Austin Neighborhood Profiles : Travis Heights

By: Dane

Lying just west of IH-35 and south of Riverside Drive is one of Austin's most appealing neighborhoods, Travis Heights. Its rolling hills and winding roads have long been a haven for a diverse culture, with a mixture of housing to match: perfectly kept bungalows, a few large estates and smattering of shabby cottages.

Housing in South Austin began later than other centrally located neighborhoods due to difficulty getting supplies across the Colorado river. Once a stone pier bridge was built on Congress avenue in 1883, the area began to flourish.

General William Harwood Stacy, along with partner Charles Newning, began the Travis Heights development in 1913. Newning had some luck in developing Victorian homes on large lots south of the river before the turn of the century with his development known as Fair View Park, but Travis Heights was the most promoted subdivision of its time. Stacy set up the area with grid streets, and curvy roads, and a variety of lot sizes to maximize his potential buyer pool. He also set up a trolley car to run clients from the capitol building to Travis Heights before it was even developed, and gave away Ford Touring cars as well.

Stacy dedicated an area along Blunn Creek, and cliffs that drop down to Town Lake, to be set aside as public park land. Later Stacy's sons added more land to the area, and it's now known as Stacy Park, and still very popular today with Travis Heights residents who take good care of the land set aside for them.

Today many of the original houses from Stacy's development still stand, as well as some from Newning's earlier turn of the century push. Some houses, such as the Gullet House and the Red-Purcell house built in 1885, have been deemed historic landmarks by the city of Austin. The Miller-Crocket house was originally built by Newning for Henry W. Dodge in 1888, and was purchased in 1901 by Eugene Miller at a courthouse auction for $1,800. Currently the two-story slat roofed house is owned by Kathleen Mooney and run as the Miller-Crockett Bed and Breakfast.

Mary and Joe Lawrence purchased the 1914 house owned by Joe Steiner, whose brother Buck owned the land Steiner Ranch sits on now. Steiner was long cared for by Sister Madeline Sophie Weber, who began the nonprofit Faith in Action Caregivers. Steiner left Weber the house after his death, wanting the profit from its sale to go towards the nonprofit's cause. The Lawrences bought the home from 'Sister Sophie' and saved the classic revival style house, and its carriage house in the back, that had fallen in disrepair, and reused as much of the building material as possible, with its original Doric columns and pilasters still intact.

Travis Heights continues to draw homeowners to the neighborhood with its winding streets, rolling hills and large trees. Its close proximity to downtown, IH-35, and the newly revamped South Congress shops, clubs and eateries also make it a desirable area to live. Others enjoy the diversity of the people in the neighborhood, since the crowd is a mix of families, downtown business professionals, artists, and musicians, all of whom feel a strong sense of community. The neighbors recently took initiative and put on a concert in Stacy Park to raise money for the pool there. As WH Stacy stated in his original Travis Heights newspaper advertisement, 'It's a real residence community. One with a soul; the realization of a purpose, where homes are homes, not mere houses."

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