Evolution of West Austin Subdivisions
By: Wanda Garcia
During the late 1889s residential growth in Austin boomed. When Austin was selected the capital of Texas, land values automatically increased and wealthy citizens began to think in terms of real estate investments and development. The marketing of Austin as an ideal residential city by the city planners provided economic opportunities to those with vast holdings of land. The 1920’s and 1930’s found residential subdivisions developing rapidly as prominent landowners divided and sold their holdings.
Plans for a dam in West Austin caused the originally fashionable east section to be forsaken. The new city charter for 1891 placed the northernmost boundary at what is now 45th Street. The West Side, “in the direction of the great lake,” and bounded by Shoal creek, the Colorado River and Windsor Road was rapidly being built up.
The distinctive subdivisions to emerge from this development were Enfield, Pemberton Heights, Tarrytown, Westenfield, and Mount Bonnell. In 1916, Julia, Governor Peace’s daughter, Niles Graham, the Governor’s grandson, and Niles’ first cousin, Murray Graham subdivided the property and formally announced the formation of the Enfield Realty and Home Building Company with Niles and Murray as sole agents. W. Murray Graham was President, Paul Crusemann Secretary, R. Niles Graham Vice President, and G. Harris Bruce consulting engineer. Crusemann married Carrie Margaret Graham, the granddaughter of Governor Elisha M. Pease. The couple had one child, Paul, Jr. In 1916, they moved to Austin where Mrs. Crusemann, a sister of Niles Graham, became a silent partner and co-developer in the Enfield Realty Company.
The estate, extending from 12th to 24th Streets and from Shoal Creek to the river comprised many acres of wooded land. Its natural beauty and topography enhanced its appeal as the first extensive and highly restricted residential addition on the West Side of Austin. The addition was named Enfield in memory of Governor Pease whose birthplace was Enfield, Connecticut. The main streets of the original development were named for other Connecticut towns acknowledging Peases’ love for his native state; Windsor, Hartford, Poquonock. Marshall Lane was named for Niles’ deceased eldest brother, and Murray Lane was so named because the street’s contour resembled Murray Graham’s nose. Niles Road was named in memory of Lucadia Niles Pease, the Governor’s wife. Lorraine was named after Gov. Pease’s father. The streets and lots were laid out with regard to the contours of the terrain and the natural aesthetic conditions and unity with nature. The characteristic winding driveways were patterned on the English treatment of the countryside.
The developers had to convince Austinites to move to the quiet country setting of Enfield with the modern conveniences of downtown. So, the Enfield Realty Company waged an ambitious advertising campaign. The Enfield Realty Company marketed the subdivision in their publication “The Westenfield Screech,” as “Westfield, Where City Convenience and Country Freedom Meet” and “Enfield, The Place You Will Eventually Live.”
On the banks of the majestic Connecticut River in the shade of historic Elms lies the little New England village of Enfield, the birthplace and early home of Ex. Gov. E. M. Pease. It was for this quaint village and in memory of Governor Pease that the builders and owners of our own “Enfield” named Austin’s most beautiful and attractive restricted residence addition. The main street of Enfield was named Windsor road for the village of Windsor, which lies just across the Connecticut. River from Enfield, and was the birthplace of the late Mrs. L.C. Pease of cherished memory in Austin, wife of Gov. Pease.
Enfield was planned and laid out after careful and thoughtful study in order that the beauties of nature with which this property so lavishly abounds could be preserved and enjoyed to the fullest exert from an artistic and useful standpoint. In no part of our beautiful city is there a grander view of our “violet crowned” western hills and the valleys of the Colorado. To the East is beautiful Pease Park a gift to our city from Governor Pease, and beyond its rugged slopes and valley stand in bold relief the state capitol, University and buildings of several other state Institutions.
Those who live in Enfield have found for themselves advantages not to be had elsewhere in Austin Here there are no dust, just the summer breezes sweeping up the gorge of Pease Park from the south and east, make this the coolest place in summer. Here one is removed from the noises of the city, yet a ten-minute walk or three-minute drive brings him to the city’s business district. All other conveniences of city life combined with the beauty and quiet dignity of the elegant restricted residence district make Enfield an ideal place and of which our citizenship should be justly proud.
There was no manner of transportation or communication to Enfield except by private vehicle. Niles Graham was convinced the addition would not prosper without public transportation. To this end in 1926, Niles Graham agreed to subsidize the public bus system if it failed to make a profit. In May 27, 1928, Austin issued $300,00 bonds for the purpose of making improvements in Enfield, Westfield and other company holdings. In 1928, a bridge was built across Shoal Creek facilitating accessibility to Enfield. The following appeared in the Austin Statesman,
The bridge being built across Shoal Creek is putting Enfield right in the University neighborhood. “What a lovely drive that will be!” Roy Smith’s new home on the right of Windsor Road demonstrates what a wonderful view can be had by those who buy anywhere along that drive and along its extension to the north. Mr. Drake’s corners has been cleared off and grassed! It looks so inviting that it cannot be long until he will want to have his home built and begin to enjoy the wonderful scenery to the East.
The marketing strategy was so successful that 114 homes were built during the first eight years of Enfield’s existence. As an enticement to the public, the company would build a home, decorate it, sell it and start over with a new lot.
From 1924 to 1940, the company offered other sections of Enfield and the opening of Westfield, Tarrytown and Westenfield continued the concept of modern living surrounded by the natural beauty of the Austin hills. The Tarrytown addition part of the George Spear league, officially opened on November 4, 1934; Tarrytown No. 2 in April 1935; and Tarrytown additions Nos. 3, 4, 5, and 6. Tarrytown No. 1, and Tarrytown Place. Westenfield No. 1, a very popular addition was opened in 1932 and was built up with attractive homes and Marlton Place just east of the Municipal Golf Links, adjoining Westfield A south was opened on March 20, 1938. The Enfield Realty and Home Building Company and the Westenfield Development Company were formed and expanded to handle a number of other additions, Aldridge Place, Monte Vista, Edgemont, Country Club Lawns and Terrace Park. The company ensured that the new developments had all the modern conveniences. The Westfield Swimming and Riding club was established in 1937, to promote riding, swimming and recreational activities among the residents of Enfield and Westfield. A pool was added later at Westenfield Park. New barns were constructed in the tract for the horses belonging to the Westfield riding club. A caretaker’s house, rustic bridges were built to beautify the site. Residents rode their horses through Westfield to visit the neighbors.
During the 1920s when Graham began to subdivide the former Pease land into exclusive subdivisions, the semi-rural atmosphere that surrounded and isolated Clarksville during the first fifty years of its existence began changing dramatically. White families began to move into the Clarksville area. Wealthy residents built large two story mansions. By 1928, the City’s Master Plan recommended that all facilities and conveniences be provided the Negroes in East Austin as an incentive to draw the Negro population to East Austin, but city improvements to the surrounding subdivisions were not extended to the Black neighborhood
The streets were narrow gravel roads and not through streets. Prior to 1971, the Clarksville community spread several blocks west of the Missouri-Pacific Railroad tracts. Many residents sold their property west of the tracts as white suburbs spread further west. But the most devastating force to the community came in 1971 when a north-south expressway began construction on either side of the Mo-Pac tracks. Over sixty homes in the western end of Clarksville were destroyed and more than 30 families were displaced to accommodate the transportation route.
Present day Clarksville is composed of nine square blocks and bounded by 10th Street, West Lynn and Waterston Avenue, and the Missouri – Pacific Railroad tracks. Within Clarksville most of the houses are small one-story, frame or board and batten construction, and of styles from the Victorian period or early 20th century bungalow.
In the early summer of 1927, Pemberton Heights opened its first unit of 30 acres with all city utilities and conveniences. S.W. (Budley) Fisher, president of the Austin Development Company was the owner and developer of the land. He set up his office for the new subdivision in his home at 1414 Wooldridge, the Pemberton water tower which had been converted into a castle in 1920. The addition was named after James Pemberton an ancestor of the Fisher family and a gentlemen who received great notoriety because of his political opinions in the days of the American colonies. Another ancestor, S. Rhodes Fisher who with Moses and Stephen F. Austin was instrumental in the colonization of Texas, settled at Matagorda in 1832. Thus descendants of the Fishers and Pemberton’s intermarriages owned the land until for seventy years until the Austin Development Company subdivided and sold the land. Fisher marketed Pemberton Heights, the new subdivision as follows,
The property is situated on the Shoal Creek bluff and plateau about nine blocks from the University of Texas…The addition will consist of over 30,000 feed of lot frontage, over five miles of paved and shaded streets and sidewalks, over seven acres of private park, adjoining and adjacent to Pease Park and Enfield on the north…This plateau subdivision over looks the entire city and its surrounding territory. It is over 100 feet higher than Congress Avenue and only eight minutes from the business district.
The Austin Development Company partnered to build an east – west highway on 24th Street, which would connect the University of Texas to Enfield, Westfield, Edgemont, Pemberton Heights and Westwood, thence to Lake Austin and the municipal golf course.
In 1945, Huck sold “Edgemont” to L.T. Barrow. Barrow planned to remodel the house and use it as his residence, but a fire in 1956 destroyed Edgemont. According to newspaper accounts, the firemen had difficulty in getting the water hoses to the house because they had to climb an old cow trail.
After Edgemont was destroyed by fire, L.T. Barrow and his brother David B. Barrow formed the Barrow Company. In 1958, the property on which “Edgemont” stood was divided into 35 one-acre lots and offered for sale by the Barrow Company and the Austin Company. The lower portion of the estate was subdivided and called Balconies Park. David Barrow kept the upper portion and retained the name “Edgemont” for this subdivision.
West Austin Life
West Austin resident R.A. Lewis grew up at 3606 Windsor Road. Lewis’ parents paid $300 for three acres on Windsor Road. Windsor Road was a gravel road and Lewis can recall watching a model T Ford unable to negotiate the hill. In 1920, Dr. Z.T. Scott bought and moved Sweetbrush (Swisher-Scott House) to its present site at 2408 Sweetbrush. Lewis recalled seeing the brick for a long time before the house was reassembled. The house had originally been designed by Abner Cook and built for banker John Milton Swisher in 1853 at the 400 block of San Antonio Street. Dr. Scott erected Sweetbrush on virgin territory. Dr. Scott was the Lewis’ family doctor. Lorene Reardon, Dr. Scott’s nurse and Lewis’s aunt had a house at Windsor and Kenmore. Her rose garden delighted generations of Austinites for many years and was a landmark on Windsor Road. Lewis recalls seeing the high bluffs of Scenic Road and the caves on Rockmoor. Lime was excavated in a quarry off Scenic Road.
When Lewis walked to Mathews Elementary School at 906 West Lynn, Tarrytown was not developed yet and Enfield Road going west ended at Forest Trail. According to Lewis, “when you went to town, you took Forest Trail”. Exposition Boulevard north from Windsor Road was a gravel street crossing a ravine with big pecan trees. There was a spring which flowed to Reed Park on the present location of Lewis’ shop at 2915 Exposition Blvd. On one occasion, Lewis saw a buck deer at Northwest Road and Pecos. Tarrytown center was the only shopping center in Austin when R.A. Lewis opened his florist shop in 1946. Lewis bought the land for his shop from A.C. Bryant. This was the last tract of commercial land in Tarrytown.
Westover was a road that ran west over a hill and still does. West Lynn name was derived from the fact that the street ran along the west line of the subdivision.
Residences with Historical Markers in West Austin
In 1909, Allison Mayfield purchased 23 acres of the Edgemont Plantation with a cottage built in the late 1800s. Allison Mayfield was a former Texas secretary of State and a Texas Railroad Commissioner. Originally Mayfield used this as a summer home and weekend retreat. When Mayfield’s daughter Mary Frances married Milton R. Gutsch in 1923, they made it their permanent home. Milton Gutsch was Chairman of the History Department at the University of Texas and permanently occupied the house for many years
Dr. Gutsch and Mary turned the little Victorian cottage into a picturesque bungalow, adding a pergola, terraces and porches that tie the house to nature, letting the architecture dissolve into the gardens. The Gutsches loved to garden and soon turned two acres into an Austin showplace. In 1937, a friend introduced peacocks to the garden.
When Mary Mayfield Gutsch died in 1971, she left the property to the city of Austin to be used as a park. Today the property is called Mayfield Park and used as a park where visitors can stroll through the cottage gardens and view the home known as the Mayfield-Gutsch House. The house and gardens have been renovated as it looked during the Gutsch’s lifetimes.
In 1922 Travis County purchased a 16 x 100-foot Bridge for $1,999 from Austin Brothers Construction Co. This bridge was named Huck’s Slough Bridge located about the 3400 block of Mt. Bonnell Road. This Warren Pin-connected Pony Truss Bridge is one of three bridges of this style and construction remaining in Travis County. The city of Austin used such truss bridges to cross-streams, creeks and the Colorado River. In 1929 paid Austin Bridge Company to raise the bridge 12 feet on new concrete abutments. Until 1995, this bridge carried all vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle traffic from W. 35th Street to Mount Bonnell.
In 1925, Judge Robert Lynn Batts (1854 – 1935) built Oakwell (Okewell). He was a distinguished jurist and served as Assistant Attorney General of Texas and the United States, Judge of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Chairman of the University of Texas Board of Regents. Batts Hall at the University of Texas is named in his honor. The house was designed by architecture Professor Raymond Everett. The House exhibits elements of the Mediterranean and American Bungalow styles in its stuccoed walls, bracketed eaves, arcade, and tile roof. Oakwell is a rare example of an early 20th Century mansion in central Austin.
In 1928, Judge Calvin Maples Cureton and his wife Nora Morris Cureton built their home at 1300 Windsor Road. Judge Cureton was born in Bosque County of a noted pioneer family. He was a Legislator in 1903-1913, first Assistant Attorney General in 1913 –1918, and was Chief Justice in 1918 – 1921, and served in the Texas Supreme Court from 1921 to 1940. His is the longest recorded service in the Texas Supreme Court. The Judge was interested in the flora of Texas, even knowing the complete botanical names. Judge Cureton planted at least one of each native shrub and tree of Texas. The rock excavated when the house was built was used to build the rock wall enclosing the yard. The Judge incorporated fossils and rock formations from his collection in the design of his garden. Some can still be seen. Because he had frequent barbecues for large crowds Judge Cureton designed and built a barbecue pit with a built in bean pot, a spit for beef and for pig or goat each with its own fire area but with one central chimney.
The Horton-Porter, Goldie House located at 2402 Windsor Road was built for Goldie Prentis Horton-Porter during 1930 and 1931. The house was one of the finest examples of Spanish Colonial Revival style in Austin and was designed by Walter T. Rolfe. She was the first woman to receive a Ph.D. from the University of Texas, a prominent mathematician and one of the institutions earliest professors.
The Keith House located at 2400 Harris Boulevard was built in 1933 by William D. Anderson (1888 – 1972) for his sister Maggie and her husband Jacque N. Keith (1886 – 1958. The house exhibits strong colonial revival styling in the use of brick, one-over-one windows and shutters and Monterrey influences including a cantilevered wooden balcony, wooden balustrades and a low-pitched roof. The house was built on this site for its view of the Texas Capital. The house remained in the Keith family until1962.
Clara Driscoll donated the original site of the Austin Museum of Art, Laguna Gloria, to the citizens of Texas in 1943. The Mediterranean -style villa built in 1916 on fourteen acres by an inlet of Lake Austin has since become known for its acclaimed Art School and art exhibitions, sculpture gardens, educational programs. Laguna Gloria holds art exhibitions on the grounds on the banks of Lake Austin.
In the early fifties, Wiley W. Bennet built a windmill that stood in the front yard of the family residence at 1303 Winstead Road. When MoPac was constructed in the late 1960’s numerous homes were removed to enlarge the right of way. The Bennet residence was torn down but the windmill remained. The windmill is located approximately 1/10 of a mile down the Johnson Creek Hike and Bike train from the southwest corner of Mopac and Enfield Road adjacent ot Westenfield Park.
In 1951, Austin Independent School District named Casis Elementary School in honor of Lilia (1869 – 1947) and Josephine (1873 – 1947) Casis. The Casis sisters were reared in Jamaica where their European parents educated them in the classics, languages and music. Before they moved to Texas in 1890, Josephine earned a teaching degree and taught at Austin’s Palm School for thirty-three years. Lilia pursued graduate studies in Europe and at the University of Texas at Austin where in 1916, she became the first woman full professor. The Casis sisters left their estates to the University of Texas.
In 1972, Attorney General and Mrs. John Hill moved the Donnan-Hill House to 2528 Tanglewood Trail. The house was located near the capitol originally. Gustavus Johnson, a carpenter and contractor built the house in 1876 for his daughter Jennie when she married John K. Donnan. An older smaller structure was enlarged and featured Victorian style with Greek revival floor plan of a central hall with two rooms on each side. The Donnan family occupied the house until 1972.
The stone cottage located at Stevenson and Rockamoor Streets was the stage coach stop for the stage from San Antonio to Abilene, Kansas.
In 1997, descendants of Adolphus Skrine Rutherford (1842-1927) relocated his home from downtown Austin to Kenmore in Tarrytown. Mr. Rutherford moved from Georgia to Austin in 1878. As agent for Eagle and Phoenix Mills, he sold shirts to Geronimo who had Apaches adopt plaids as tribal dress. Rutherford and his wife Frances Skinner Rutherford built this house in 1884 to 1886.
No chronicle of west Austin would be complete without the mention of “Holiday House”. This west Austin watering hole has seen generations pass through its doors. Old Austinites, the rich and famous, the notorious and the anonymous converge here daily to dine with family and old friends. On Sundays after church, three generations can be seen dining at the same table.
Holiday House began with two GI returning from World War II. Originally it was a small with 10 stools, three tables and a tiny dining room. Ralph Moreland was about to move from Austin, when the opportunity came to purchase the restaurant. In 1947 opened the Holiday House, expanded services and has been serving west Austin ever since. The restaurant has undergone many changes in décor and several attempts to upgrade its image; however, it always reverted to the old style of décor.
Florence Hornsby recalls playing in the gravel pits and exploring the limestone caves as a child with her friends. Now the caves are paved over. In 1940, Mrs. Jack Browning and her husband moved from Abilene to what is known as Pemberton Heights. She says that hers was the only house and was surrounded by fields. She can recall that cows grazed on the land. Exposition Blvd. was the main thoroughfare.
When William Dewees, one of Stephen F. Austin’s “Old Three Hundred”, wrote,
Who could have foreseen the changes through which we have passed within the short space of thirty years? Thirty years ago our country was the abode of Indians and wild beasts. The foot of civilization had never trod these flowery plains. The white man came in and little villages sprung up; plantations were cleared and cultivated, and civilization began to move in an onward course. For several years there was but a mere handful of us here to till the soil and enjoy the delights which our country affords; but soon the inducements which this flowery garden offered to adventurers began to be noised abroad, and the tide of emigration from that time became strong. Enterprising men who had lost their fortunes in the old States came to Texas to make another. The resources of Texas were heard of in the Old World, and large numbers of Irish and Germans fleeing form destitution at home sought an asylum this abode of peace and plenty.
Today in the year 2000, the lifestyles of a post war economy are evolving slowly. The shopping center built by Kruseman has been modernized and expanded. All the modern conveniences are within walking distance from the homes. Niles Graham’s vision for west Austin of English country living may be threatened by the wave of newcomers to Tarrytown who buy the old homes and replace them with large homes that encompass the whole lot. The new architectural designs do not blend in with the existing architecture of the neighborhood. Until recently the wife stayed at home. Today, these new comers do not share the same value systems of their predecessors. Both spouses work, so the children lack the upbringing and value system of the previous. Utility vehicles with oversized wheels and loud radios are shattering the peace of this asylum with loud intrusive noise.
Where is west Austin going? This is a difficult question to answer. For myself, I do not like the changes, the loud noise, and the traffic congestion, the depersonalization of social interaction. Progress though inevitable may not be desirable in terms of the quality of life. With the inherent problem resulting from increasing population, Dewee’s world may become only a vague memory to be found in the pages of history books.