Old West Austin Historic District Records
An Inventory of the Collection
The Old West Austin Historic District covers approximately 106 blocks of residential development and park land distributed across a plateau west of Austin's central business district. The area is comprised of three major suburbs, Enfield, Pemberton Heights, and Bryker Woods and was all originally part of the George W. Spear League. When the league was divided, the Pease family's Woodlawn plantation and farmland John Woods Harris owned encompassed the greater portion of the parceling. There were a few houses in the district built before the turn of the century but the majority of the area contains a collection of early- to mid-twentieth-century residences that evoke the measured spread of suburban development that paralleled the city's steady growth. Houses in the district reflect architectural styles popular from the mid-19th through mid-20th centuries. Architect-designed dwellings coexist with more modest vernacular dwellings and the collection includes period revival residences, bungalows, cottages, and apartments. More information about the Old West Austin Historic District can be found at http://www.owahd.org.
The impetus to create a Historic District in West Austin began in 2000 when the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) announced plans to widen and add access roads to the portion of MoPac in central Austin; they also planned "spaghetti bowl"-type crossovers at Enfield and 38th Sts. Additionally, they planned to demolish another 100 homes from Enfield, Pemberton and Bryker Woods along MoPac to accomplish the widening (60 homes had already been torn down in that same area to build MoPac in the 1970's). In the fall of 2000 Candace Volz (Pemberton resident) undertook the project with the help of another volunteer, Laurie Virkstsis, who lives in Enfield. They trained approximately 70 neighborhood volunteers to survey the proposed District which included photographing and filling in a survey sheet for each house. In addition they solicited donations for the effort and eventually were able to contract with two architectural historians to prepare the nomination. One, Ralph Newlan, decided which were "contributing" houses and which were not; he reviewed all of the survey sheets and used those to create the annotated list of all properties in the District. The other architectural historian, Amy Dase, wrote the narrative history of the District. Volz and Virkstsis ultimately raised $55,000 to pay the expenses of creating the District. The Old West Austin Historic District in Austin was accepted into the National Register of Historic Places in late 2003. At the time the District consisted of 1574 contributing properties.
Over half of the collection consists of historical site forms (survey sheets) for each of the contributing properties to the application. The District was broken out into separate zones and volunteers surveyed the properties noting construction, type of plan, foundation and exterior wall materials, porch details, type of windows, roof type and materials, chimney materials, number and type of outbuildings and landscape features. Survey sheets are foldered by zone and each folder includes a map of the zone and a list of the addresses in the zone that also includes owner name and the date the property was first taxed. Digital versions of over 1500 photographs representing most of the participating properties are available on CD and at I:\Archives\Archival Collections\AR.2007.003 (internal use only). A spreadsheet that identifies each photograph and links it to the corresponding survey sheet is also available in both locations. Contact sheets and negatives of photo re-takes are also included, as well as photocopies of the images used to support the application for historic designation.
In addition to the survey sheets there are research files compiled by Amy Dase of Prewitt & Associates, Inc. pertaining to the neighborhoods of Enfield, Bryker Woods and Pemberton Heights. The majority of the research materials are from the Austin History Center collection with a small portion solicited from individual members of the Old West Austin Historic District organization. The materials include newspaper clippings, correspondence, advertisements, city reports, maps, student papers, neighborhood plans, bibliographies, abstracts of title, magazine articles, and excerpts from books ranging in date from 1915 to 2001. These files detail how the neighborhoods developed and provide information about the people who lived there.
Also included are plat maps of the area (3 folders of 9x11 photocopies and 9 oversized copies) as well as oversized maps outlining the proposed district in November of 2000 and the final version of the Old West Austin Historic District plotted in July of 2003. The final map of the District has the contributing structures and the parkland designated as well as the boundaries clearly marked. In addition there is a transparent overlay with the zones used to divide the District for the survey. Although the overlay isn't a perfect match for the proposed district map it is close enough to determine the zone for a particular address.
Restrictions on Access
Open to all users.
Restrictions on Use
Old West Austin National Register Historic District Records (AR.2007.003). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: DO/1986/002
Donation Date: 2007
The research files were originally housed in a 3-ring binder. The material was removed and kept in the original alphabetic order.
The 35mm negatives of the participating properties were loaned to the Austin History Center in the Spring of 2010 and scanned by the photo archivist. The negatives were returned to the donor.
Finding aid created and encoded by Molly Hults/2010.
Detailed Description of the Collection