Every Neighborhood Has One [A History of the Barton Heights Subdivision, or the Northern Half of the Zilker Neighborhood]
Cheryl Jennings-Sauer Copyright 1986 Cheryl Jennings Sauer
Every neighborhood has one: a dog that never quits barking, a green-thumb gardener who pulls prize posies from the parched cracks in the earth, and a history, or at least a past.
Even the flashiest modern subdivision was at one time something else. Perhaps it was a small cotton farm, or a bigger chunk from a sizable cattle ranch. Or even earlier, it may have been deer hunting grounds for stealthy Texas Indians, as told by scattered arrow points. Who lived on the property? What was it like back then? You can fancy just about anything. If dinosaur bones are securely lodged on the downtown side of the Colorado, they could also lie right under your rumpus room. And it’s funny how a little understanding of what’s come before makes a bit more sense of what’s happening now.
For our neighborhood (a steep climb up the east side of Barton Springs) it all began with an obscure newspaper reference. “An old cemetery?” we puzzled upon reading the clip. “In this neighborhood? They must be joking!” From here it is only a twenty-minute walk to the shadow of Austin’s tallest skyscraper. But we hitched up the dogs and trotted over to take a look, just the same.
Sure enough, it was real, hidden behind tiny Barton Springs Baptist Church, and most definitely old. “This was a cemetery for black people,” nods deacon A. E. Edwards, “hundreds of them.” The estimate may not be overly ambitious, because in 1947 they were unable to find room for even one more gravesite after dozens of aborted digging attempts.
The cemetery displays sad scars of vandalism more than it registers neglect. Only a handful of tumbling tombstones remain, with stark inscriptions. “V. Whitten. Died 1902.” “This person could have been a slave,” we muse, our imaginations fleeing the present. A wad of thick grass insulates the sound of hushed voices and padding feet as the hum of the city fades in this timeless place. Surely the discoverers of King Tut’s tomb could not have been more enthralled. You see, this was not just any old ghost-story graveyard, this was our personal neighborhood cemetery–should we ever have need of one.
We always knew that our likable neighborhood was unique, perhaps odd, even for Austin. “Assorted” might be the best description. There are blocks of small homespun houses, interspersed among a few larger estates, including two grand old homes complete with Texas historical markers.
Here the typical Austin tenant lives shoulder to shoulder with a proportionately large number of artists, musicians, authors, and fierce political activists. The lesser-knowns congenially mix with city celebrities like critic John Bustin, sculptor Charles Umlauf, musicians Paul Ray and Marcia Ball, and artist and chili king Gordon Fowler. And this neighborhood will never be subject to divisive busing; it is naturally integrated, a confetti mix of colors and ethnic groups. But why?
Savannah Spence, who has been here so long she can’t remember the day she arrived, offers a clue. “The whole neighborhood was black at one time, you know,” she reveals. “They were all kinfolks to each other. Most of them have moved away now. My mother was buried up at that church in 1906 when I was six going on seven. I recall that day so well, especially my shoes. I must have been looking at my feet. It was a beautiful, old-timey white church. Not long after, a man was burning trash too close, and the church caught fire and that was the end of it.”
Savannah is very likely the longest in residence in Barton Heights. Though ageless of face, she is now 82, with snow-gray, pinned-up braids. “History? Hmph! I remember when Granny whupped me, that’s all the history I remember!” Her home is filled with old photographs, all of black people–uncomfortable children in Sunday stiff clothes, bearded gentlemen, elegant young women. And especially Grandma and Grandpa, who raised her up.
“We lived right down the street there, on the old Fredericksburg road” (now South Lamar). “We had a big wraparound porch–nobody had screens back then–and you’d sleep out there in summer, so nice and cool. There was a long driveway for the buggy, a garden and an orchard. Grandma made me go out and knock red chaparral berries off the bush to make jelly. Grandpa dug a 475-foot well himself, and he would kill and dress hogs. We used the hoghouse for quilting, too. I’d make a little mistake, and Grandma would make me pull the whole thing out and do it over. Made me so mad!” Obviously it did, as her gray hair begins to bristle at the memory.
“There were white families we knew in the neighborhood, like the Rosenbergs. Grandpa would send me over to buy fresh buttermilk from them, ten cents a gallon. I had to walk clean to Brackenridge school on South Congress. They broke up that school when they started this desegregation thing. Funny how both the whites and the blacks kicked up a fuss over it.”
Savannah lives alone now, just a few blocks from the old homestead. “My husband was renting this house to some white folks before I married him in 1931. They were making home brew here, at least that’s what the neighbors said. He had a hard time getting rid of them.”
Though her grandpa had once owned property on Kinney Avenue, Savannah worked as a housekeeper for a woman on the same street, later on. “She was rich as cream, and one day she made me mad, and I left and never went back.” She looks at the clock. “I’ve got to run by Yaring’s before the traffic rush, and then I’m going out to the new dry goods store in Oak Hill.” It was a sudden jolt, being yanked from the dreamy past back to the insistent present.
But the Barton Heights story starts long before Savannah Spence was a little girl. The original description of many neighborhood properties mentions a Spanish land grant from “Agent R. M. Williamson for Empresario Ben Milam, to colonist Isaac Decker” conferred by the State of Coahuila and Texas. The patent date is 1835, just before the Texas birthday we celebrate this year, and the original title is translated from Spanish. (The next entry, dated 1838, refers to the Republic of Texas.)
It was a huge parcel of Texas land, starkly described as from the “west side of the Colorado River . . . following the meanders of the river up to the mouth of Spring Creek [Barton Creek?] . . . and south to Williamson’s Creek” with landmarks like “a hackberry, 16 inches in diameter . . . to a live oak, 24 inches in diamter . . . to a large pecan marked X,” before the days of bulldozers and chainsaws. Later there is mention of Stone’s Ferry, a Colorado River crossing, which becomes City Ferry a few pages later.
Some immutable facts of history recorded here do not make us proud of the past. A Mr. Goodrich died in 1868 with no will and several relatives quite interested in his “large valuable tract within one mile of Austin.” (Had they only known how valuable.) One relative prayed that “gifts of Negroes valued at $1300 be taken into account when dividing up the remaining property.”
Just about the same time, the two oldest–and grandest–remaining homes were built. The Davis House, dating from 1875, is better known to old-timers as the Kinney farmhouse or homestead. While some neighbors discuss how much insulation to put in their walls, in the Davis home, the massive 22-inch walls are the insulation. Though extensively remodeled, it retains the original high ceilings and unusually narrow oak plank flooring. The most interesting feature of this house is the 50-foot-deep cistern in the dining room. Oh, it’s closed up now (“full of snakes and mosquitoes”), but before the present owner, Cater Joseph, bought the house from the Kinney family, it must have been quite a conversation piece, because the dining room table was a round slab covering the cistern opening.
Cater Joseph, once owner of the Import House, is a befitting resident for this historic home, when he is not tending the Longhorn cattle on his ranch. His grandpa Joseph and family were Texas pioneers who emigrated from Syria in 1895. Their story is to1d in an exhibit at the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio.
Virginia Conkle lives on the street behind the Kinney homestead. In a purple jogging outfit and tennis shoes, she is ready to take on all comers, a sort of Katharine Hepburn persona at age 73. She and her husband, Dr. E. P. Conkle, a UT playwright, loved the view from their renthouse near UT, “but Roy Bedichek wouldn’t sell it to us. He said it would be very valuable property some day.” Roy was right, as he sold the land to the University of Texas; the LBJ Library stands there now.
So they bought a lot in Tarrytown, though without a view. Virginia swears she has only had one psychic experience, which drew her to a hill above Barton Springs Road, where she parked her car and walked to the back of a “cactus patch.” There was a For Sale sign on a tree: 0.9 acre with 50 feet on Barton Springs Road, and a view to kill for of the entire Austin skyline, at that time only rolling hills, the Capitol, and the UT tower. So for $1500 she had a lot and built her home “for nothing, $55 a month with no down payment.” And they scrapped the Tarrytown project.
In return for this gift from heaven, Virginia is willing to share what she has. “For instance, there is a man living in the ravine behind my house.” For how long, we ask, alarmed. “Three years. The poor fellow doesn’t have any money, and he likes it there. I figure he keeps the transients out.” Hmmm, could be. For those neighbors foolish enough to discard usable goods, cans, or bottles, Virginia will pluck them out and take care of recycling herself. Her generosity is not necessarily a characteristic of local residents. “But South Austin people are the salt of the earth,” she says in a tone that dares you to prove otherwise.
Another resident echoes this “never, never north” philosophy that is blossoming still, south of Austin’s “Mason-Dixon” river. “We were on the wrong side of the river, according to the rest of Austin. They never did nothin’ for the people out south,” complains Bobbie Elliott, Virginia’s neighbor. And yet people still managed to cross the mighty Colorado and settle here. “That’s because they found out we had a lot of nice folks living out here, trees, beautiful land, and a good number of businesses.”
Carl Elliott took his share of that business, since his Texaco station was just south of the Congress Avenue bridge–the only route, short of swimming, to get downtown. “I walked to work, walked downtown, walked all over. That’s why I’m 84 years old. Dr. Conkle would even walk all the way to UT.”
“This neighborhood was close in and private, just like living in the country,” adds Bobbie. “No traffic, no noise, and, of course, there was Zilker Park.”
“But there was nothing there, really, except the springs,” says Carl, “where they used to give free swimming lessons. They sometimes had dances and parties at this large open-air pavilion. It seems like I remember a screen house with birds, and a goldfish pond too. But in those days the park was right on the edge of Austin, and the kids would go and shoot birds and squirrels down there. I taught my sons how to drive at Zilker, and how to parallel park between two trees.” Nowadays, it’s hard to find even one parking place on a balmy day.
Harry Nolan, a former city councilman who recently celebrated his ninety-third birthday, is also well acquainted with Barton Springs. “I used to swim naked in the darn thing, Campbell’s hole too, ’til some kid dove in and broke his neck.” There was no park or picnic area back then, but there was a gristmill. “Old man Zilker owned it. My dad would ride a horse down to the mill with a sack of corn to be ground. Once I remember riding behind my uncle on a good horse. The old dam broke, and we were face to face with a seven-foot wall of water coming at us down Barton Springs Road.” He never finished the story, but he obviously lived to tell about it.
From his family ranch out at Slaughter Creek, he would help drive the cattle up and down South Lamar, in a wagon, or walking behind, barefooted. “And if you missed the ride, you had a twelve-mile walk to get home.” South Lamar (the old Fredericksburg road) had three rock houses back then, and that’s about it. Even built up as it is today, South Austin is still just a little bit country. Stella Nolan adds with a flounce and a southern drawl, “South of the river you were plumb out of the elite circles. Most rich folks lived north of the river.”
The Nolans’ home, nestled behind the new Talisman Condos, overlooks Lost Canyon, which is pretty much the same as when their children played in it, a small patch of preserved wilderness. “The armadillos and possums are still there, and the coons ate all the fish in my neighbor’s pond.” A massive oak hangs over the edge of the steep canyon wall, a tree appraised at $14,000. There is a beehive under it, abuzz with coming and going. Harry never uses a net, though once he was stung 35 times. “I trade my neighbors honey for pecans. They love it.”
The canyon’s sycamore trees wink gold and green in the late afternoon sun. It is surprisingly silent so near busy Barton Springs Road. Nolan, like many other area residents, has fought to prevent “development” (a euphemistic term ’round these parts) from encroaching any further into his neighborhood. “I wish it could stay just the way it is,” he says wistfully, turning to gaze at the appropriately named Lost Canyon.
Down the street, an echo: “We want to preserve this property just the way it is so that others can enjoy it as much as we have.” Nearly the same wish, although expressed by different neighbors. Angie and Charles Umlauf are eager to donate their beautiful home, workshop, and sculpture garden to Austin for a permanent museum. There is a sense of history–and love–associated with these two and a half acres. “We don’t ever want to see this property crowned with condominiums,” says Angie, unequivocally.
Their house was originally built in 1929, and there were wild stories associated with it. Neighbors were fearful of the owner, saying she “might take some shots at people who got too close.” When Angie discovered it, the house was a shambles. “Vagrants had lived in it and all the locks were broken. People had ridden horses through the house and thrown cans over the hill. But you know how women are. They see the potential while their husbands only see the cost. And these live oaks,” she motions to the sculptures, each set in a natural frame of oak trees and shrubs, “I fell in love with them.”
The purchase in 1941 was a wise investment, as it turned out. “Such a beautiful setting for his workshop has been an inspiration to Charles. He has done his most expressive work here,” including figures that mirror his antiwar sentiments, like the War Mother. Charles walks into the garden with a nonexpressive tool, a screwdriver, to fix the cranky wrought-iron gate. He extends his right hand, which conveys restrained power. Virginia Conkle had warned about his hearty handshake.
Many of the garden pieces are smaller versions of familiar works, like the sculpture titled Passing the Torch of Knowledge, in front of the Academic Center at UT. And each piece seems to be a personal favorite of Angie. The inside of their home is also filled with Charles’s works. There is a distractingly familiar bust. “Farrah Fawcett,” responds Angie, noticing the stare. “She was one of his students at UT, and she posed for this. She was a very good student, and still does art work.”
Since the house is perched right on the cliff overlooking Barton Springs Road, Angie had a retaining wall built to form a little splash pool, hanging on a ledge just outside the kitchen window. “That way, I could watch the children play while doing the dishes.” From the same window one can observe joggers on the new pedestrian bridge crossing Barton Creek. The park is a comfortable backdrop for sculptures that range from wood and primitive stone and abstractions of alabaster and onyx to religious works in bronze and polished limestone.
By the same token, a cold museum would be a sad home for this collection of figures, who gather about the living room like family and who pause for reflection in the garden like old friends: the femiliar setting has infused life into each piece. “We love this place and we want Austin to have it,” concludes Angie, with an offer that no one could refuse.
There are others who are pleased as punch to be in Barton Heights. “My dream has always been to move back to this house and settle here. I’ve lived a lot of places in the world, and there’s no place I’d rather be.” And sure enough, when Joe Wright retired from the navy, he and his wife, Peggy, said goodbye to Mississippi and howdy to Wright Street, a name that is not mere coincidence.
A lot of railroad people, including Joe’s grandpa, lived in a rough part of downtown Austin unaffectionately called “the bloody bucket,” or Tenth Ward. Grandpa Wright didn’t lose his job during the depression, which made him the equivalent of a wealthy man in those days. South Austin attracted people with farming roots, be they ever so shallow in such rocky soil. So Grandpa Wright staked out and purchased (for $2 an acre) a 25-acre farm that is now Bluebonnet Lane and side streets. He had chickens and cows, fields of corn and potatoes, and a big truck garden. “My grandparents bought only flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, and pinto beans. They grew everything else–tomatoes, corn, black-eyed peas, squash, okra, green beans–you name it and they put up every bit.” Grandpa later subdivided his farm. “Everyone who bought from Grandpa is still here on this street. When I moved back to Austin, it was like coming home again,” says Joe.
The Barton Heights postwar boom must have been similar to the mushroom of suburban development outside Austin today, only these were blue-collar veterans home from the war (strictly middle class), all eager to finance a home on the VA. “That is, if you could find a house to buy,” remembers Joe, since the demand for affordable housing exceeded the supply, an Austin deja vu in reverse.
Grandpa Wright felt that a neighborhood with so many working-class folks should have access to public transportation. The bus still stops at the end of Wright Street, thanks to him. “That way people on Bluebonnet Lane wouldn’t have to walk across open fields to catch the bus on Kinney Avenue. It was kind of dangerous at night.” Easy access to work, play, and various businesses helps to shape the character of the neighborhood, even today.
Too cramped for farming after Grandpa Wright’s era, the Barton Heights Boomers still kept their share of gardens, orchards, and animals anyway. In the thirties and forties a lot of folks had a cow, a horse, a goat, miscellaneous chickens or other farmlike creatures. For families without a backyard horse, each trip across the Lamar bridge passed by the famous pony rides (where Jack in the Box is now), much to the chagrin of neighborhood parents.
“Back when Kinney Avenue was unpaved with ditches on either side, we kept a cow and a horse out back,” says Francis Horton. “Finally we had to get rid of the pony ’cause she kept getting out. Have you ever tried to corral a horse on South Lamar? Plus you had to pay a fine.”
Nowadays there are still ducks and geese, turkeys and chickens, goats and wild critters that slink and slither up from Barton Creek and unattended gullies. It is appropriate that Josephine Elliott, a founder of the Austin Humane Society, lives here. She quit jogging a year ago (she’s 77), and now she enjoys the adoration of her two pets, both former strays.
Francis Horton has a lot of fine memories about her years on Kinney Avenue, “including the $200 lots we could have bought back then. What a bargain! Before our lot was cleared, we cut down a cedar for Christmas, and the kids always said that was the most beautiful tree we ever had. I found a photo of it the other day, and that tree was really pretty ugly.” But that’s the way it is with memories.
Francis’ son went to Zilker Elementary when Hollis Sanders was principal. When her son returned to teach at Zilker, 18 years later, Hollis Sanders was still the principal. “Parents and students pitched in to help the school finance an addition for the stage in the cafetorium. We scavenged lumber scraps, built birdhouses, and sold them for 50 cents apiece.” This memory is from Robert Reed, whose garage collection of early Austin reference books, antique tools, old maps, and copies of original letters (like one signed “Estevn Austin”) could rival the Austin Collection. Robert and his wife, Ada (retired from Anheuser Busch and the Texas School for the Deaf, respectively), give popular Texas history presentations to middle school children.
When they built their home here in 1938, their house faced a cow pasture. Evidently such a rural setting was not entirely cool, “because our realtor kept insisting he had more desirable property north of the river.” But here they’ve stayed, perhaps as fate would have it.
“We were on our way to vote at Zilker school one day when for some odd reason we stopped at a garage sale. And there I found my grandparents’ family bible. I didn’t even know it existed.” The bible, dated 1861, is no small find, weighing in at 11 pounds, a really gorgeous keepsake. When Ada first opened it, “I lit up like a firecracker, because there was a newspaper clipping with my picture on it, dated 1935.” Talk about a happy, surprise ending.
But nothing expresses the spirit of the neighborhood and of a time gone by better than the Circle H Birthday Club, which Ada founded in 1945. (The name stands for Okie Heights, the eastern wing of Barton Heights.) “Women had more time back then. We’d hear of someone’s birthday, bake a cake, and invite people over to enjoy it.” With the onset of the war, though, sugar, meat, and coffee were rationed. Families were separated, and some women became the breadwinners. “So we 25 women organized to divide up the work and expense. Each hostess could spend only $3. My husband was making $100 a month at the time.” And my, what three hostesses did with a little money and a lot of ingenuity. Each party had a theme (Country Fair, Sewing Bee, the Circus) and all decorations, food, game prizes, and elaborate party favors (homemade) had to fit. There is a fetching picture of Ada at the Hobo Party. She looks like Freddie the Freeloader with her stogie and stick and bandanna.
During the annual summer plcnic, neighborhood families would gather on a vacant lot with games, screaming kids, and dozens of ice cream freezers squeaking the day away. “We gave each other a lot of support, such as when one woman’s child was stricken with polio.” Later on, the women wised up and met in the evening, and the husbands kept the children. In 1965, they celebrated a 20-year reunion, and today there are 10 remaining members who drive from all over Austin to attend meetings the third Tuesday of each month.
“Of course, women don’t have time to join organizations like that nowadays, what with working and all,” Ada says, matter of factly. And of course women are pleased to have gained the status they enjoy today. But hearing about the 40-year camaraderie through good times and bad, one can’t help but feel just a wee bit envious of the gals in the Circle H.
Alex Hafele has a good feeling about Barton Heights, too, and he’s just arrived. He is a typical tenant, looking for reasonable rent and a convenient location so he can commute to work on his bicycle. He recognized that his rented house was a little run down when he moved in. “I thought it was just old, but then I figured out, man, it’s really old.” Turn of the century, even, guesses the landlord, John Montgomery. The original structure was a poorly built two-room shack, with stucco, kitchen, and bath added later. Like a number of similarly old, odd houses, it was most likely crude shelter for black farmworkers or sharecroppers.
People like Alex may notice and wonder about odd fence sections that look like they are remnants from an old farm (they are remnants from an old farm) or about Indian artifacts easily dug out of gardens. Mark Mallett, another local tenant and one-time manager for Asleep at the Wheel, was curious about a particular house on Treadwell. “I saw an old photo of that house, and it was standing out in the middle of a huge field.” He grew up in Barton Heights. “Yeah, I moved to North Austin for a while when I went to UT, but I came back. Why?” He laughs, but answers without hesitation, “Because I like it here. This is where I belong.”
It’s not Kansas, but as Dorothy found out, there’s no place like home. What a wonderful day in the neighborhood, in your neighborhood, too. Can you say “neighborhood history”? Or better yet, can you dig it up and enjoy it? Sure you can.
Here is a Tour in 1986.
A Tour of the Neighborhood in 1986
Are you tired of walking the crowded hike and bike trails each weekend? Consider making the rounds of our neighborhood early some Saturday or Sunday morning, on foot or on bicycle. If you are not the aerobic type, you might take a mini driving tour instead. Follow your nose, or follow the three-mile course charted for you, and then finish with a brisk plunge into Barton Springs and a picnic at Zilker Park.
Remember, you are in South Austin now. If you have your heart set on quaint houses or pink azaleas, you’ll have to look north of the river. Oh, yes, if you see a neighbor, go ahead and wave. They are expecting you!
1) You can barely see the Umlauf sculpture gardens up on the hill to your right. Angie says, “If people are really interested in seeing the sculptures, they can call me to set up an appointment.” Though her time alone with Charles is quite precious, the extended invitation is sincere. The Umlaufs and many other Barton Heights neighbors used native stone and existing trees in landscaping their yards.
2) Oak Alley. According to Claire and Tony Bell (of the 1935 vintage rock house with the bell out front), there was a Mother Oak tree right in the middle of the road, who spawned all the little oaks in this grove. She was brutally dismembered in order to pave Garner Avenue, and it’s a pity. There are yellow ribbons ’round several old oak trees (the Scouts’ Biggest Tree award winners last year): 1004 Garner, by the driveway and on the side, and 1001 Garner, out back.
3) On the left is the honeymoon cottage that Grandpa Wright built for his son and daughter-in-law, though they never used it. A lot of Barton Heights homes are also multiple add-ons to very tiny, very old shacks. On the right is Grandpa Wright’s famous “the bus stops here.” There remain a few of his pecans and large mesquites, and a peach or two (on Peachtree Street). You’ll need to turn around on Wright Street.
4) At dusk you may spot some pet deer in this yard (1508 Norris), but only if you’re lucky. From here you can see all the way across Barton Creek–now you know why this neighborhood was named Barton Heights.
5) This circular rock water tank was once part of Grandpa Wright’s farm, although it was part of the Rabb estate even earlier. There was a climbable windmill next to the tank, good for a view of all of Austin, or so thought Joe Wright and friends. “We had to be really careful not to get hit by the windmill blades,” he admits. If only their parents had known. Now the tank is Ruby Ellis’s circular den, a utility payer’s dream, with 32-inch walls at the base. (A man who once stopped at her garage sale claimed to have chipped holes in the tank for front and back windows.) The house sits on a concrete slab, with hardwood floors and square-cut limestone interior walls. It also sits on an old well and underground cavern, which suddenly decided to belch black grit and “stale, hot air” into the living room one day.
6) Zilker school was surrounded by fields when it was built in the early fifties. After school let out each day, principal Hollis Sanders walked with the kids down a trail through tall Johnson grass to make sure the rattlesnakes didn’t get them.
7) The original Barton Springs Baptist Church was built in the 1860’s, but it burned around the turn of the century. The second church burned in the 1930’s. So this is the third church, standing guard over the old cemetery full of black souls. The original congregation of several hundred has dwindled to eight or ten folks. When they do meet, there is still much singing and hand-clapping.
8) Savannah Spence’s home (1609 Nash). One day Savannah looked across the street and saw a huge one-story building where a vacant lot had been. Later that day she looked out and saw a two-story building. The small motel units were also moved here.
9 and 10) This corner house and the white house next to Kinney Avenue Baptist Church are oldies, according to Mr. Edwards. A black reverend lived in the corner house, and though there were corn and cotton fields all around here, he worked picking cotton out on Brodie Lane, commuting to and fro in his brand-new Model T.
11) Home of Mr. A. E. Edwards, who seems to be kin to every remaining black family in the neighborhood, including Savannah Spence. Though 82 years old, he volunteers 60 hours a week at a senior citizens facility. His house was moved here from Camp Swift. Several other houses on Kinney Avenue are also imports.
12) Someone guessed (correctly) that Austin would soon grow to the south and west, but when the fire station was first built in 1949, it was right at the Austin city limits, and answered a lot of cat rescue and lost housekey calls. If it looks familiar, it has two identical sister stations on Windsor Road and Hancock Drive, built about the same time.
13) Alex’s house (1508 Oxford) is noticeably different from the other houses on the block. It was a “two-room shack with plumbing out back” when first built. Small native plums still grace the front sidewalk.
14) This little one-story rock building is Mr. Smith’s Barton Heights Gro., circa 1959. The first of the help-yourself groceries around here, it offered a charge account for neighbors–’til Handy Andy opened at Lamar Plaza and killed all competition.
15) Treadwell has its share of old-timer houses, too.
16) Does it seem like this historic home is facing the wrong way? Actually it’s the rest of the neighborhood that’s cockeyed. The original lot extended east to Kinney Avenue before the neighborhood was subdivided. The house was built from Oak Hill cut stone, at a cost of $1155. The Greek-style columns and porch were added later. The present owner painted the stone house white “because it’s prettier, and I like it.” Can’t you just picture the home’s first family pulling up in their carriage?
17) This big house is grandaddy of them all, dating from 1861, when a member of the Kinney family had it built as a farmhouse. The smaller structure on the left is even older. Dr. Lund, a UT marine biologist, gutted the house in 1940, preparing to tear it down, but the war forced him to remodel instead. The interior now boasts stucco walls, beautiful inlaid tiles, and elaborate wrought iron work. You can catch a bit of the out-back view on the right side, where the original front entrance (no doubt a buggy drive) was. Would you like to have this house for your very own? It’s for sale. But if you forgot your checkbook, just say adios and end your Barton Heights tour.
18) Turn right at Dexter (Lund) and you can coast all the way to Barton Springs and Zilker Park, but this is not a hill for the faint of heart or the bad of brakes. If your insurance premiums are paid up, go for it. It’s a lot more fun than the climb back up!