Peter Pan Aims for Historic Landmark Status Amid Property Ownership Change
By Janelle Tanguma
Reporting Texas TV
AUSTIN, Texas – The owners of a 75-year-old miniature golf course hope a historic landmark status designation will save them from closure.
Margaret Dismukes Massad’s family has owned Peter Pan Mini-Golf since it opened in 1948. Her father, Glenn Dismukes, was one of the original founders along with his brothers and was the artist of several of Peter Pan’s most notable sculptures.
“He built the T-Rex and the Peter Pan and all the originals. I know he had no idea that this would still be standing 75 years later,” Dismukes Massad said.
She said it’s overwhelming to think about how long the business has been standing.
Dismukes Massad and her husband, Julio Massad, lease the property from the John C. Wende Trust. The Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TTJD) previously managed the trust, but it is now in the process of a transfer to a new trustee.
With the increase in property value across downtown Austin, the owners fear the new trustee will lease the land at a significantly higher rate.
“We don’t want this to be turned into another cookie-cutter condo,” Dismukes Massad said.
“We’ve had a good relationship with the Texas Juvenile Justice Department so we have no reason to believe they wouldn’t let us resign, we just haven’t heard anything.”
She said she believes Peter Pan has kept its popularity throughout the years because it has remained quirky and special and “hasn’t changed.”
“The old saying ‘keep Austin weird,’ we were part of that from the beginning,” Dismukes Massad said.
Ben Heimsath, the chairman of the City of Austin’s Historic Landmark Committee, said Peter Pan is worth preserving.
“If future generations want to know why we say ‘make Austin weird’ and we don’t have Peter Pan Golf to point to I think we missed something,” Heimsath said.
He said that although the Committee focuses primarily on preserving Victorian homes and historical buildings in East Austin, he believes Peter Pan’s legacy and uniqueness make it important enough for historic landmark status. He said he would be surprised if it didn’t receive the designation.
The Historic Landmark Committee needs to have a majority vote on the proposal in order for it to advance to the Planning Commission and then to the city council.
“I’m going to recommend that the city in this case, actually initiate the zoning,” Heimsath said. “It’s important enough that the city makes this a priority.”
The owners are not alone in their fight. Peter Pan fan Natalie Becker started a petition on Change.org in August when she first heard about the leasing situation.
“I’ve been coming here since I was a kid,” Becker said. “I had my first hole in one at Peter Pan when I was like five years old.”
The petition circulated across Becker’s network and on many social media posts and now has more than 25,000 signatures. Becker said that at one point, all her comments linking the petition resulted in a temporary ban from Facebook.
“I think people really care about this and you can see it by how many people have signed,” Becker said.
While the petition has been significant in spreading the word about Peter Pan, it’s up to the local government now to decide if Peter Pan will receive historic landmark status.
The Massads said they will continue to spread the word and speak with city officials until there are new developments.
“Hopefully we’ll be here for another 75 years,” Dismukes Massad said.
Supporters can sign the petition here.