A novel property

Stunning West Austin mansion that inspired literary legend books $4 million price

West Austin mansion that inspired literary legend books $4M price

James Michener house Mount Bonnell
Pulitzer Prize winner James Michener wrote Texas while living in this Mount Bonnell manse. Photo courtesy of Darin Walker/Kuper Sotheby's
James Michener house Mount Bonnell
The asking price is $4 million. Photo courtesy of Darin Walker/Kuper Sotheby's
James Michener house Mount Bonnell
The home boasts panoramic views of Lake Austin and the Hill Country. Photo courtesy of Darin Walker/Kuper Sotheby's
James Michener house Mount Bonnell
The wine cellar holds 2,500 bottles. Photo courtesy of Darin Walker/Kuper Sotheby's
James Michener house Mount Bonnell
The home also features five bedrooms. Photo courtesy of Darin Walker/Kuper Sotheby's
James Michener house Mount Bonnell
Michener published his famous novel in 1985. Photo courtesy of Darin Walker/Kuper Sotheby's
James Michener house Mount Bonnell
James Michener house Mount Bonnell
James Michener house Mount Bonnell
James Michener house Mount Bonnell
James Michener house Mount Bonnell
James Michener house Mount Bonnell

A Mount Bonnell home that just hit the market for nearly $4 million comes with a Texas-sized tale.

Inside the 5,651-square-foot mansion, Pulitzer Prize-winning author James Michener researched and wrote his epic novel Texas in the early 1980s. The book was published in 1985.

Three years before Texas was released, Texas Governor Bill Clements urged Michener to relocate to Austin to pen the novel. Michener accepted the invitation. The author rented the mansion at 3506 Mount Bonnell Rd. from Jack Taylor, a UT professor, for $1 a year. 

According to a Michener biography published on the website of the Texas State Cemetery, UT “welcomed him to its midst, found him a house and an office, arranged for a couple of graduate students in history to serve as research assistants, and got him appointed to the faculty … .”

At age 90, Michener died in 1997 in Austin and was buried at Austin Memorial Park Cemetery in North Austin. Michener was UT’s Jack G. Taylor Centennial Professor Emeritus and namesake of the famed Michener Center for Writers.

“The house was much different back then, with an indoor pool and a much different floor plan, but Michener wrote the story with views of Lake Austin as his inspiration,” says Darin Walker, an Austin agent with Kuper Sotheby’s International Realty who has the $3,995,000 listing.

Today, the mansion features five bedrooms, five full bathrooms, two half-bathrooms, a 2,500-bottle wine cellar, a resort-style pool and spa, a gym, an office, a home theater, and a two-car attached garage.

“Mount Bonnell has been an Austin landmark since the 1850s, but what sets this home apart is its unique position farther south from Covert Park,” Walker says. “The home sits farther out over the cliff and captures views of a sweeping bend in Lake Austin, allowing you to see so much more and from every living space throughout the house.”

You’ve got to wonder what the walls would say if they could speak, given that Michener spent a great deal of time at the mansion toiling over Texas.

“Every morning at 7:30 he sat down at his typewriter and stayed there until midday. He would write, re-write, edit, and write again (he always scoffed at writers who said they never revised what they first wrote), and then take a break for lunch and perhaps a short nap,” the state cemetery’s Michener bio says. “His afternoons were spent reading, talking, walking, traveling, attending functions, and experiencing life.”

The product of that labor was a more than 1,000-page novel about the Lone Star State. Michener’s “monumental saga” chronicles the four-and-a-half century history of Texas, publisher Penguin Random House says.

“Among his finely drawn cast of characters, emotional and political alliances are made and broken, as the loyalties established over the course of each turbulent age inevitably collapse under the weight of wealth and industry,” Penguin Random House says. “With Michener as our guide, Texas is a tale of patriotism and statesmanship, growth and development, violence and betrayal — a stunning achievement by a literary master.”