgage and borrow against New Guild, Seneca, & Royal, adding $400k of debt to those houses. The 90-95% occupancy isn't enough to break even and we lose $10-20k/year until 1985.

The apartments are:

  • 2800 Rio Grande
  • Nueces Square Apts. (NW corner of 22nd & Nueces)
  • Holloway Apartments (around 25th & Seton)

One of the myths about the 80's disaster is that ICC simply expanded at the wrong time. The numbers prove this is untrue:

(1) The housing market didn't start to go down until 1986, but we started losing money on the apartments as soon as we bought them in 1983.

(2) We initially had 90-95% occupancy, which is not bad, but that wasn't enough to keep us from losing money. In other words, it was nearly impossible to make money on the buildings at the price we paid for them. We simply paid too much for them; we didn't get our money's worth. Our business plan scraped.

(3) The apartments were in poor condition. Some of them still are.

(4) We financed nearly the whole damn thing, with barely any cash down payment. That meant we started with $0 equity, with no cash value invested in the apartments in case we had to sell them (which we did).

(5) We financed by borrowing against existing houses, although those houses already had mortgages on them. That's risky enough, but the amount that we borrowed against three houses -- $400k in 1983 dollars -- borders on insanity.

Sum. 1985

We sell one apt. building for what we paid for it, but don't retire any of the extra debt added to the existing houses. (This is according to Brenda; the debt from the other houses financed the down payment.)

Fall 1985

Brenda Smith comes to work for ICC (and serves as GM for 14 years, until Fall 1999, and then through 2000 as a contract accountant).


The Austin real estate market collapses, meaning that overbuilding had caused the housing supply to exceed demand. This means even more vacancies, and nobody would buy our other two apt. buildings. City-wide occupancy is 70%. Vacancies and depressed rent city-wide would continue for a few years.


We finally sell our second apartment building for the exact amount of its debt (the remaining balance on the loan). That means we lose the down payment, which was paid by adding debt to our other houses.  We keep trying to sell the third complex, Holloway Apts. (not to be confused with Holloway House), at increasingly lower sale prices, but there are no takers.

Facing poor occupancy, ICC leases Seneca to a fraternity. It becomes a co-op again in 1989. (Austin Chronicle, Aug. 4, 1989)


Low occupancy means that we're not bringing in enough money to pay the mortgages. We run out of cash, make a bankruptcy plan, and stopp paying the mortgage for three months. The bank might have foreclosed right away, except they were busy foreclosing on everyone else who was in a similar situation.

NASCO forms NASCO Properties in July specifically to buy House of Commons from us in order to bail us out. The cash we get from the sale allows us to catch up on our mortgage payments. NASCO Properties leases House of Commons back to us with a 99-year lease (at the ridiculously low rental rate of $1800/mo.), so we're still able to operate HoC as HoC. But we still can't sell Holloway Apts., and continue to lose several thousand dollars a month.


SPRING: About to run out of cash again, stop paying the mortgage again. The bank starts the foreclosure process. Brenda says she went to the bank and literally bawled openly before the loan officer, who decided to delay the foreclosure.

We finally sell Holloway Apts. in October, for $100k less than its debt and $185k less than we paid for it. We are happy to lose money on it because we'd lose even more by keeping it and having mortgage payments we couldn't afford! We refinance all remaining houses at 7% interest-only payments for 2 years. This kind of loan means that we can't pay off our debt our build equity, but it's the only kind of loan we can get.

French House briefly changes its name to Emerald City. (Austin Chronicle, Aug. 4, 1989)


We start catching up on deferred maintenance, at a rate of about 2-3 years per year.


Room rates go up by $85/mo. (in '92 dollars) to pay for electrical rewiring of the houses and other improvements. $500,000 is spent in the early 90's to bring all of the houses to basic levels of safety and sanitation. (Howard Lenett, 2003)

We refinance our mortgage for 5 years, still interest-only.


We lease Avalon from a local owner.

Oct. 1995

We refinance all houses with a normal 15-year mortgage, $670k debt, 10.388% interest. Our first permanent financing in years, whew! The houses are set to be paid off in 2010, but we'll wind up refinancing in Summer 2001.


We borrow $300k from the National Co-op Bank (NCB) to renovate Seneca in the summer ($150k) and House of Commons the following summer ($150k). The loan is 10.5% interest, interest-only payments from Summer 97 through 9-30-99 ($15k/yr), then $67,608/yr. from 10-99 to 8-05. (We'll wind up combining this loan with our mortgage loan in 2001.)

Seneca catches fire mysteriously in early fall right after the Senecans move in. The cause is unknown, but many suspect that the remodelers improperly wired the attic. Seneca is salvageable but much staff time is taken up by dealing with the insurance company.


A staff member almost persuades the board to close the HoC pool, purportedly because it's too big an expense. HoC members fight back with facts and numbers, there's a member referendum about the issue, and the pool is saved.

HoC is remodeled over the summer. Besides $150k loan, we spent another ~$80k from income. The house re-opens almost a month late because of problems with the architect and the city, coupled with poor management by staff. This left HoC'ers with fall contracts in a bind, who had to find temporary housing elsewhere, often in commons areas of other houses or in other co-opers' rooms. To add insult to injury, a lot of the work wasn't done properly or wasn't done at all. Lost $20k in lost rent from opening late.


ICC hires lobbyists to get the TX Legislature to exempt student housing co-ops from property taxes. This saves us $45k/year in 1999 dollars, or about 5% of the budget.

HoC member Michael Bluejay delivers financial training to the board, the first time in untold years that training is provided by a member instead of staff. He discovers & corrects several errors that were part of previous trainings and therefore ICC folklore. Correct info includes:

• ICC's first house was Holloway, not New Guild.

• The Campus Guild burned down in 1973, not 1971.

• ICC didn't use the insurance money from the Campus Guild fire to buy New Guild, and could not have, since we bought New Guild before the Campus Guild burned.

• Prana was not purchased as Prana in 1972-74, it was purchased as Holloway in 1970 and later renamed Prana.

• Arrakis was purchased in 1975, not 1980.

These facts can be verified by examining the source documents (e.g., official settlement statements) in the ICC office.

After 14 years as ICC’s GM, Brenda becomes an outsourced contract accountant for ICC, and the board hires a new GM, Shelley Earley.

Around this time (I don't know the exact year) UT forced the women's co-ops to move off-campus. This was actually a multi-year process, with X number of co-ops closing each year. The women's co-ops bought a building off-campus but by 2003 it had failed and they merged with College Houses.


There are conflicts between staff and Brenda which the board is unable to resolve. ICC faces the possibility of 100% staff turnover: The board considered plans to let Brenda go, some other staff decided to leave, and the rest of the staff threatened to leave, although staff conflicts were not a factor in at least some of the departures. When the smoke clears, the board agrees to pay $28,000 to buy Brenda out of her contract (i.e., paying her to leave!), Shelley agrees to stay as GM, and by summer we hire: former Royal member Tyra Robertson as our Membership Director, Ann Raber as our Administrative Assistant, Suellen Mittleman as our Accountant, and HoC member Billy Thogersen as our Maintenance Manager.

Brenda's buyout is controversial: some members considered her to be greedy for insisting that she receive the buyout if she left, and in fact we did wind up paying her a chunk of change just to leave and do nothing, but on the other hand, keeping her might have meant losing even more staff, while limiting the whole organization's effectiveness as conflicts continued. It wasn't a black & white issue and there was no clear, correct answer. The main lesson we learned was, do not use contracts for your staff. Having a contract makes it difficult to release staff before the contract period ends.

The 99/00 CO (Cody Koeninger, from HoC) discovers that ICC hasn't put new-member fees into a Development Fund for many years, in violation of the bylaws (Art. XI, Sec. 4). The board resurrects the Development Fund as per the bylaws.

Continuing a fine co-op tradition, Arrakis suffered a fatal fire in December. A member left a faulty toaster on then left the building during the winter break. Amazingly, the board does not have to raise rent more than normal for the next year to compensate.

Spring 2000

The board creates a 5-year plan for savings and expansion. We have to deal with the loss of Arrakis and the potential loss of Avalon since the landlord might decide to stop renting to us some day.

ICC incorporates air conditioning costs into rent rates. Now members get a discount off their rent if they don't use AC, rather than paying an AC charge if they do.

Under the 00/01 CO's leadership (Jaime Bruner, from HoC), the board updates the Bylaws for the first time in ten years. Most changes were minor and served simply to clean things up.


In 2000-01, we hire new staff with strong ties to ICC. Billy Thogersen of HoC becomes Facilities Manager, Tyra Robertson (formerly of Royal) becomes Membership Director, and Howard Lenett becomes General Manager, with his office at New Guild being the room he'd lived in as a freshman in 1973!

Spring 2001

NASCO Properties raises the rent we pay to them for House of Commons for the first time since we sold them the property in 1988. The rent goes up $54 to $1854/mo.

The board and members change the bylaws and effect the first major change in board & committee structure in years. The CO job is split into two positions, the Membership & Education Officer positions become two Membercationater positions, the Membercationaters and the Maintenance Officer are no longer board members (so they can actually spend some time organizing instead of being stuck in meetings all the time), and houses can choose to have an ICC officer from their house also act as board rep.

Fall 2001

Major Refinancing. We refinance our mortgage + our NCB renovation loan:
(1) To free up cash in the short term to ease the loss of Arrakis,
(2) To free up cash in the short term so we can pursue more expansion,
(3) To take advantage of very low interest rates,
(4) To release some of our houses from collateral requirements.

We combine the ~$224k left on our NCB renovation loan with the ~$523k left on our mortgage and refinance the ~$737 together at 7.75% for 15 years. This reduces our yearly debt payments from ~$160k to ~$85k, saving us ~$75k/year. Only Royal and French are still collateralized, meaning that we own Arrakis, Helios, New Guild, and Seneca free and clear.

The downside is that there's a 5-year balloon on the note, meaning we can't pay this loan off over 15 years. In 5 years we'll have to either pay off the entire loan balance (which we won't be able to afford) or refinance again.

Spring 2002

For the first time in many years (perhaps ever), the board freezes rent rates for the next budget year (02-03), in hopes of improving occupancy after a disastrous Spring (with occupancy in the 80% range).

Increased Staff Expenses. The board increases expenses by changing the 30-hr/wk receptionist position to a 40-hr/wk Office Manager position.

Unified Savings Policy. Existing policies for the Capital Reserves and Development Fund are combined, along with a proposed policy for a Capital Reserves Fund, into a unified Savings Policy.

House Accounts. House accounts changed from "Discretionary & Bonus" to the easier-to-understand "Checking & Savings".

Arrakis Reconstruction. The board finally commits to rebuilding Arrakis after its fire in Dec. 2000. Reconstruction loan is $617k, 20 years, 5-year balloon. We expect to open for new members by Summer or Fall 2003. Construction and permitting delays mean that it doesn't actually open until Jan. 2004.

New Guild Mini-Renovation. With occupancy at the New Guild at only around 20% for the Fall, the board decides to close the Guild for the summer for a mini-renovation to make emergency improvements to make it more attractive to potential members. This angers many Guilders who are displaced for the summer, some of whom graffiti the office door and deface the ICC sign.

HoC Rent. NASCO Properties raises the rent we pay to them for House of Commons for the first time since we sold them the property in 1988. The rent goes up $75 to $1875/mo.

Compensation for Coordinators. After years of non-interest among the membership in running for ICC-wide officer positions (now called coordinators), the board decides to compensate officers by letting them live in ICC free in the following summer, one free month for every semester they serve as an officer.


Summer 2002 Staff Reorganization: Old way: Tyra Robertson as Membership Coordinator, Danita Lee as Office Manager. New way: Shebah Washington as Member Services Admin., Danita as Housing Admin. Saves $10k/year.

Under 2002-03 leadership occupancy is good, members become much more active, and ICC improves financially.

The board buys the first new house (1910 Rio Grande) since the purchase of Arrakis in 1975. We refinance our existing $700k loan with $500k for 1910, making our debt $1.2M. Add the $600k from the Arrakis rebuild loan and our total debt is close to $2M. Yikes. We can afford it w/good occupancy, but that's a big, scary amount of debt. Good news: Interest rates are phenomenally low. (We get 6.5%.) Bad news: Because interest rates are so low, bank insists on a 5-year balloon. (They'll expect us to pay off the entire balance in 5 years, which we can't do, so we'll have to refinance again.)

Officers are now called Coordinators, staffmembers are now called Administrators.

Members back a board plan to make all room rates the same (no more small, medium, & large).

The board eliminates all occupancy bonuses, leaving no way for houses to grow their Savings accounts, besides saving a portion of their food money, although ICC hasn't raised the food allotment in years.


When UT forced the Women's Co-ops off of campus the women's co-ops bought a building (Halstead, next to Arrakis on Pearl Street) and went forth with a new name, Student Heritage Houses Inc. But limited financial resources and poor occupancy hurt them, and in 2003 SHHI sold Halstead to College Houses. Though the building remains a women-only co-op, the transfer ends decades of the women's co-ops existing as an independent entity.


Arrakis re-opens on Jan. 30, after having been rebuilt following the Dec. 2000 fire. (more on the cost of rebuilding Arrakis...)

Sandia Co-op dies as the rented building it's in at 602 Elmwood is sold by the owner. This is the exact kind of thing that ICC prevents by owning its own property. (May)

Academic-year contracts. To address problems of poor Spring occupancy and high turnover, the board requires nine-month contracts (i.e., no more "Fall-only" contracts). Several members petition to overturn the decision, but the members vote overwhelmingly to keep the nine-month contracts—possibly in part because the board says that room rates will go up substantially if the proposal doesn't pass. (more...)

New Guild goes non-smoking. After many years as being the only house to allow smoking in commons areas (much to the dismay of the board which felt that that made it harder to get new members to move into the Guild), Guild members decided by themselves to go non-smoking. Smoking is still allowed in the TV room but only with the door closed.

Yet another refinance! Old way:
  • Big Loan: $1.17M, 20-year amortization, 6.5% for five years, annual payments of ~$106k, and a balloon in five years.
  • Arrakis Rebuild Loan: $616k principal, 20-year amortization, variable interest rate starting at 7% (1.5% over prime at closing, fixed for 3 years, with a cap of 8%, and then fixed for another 3 years, but the balloon will be due first at 5 years), initial annual payments of ~$58,146, 5-year balloon

New way: $1.8M principal, 15 years, 6.35%, no balloon. Yeah!

ICC buys HoC back from NASCO Properties. When ICC was facing foreclosure in the late 80's, NASCO created NASCO Properties to buy HoC from us so we'd have some immediate cash to try to prevent bankruptcy. They immediately leased the house back to us so we'd still have the use of the house as a co-op. So fast-forward to July 2004: ICC buys HoC back from NASCO Properties because this time it's NP that needs the cash. It's actually part of a complicated deal:
  • ICC gets a $243k loan (15-year) and a $275k loan (3-year balloon) from the bank.
  • We use the $243k to buy back HoC from NP, and we loan NP the other $275k.
  • NP uses that $275k to buy Sasona, an independent co-op in Austin, to save it from being foreclosed on. ICC's loan to NP is secured by a lien on Sasona.
  • When NP owned HoC, NP had loans from ICC-Ann Arbor and from Madison Community Co-ops secured by HoC. After this new deal went through NP paid off Madison, and got ICC-AA to secure their loan through a second lien on Sasona instead of on HoC.

As the ICC chief of staff summed up this deal, "Everyone gets more equity and co-ops help co-ops."

The board renames 1910 to the "Ernest M. Eden Cooperative", with a nickname of either "Eden House" or "Ernie". Mr. Eden was a founder of ICC in 1970 and served as its sole staffer for some years after that. (November)

Around the 60s/70s the buildinrg was known as Stag, then Halycon circa the 80's, then Prentiss circa the 90's. ICC bought it in 2003 and its new members decided to call it "1910", after its address (1910 Rio Grande).


Per policy, the board must re-evaluate the Cash Reserves policy this year and every 5 years thereafter.

1930s The birth of Austin co-ops

In the 1930's students suffered the impact of the Great Depression just like everybody else. It was under these conditions that a group of University of Texas students formed the first student cooperative house on campus in 1936 &emdash; the all-male Campus Guild. They cut costs by buying as a unit and doing all the housework themselves. Room and board was $15 a month. They ran their house democratically and every member had a voice in all affairs of the house.

This experiment in practical democracy was a success and the idea grew. With the help of Dean Arno Nowotny and Dorothy Gebauer of the University of Texas, a number of other co-ops were started in the next few years. In 1939 the Inter-Cooperative Council was created as an informal association of the co-op houses at the university and functioned to unify and provide communication among the various co-ops. (It didn't own or operate its own houses; that wouldn't happen until 1971.) By 1940 there were over 500 students living in 16 co-op houses at a cost of $19 per month, compared to the average of $40 per month most other students were paying for other housing.

1940s and 60s: Moving off-campus

In 1941 the Campus Guild moved off campus. The members obtained financing and built a house at 2804 Whitis (primarily with their own hands). The Campus Guild was a fairly rad and influential place: it was home to UT student body presidents and Daily Texan editors. In 1946 it invited Heman Sweatt, the first black student to be accepted to the U.T. Law School, to join, years before UT housing was integrated. [I don't know whether he actually lived there, or was just invited.] Guilders also held many wild parties, including the Socialist-style May Day Red Ball, which remained a New Guild tradition until the late 1980's.

During World War II, many of the on-campus men's houses closed down or were converted to women's houses. Many co-ops moved off campus and leased large houses from private landlords. University expansion and market pressures forced co-ops to move from rented house to rented house.

Theleme was organized in 1946, as was Ramshorn (now French House), an engineering student co-op founded by the Travis County chapter of the Texas Society of Professional Engineers.  It burned down in 1967, and at some point restarted on Nueces, eventually becoming Helios.  Royal, named after former UT football coach Darrell Royal, opened in 1958 and re-settled at its present location at 1805 Pearl St. in 1967.

Campus Guild owned its house, and Whitehall was able to buy its property from the owner, who had leased it to the women for a number of years. They bought it at terms equal to the rent that had been paid. The University built six women's co-ops on campus in 1952 and six more in 1969, giving them a permanent home (until forcing them off campus in 1999, at which point they became Student Heritage Houses, which went defunct in 2003 and gave their only off-campus house, Halstead, to College Houses). But the other seven off-campus co-ops remained in leased buildings. Co-ops kept starting and dying all the time: an owner would sell the house and a developer would build apartments, or there would be a lot of turnover at a house and not enough people left to continue the house as a co-op.

1970:  ICC plans to secure houses

In the late 60's a new spurt of co-op activities across the country resulted in student co-op housing conferences in Michigan and Washington, D.C. Austin co-opers who attended these conferences came back with fresh ideas and enthusiasm. With this impetus the ICC was incorporated in 1970 with a view to having a central organization to buy houses and hold and maintain them for use as co-ops, so they could survive for the long-term.


1970s:  ICC buys most of its property

In August 1971 ICC bought its first property, 2510 Rio Grande, and named it Holloway House in honor of Sterling Holloway, an attorney who had been very helpful to ICC. (See pics of Holloway.) The Ex-Students Association made a first-lien loan, the sellers made a second-lien loan, and money was loaned by some of the co-ops which were members of ICC.

The times were changing and all-male houses had trouble filling up. As an all-male house, Stag Co-op (later Halcyon, then Prentis, then 1910, and now Eden) had ten vacancies out of 29 spaces in Fall 1971. (In those days, all rooms were shared. That same co-op houses only 14 people today.) So Holloway House was made co-ed, and was in fact one of the first co-ed co-ops. Soon most of the other houses were also co-ed. Formerly most of the off-campus houses were all-male, with the exception of College House, founded in the 1960's.

In 1971, ICC was granted non-profit status, and was exempted from federal income tax. In 1972, ICC was exempted from paying State franchise tax and sales tax.

ICC grew rapidly, acquiring five more houses by 1975 -- the majority of its current holdings. In 1972 the first off-campus co-op, the Campus Guild, was condemned, and its trustees gave ICC the building and the land on the condition that ICC buy a new building to replace it. ICC bought the White House at 23rd & Nueces, a rather strict girls' dorm, and cleverly renamed it the New Guild. The original Campus Guild then burned down (some suspected arson from disgruntled former Campus Guilders) on July 4, 1973, and ICC sold the lot. The old Campus Guild address of 2804 Whitis no longer exists; there are apartment complexes at 2802 and 2806.

ICC bought Theleme (now Helios) in 1972 and restarted as a vegetarian co-op. All the previous members had moved out. In 1973, ICC bought the Varsity House and renamed it Seneca Falls, in honor of a New York state town where an early feminist conference had been held. Seneca was at first a co-ed feminist co-op. At some point the men were kicked out and it became all-female for many years.

A pattern had emerged: when the lease was about to expire on an already-existing co-op, ICC would approach the owner about buying it. In 1974 ICC acquired Royal and Ramshorn the same way. (Ramshorn became La Maison Francaise, and now French House, but the requirement that all members had to know how to speak French has long since vanished.

In 1974, ICC also purchased Lothlorien, an experiment with a small (7-person) co-op outside the University neighborhood for people who planned to stay around for many years. Many of the first people to live there were staff members, board members, or otherwise very active in ICC, including co-op legend Jim Jones. Unfortunately, the original members left one by one over the years and it was difficult to find replacements. In the summer of 1977 there were only three or four members living there, and ICC sold it in 1977 &emdash; the first ICC co-op to close its doors.

ICC's final purchase in the 70's was Arrakis in 1975. In fact, this was the last house ICC bought for nearly 30 years, until it acquired 1910 in 2003.

While ICC is busy, in 1973 College Houses gets a DOE loan to build 21st Co-op and to acquire the buildings that would become the Ark (now Pearl Street Co-op) and Opsis.

1981:  Prana to House of Commons

As you'll remember from earlier, ICC bought its first property in 1971 at 2510 Rio Grande and named it Holloway House. By 1977 it was renamed Prana House and was the stereotypical hippie co-op of its day. (Way more so than HoC. I found photos of everyone with afros and flower print shirts, and an old house manual says they had a meditation hour before dinner.) The co-founders of Whole Foods Market, John Mackey and Renee Lawson, were early members.

Prana was an old building and kind of small (16 members), so in 1981, almost ten years to the day that ICC bought Holloway/Prana, it sold the property to the sorority next door and bought 2610 Rio Grande and started it as House of Commons. Founding members included Stuart Gourd and Cedar Stevens.

1980s:  Flirting with bankruptcy

In 1983, ICC was in great shape financially &emdash; before the end of the decade it would have paid off the notes on all its properties. So the board started thinking about expansion. They got advice from a consultant who told them that students didn't want to live in houses any more, they wanted to live in apartments. So in 1983, the board dutifully bought three apartment complexes, in bad condition, for $1.2 million, with 100% financing.

But ICC paid far too much for the properties, and couldn't pay its bills even with 95% occupancy. A few years later the real estate market collapsed, and with a glut of housing, ICC couldn't maintain good occupancy, and then it really couldn't pay its bills. ICC tried to sell the apartments, but there were no takers &emdash; even after ICC lowered the price below what it paid for them. Slowly, ICC was able to unload the three buildings (in 1985, 1987, and 1989), at a significant loss.

By 1988, the bank was threatening foreclosure on ICC's houses and ICC was making plans to file for bankruptcy. NASCO (North American Students of Cooperation) created a subsidiary, NASCO Properties (NP) specifically to buy House of Commons to save ICC from going under. The sale of HoC gave ICC cash to pay off its immediate debt and stave off foreclosure. NP immediately leased HoC back to ICC so we could continue operating it, and charged us only $1800/mo. in rent (a figure which remained the same until about 2003, at which point it went up to $1875).

(NP has since made a business out of owning properties for co-ops where local groups couldn't afford their own buildings. This helps ensure the permanency of co-ops which would otherwise be subject to the whim of a non-sympathetic landlord, or to the transitory nature of students who usually aren't around for the long-term to keep a rented co-op going.)

The experiment with the apartment complexes set ICC back 25 years, financially.

Here's a 1986 Texas Monthly article about the co-ops.

Seneca in the 1980s

In mid-80's, Seneca was closed as a co-op due to low occupancy and a new apathy on the part of members. It was leased to a fraternity from 1986 through 1989. In 1989 it was repopulated as a co-ed house for graduate and upper-division students.

1997-03:  Times of Change

Sowing the seeds for more growth

[I'm switching to first person because it seems silly to write it in third, since I was there at the time.]  In 1998 when I was a member of House of Commons the house asked me to represent them on the board of directors, and were especially interested in anything I could do to make room rates lower. When I looked at the budget the thing that jumped off the page at me was that staff costs were a whopping 20% of expenses. Besides that there really wasn't any fat in the budget. I told the house that there were exactly two ways to lower rates: Have the co-op members do more of the work of the organization so we didn't need so much staff, or buy more houses to spread the staff costs out over a greater number of members. I also noted that after starting out strong, ICC hadn't bought any new houses in over 20 years, and we were doing a poor job of introducing cooperative living to as many people as possible. Members were uninterested in picking up any of the staff's work, so I started beating the drum for expansion. But the general manager, Brenda Smith, fought me tooth and nail over this, telling the board that buying more property would be an economic catastrophe. She was still spooked from ICC's flirtation with bankruptcy when it had bought the overpriced apartments in the 80's. Board members either believed the doom-and-gloom scenario, or they were simply apathetic and had no vision for ICC's future, so the idea of expansion went nowhere for the moment.


Property Tax Exemption

At Brenda's urging, in 1999 ICC lobbied the State legislature (with hired professional lobbyists) and got them to pass a bill exempting student co-ops from paying property taxes. This saves us $50,000/year in 1999 dollars, or about 5% of our budget.


Staff Controversy

In 1999, after nearly 15 years as ICC's General Manager, Brenda Smith stepped down to become an outsourced contract accountant to ICC, and the board hired a new GM, Shelley Earley. But the relationship between Brenda and Shelley was strained, and the board made the controversial decision to pay Brenda $28,000 to buy her out of her contract. (She got paid to leave and do no additional work.) In addition, for various reasons, other staff members decided to leave, and at one point it looked like we would have 100% staff turnover within the space of a few months. But Shelley decided to stay after all, and we were able to hire other quality staffers to replace the departing ones, so a big staffing crisis was averted.


Following the Rules

In 1999 the Board Coordinator (Cody Koeninger, from HoC) discovered that for years ICC hadn't been putting member fees into an Expansion Fund, as required by its bylaws. The board resurrected the Expansion Fund, paving the way for expansion.


Arrakis burns down

Over the winter break in Dec. 2000, two members put some bread in a faulty toaster at Arrakis and left the house. When the toast didn't pop up, it likely caught fire, catching the wooden cabinet above it on fire, and spread through the whole house. The board finally approved rebuilding the house in Spring 2002, and reopened the house on Jan. 30, 2004. (See more on the cost of rebuilding Arrakis.)


Staff: Keeping it in the Family

Over 2000-01 ICC hired new staff with a history in ICC. Billy Thogersen of HoC became Facilities Manager, Tyra Robertson (formerly of Royal) became Membership Director, and Howard Lenett became General Manager, with his office at New Guild being the room he'd lived in as a freshman in 1973!


First New Expansion in Decades

In 2003 ICC buys 1910 Rio Grande, marking the first time the organization has purchased a new house since 1975. (Avalon, which we got in 1994, is leased, not owned. And HoC, which we bought in 1981, was obtained to replace Prana House. We also bought some crappy apartment complexes in the 1980's, but they weren't houses, and weren't operated as co-ops.) ICC's debt swells to about $2 million (~$750k existing loans, ~$500k for 1910, ~$620 for Arrakis reconstruction).

ICC: Providing longevity

Over the years, ICC has had a significant impact in maintaining the existence of co-ops in Austin. Several ICC co-ops were restarted after most of the people living there had left. Had these co-ops been on their own they might well have folded, but ICC's ability to pick up the pieces and hold ownership of the houses permanently ensured that the co-ops were preserved.

As we look to the future, the current board of directors is considering further expansion. We hope that by expanding we can create a larger cooperative economy and offer even more people the opportunity to experience cooperative community. To do this, ICC must overcome the usual student housing co-op problems of high turnover, disorganization, the cyclical success and failure of individual houses, and wasting time, energy, and money by "reinventing the wheel". Therefore, the survival of the houses depends on ICC, and ICC depends on its members. Is that cooperation or what?

Alumni Notes

1969-71 • Joe Kilgore. According to (Ramshorn 1969-71, president of the Men's Co-op Council), Joe Kilgore was a member of the Campus Guild. Kilgore became a war hero (WW II), president of the Ex-Students' Association, a Regent at the University of Texas, a member of the Texas House of Representatives, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and advisor to LBJ. More: (1) Biography; (2) Article in Alcalde.

1966-67 • Hal Harwell.  Hal was inside Theleme when the fire started that burned the house to the ground, killing one of the co-opers.  See his story on the Co-op Fires page.  Some of his housemates were Walt Simon, David Stone, Art Murphy, and Tommy Nunn (but he has no contact info).

1964-65 • Leftheri Tasslos wrote to me on 3/25/15: "Here's a picture of Theleme from October 1965.  I'm hoping to get any info on residents during my tenure.  (LeftheriTassios[at]gmail.com)  BTW, Charles Whitman was a classmate of mine, in Advanced Calculus.  For me, he was the All-American Boy, polite and helpful.  I saw him and talked to him, the night 'before'.  He was eating alone because his wife was working."

Theleme Co-op, Oct. 1965

1955-58 • T. J. Woodruff of Houston sent me this on Feb. 12, 2005, after reading my history of co-op fires:

"I lived at Theleme Co-op for three years (1955-1958).  We never had any fire issues while I lived there, despite the presence of numerous gas space heaters in a very old wooden building.  In fact, I don't remember any campus related fires while I was at UT.  Don't know if we were just lucky or there were just fewer people or what.  We had a lot of Korean war veterans living at Theleme in the 50's and they tended to be several years older than the rest of us, so maybe they were a stabilizing influence."

1940-83 food + business services co-ops

Lesa R. Walker, daughter of William Henry Raschke, sent this in September 2004:

William Henry Raschke was a student at UT starting in the Fall of 1939. He graduated with a BBA in 1943 and an MBA in 1945. He lived in co-op houses throughout his time as a student. He moved into the Shangri-La co-op in 1939 and became the President or High Lama in 1940. At that time the original site of the Shangri-La co-op was where the UT Alumni Center is today. When he was President of Shangri-La co-op, my Dad had the idea for the food co-op. With the help of the U.T. assistant Dean, he founded the food co-op around 1940 or 1941 which served all the U.T. co-ops, fraternities, and sororities.  He kept it operating until 1983 when Raschke retired from his many years of co-op service.

Raschke also operated the Student Business Service from 1945-83, providing business (accounting) services for all the UT co-ops, fraternities, and sororities. Throughout the years he helped innumerable UT students start and sustain co-ops.

When Theleme Co-op burned down Raschke helped find the one casualty, a male student.  He helped the homeless students find a house to stay in and found food, clothes, books, school supplies, etc. to help them out until they could get back on their feet.

As a result of his service from 1939 to 1983 he was inducted into the National Co-op Hall of Fame.  [Editor's note:  He doesn't appear to be listed in the Hall of Fame, though it seems he definitely earned that distinction.  He passed in 2006 at age 91.]

1951 Campus Guild newsletter and member

In Feb. 2023, Randall McGehee sent me a copy of a Campus Guild newsletter from 1951.  Randall's father Richard moved into the Guild as a freshman that year, and lived there for all four years of college.  He graduated Abilene H.S. that year; his yearbook photo is at the end of the newsletter page linked above.

Chairpersons of the Board





Will Stovall

French House


Chris Huet



Silas Kulkarni

French House


Dennis Wylie



Jaime Bruner

House of Commons


Cody Koeninger

House of Commons


Jonathan Sir Hendry

French House



French House

* Rows in this color indicate one of the few female chairpersons of the ICC board of directors

The head of the board of directors has gone by many different titles of the years -- president, Coordinating Officer, and, most recently, Board Coordinator.

Historical Room Rates | LT=Long Term

LT Single

LT Double



$129.50 (LT single?)


$143 Summer Single





















All houses have different rates with 6-7 room sizes! What a mess.
Sample: $345 in New Guild, from Texas Monthly


Board at a co-op for $80/mo.


$410 Medium
(five different room sizes)

$330 Medium

$285 Summer Med. Double
$330 Summer Med. Single

Early ICC Advisor Did Not Go Nuts

While trying to find information about an early advisor to ICC, local attorney Sterling Holloway, I found the following article in the newspaper archives about how a local attorney named Sterling Holloway went crazy and threatened to kill local judges. However, Ernie Eden, an ICC founder from the 1970's and founding member of NASCO, assures me by email in 2003 that the Sterling Holloway in the following article is a different Sterling Holloway than the one who helped ICC. Mr. Eden wrote, in part, "The Sterling Holloway I met in 1969 or so, and who helped us incorporate and then obtain tax-exempt status, and then helped us finance the purchase of our first house, was an old man when I met him. In searching the internet for his name, I found his wife's name, Jean Holloway, in an article which indicated that Sterling Holloway died in 1976." —Ed.

Lawyer is accused of threats: Austinite Holloway held on peace bond

PUBLICATION: The Austin American-Statesman

BYLINE: Jim Phillips

DATE: 02-25-1993


An Austin lawyer was in jail in lieu of $1 million bond Wednesday after charges that he threatened to kill several appellate judges.

Pat Sterling Holloway, 61, was arrested late Tuesday at the law offices of Roy Minton, who represents Holloway in a pending civil case.

Holloway was arrested on a peace bond complaint that alleges "he is about to commit an offense against the person of Craig T. Enoch, to wit: murder." Enoch is a justice of the Texas Supreme Court.

The Department of Public Safety first investigated Holloway last summer after he reportedly told a Dallas attorney that Enoch should be killed, according to court affidavits. Enoch at the time was a judge on the 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas.

Holloway is appealing a $72 million judgment assessed against him in 1981. The appeals have been denied by the Dallas appeals court and the Texas Supreme Court.

An affidavit by a DPS lieutenant said that Holloway had discussed how a person could "spray the (Dallas) courtroom with automatic machine-gun fire (and lob) a rocket through the court's window from the grassy knoll at Dealey Plaza."

The first investigation was closed after Holloway assured police, in a meeting at Minton's office, that he was not serious.

But Saturday, Holloway again threatened Enoch and other judges during a conversation with Minton about the Supreme Court ruling denying the appeal, according to an affidavit by Minton. In the affidavit, Minton quoted Holloway as saying that killing several judges "would teach the public that when the judiciary is corrupt and those members are killed, the public will be better off."

"It is my studied judgment that Mr. Holloway has arrived at the place where he must be taken very seriously," Minton said in the affidavit. [Back to timeline]

Michael Bluejay's info & resources about

Michael Bluejay's Home Page | Email me

Home Austin Co-ops ICC History Articles & Resources