Old West Austin: A Bright Future Blossoms from a Storied Past
A retired gentleman strolls through the park and over to his favorite bench, a living memory of where he proposed to his wife 40 years ago. Recalling a time when the huge oak tree now looming over West Austin Park was just a small sapling, he says hello to a young couple bringing their golden retriever into the park’s off-leash area.
“My neighbor was right about this park; it’s gorgeous,” says the young woman as she takes a seat under the shade while her husband tosses a Frisbee for their dog to fetch. The elderly man nods in agreement, smiling. Sitting together, they chat about the neighborhood.
Just recently relocated here from California, she explains that her husband landed a director of marketing position for a new Austin-based start-up and that they chose this neighborhood because, in addition to loving the area’s vintage look and historical feel, it’s so conveniently close to his work.
“Not having to drive to work, being central and the quality of life make this place special,” says Stacey Cline who lives in the area and works for the South by Southwest Arts Festival. “It’s just so awesome here.”
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A Charming, Historical Neighborhood with Majestic Oaks
Tucked neatly beside the heart of downtown Austin and a short 20-minute drive from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, Old West Austin is comprised of three distinct historic districts: Old Enfield, Pemberton Heights and Bryker Woods.
Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003, Old West Austin was selected by The American Planning Association as one of the “Ten Great Neighborhoods in America” based on its preservation of the community’s character and diversity while supporting development and sustainability. This respect for the local history coupled with complementary modern designs and architectural innovations are two important factors in Old West Austin earning its prestigious reputation.
Taking a walk into any of the neighborhood’s lush parks, it’s easy to see how Old West Austin made the coveted list. For starters, the 600-year-old Treaty Oak standing on Baylor Street between West 5th and West 6th Street is the area’s most historical landmark as the site of the treaty signing between Stephen F. Austin, the city’s namesake, and local Indians. Regarded as North America’s most perfect tree specimen (until it was poisoned in the late 1980s), the still impressive Treaty Oak stands at only a third of its original size.
Beautiful Architecture and a Unique Development History
The neighborhood also features some of Texas’ most beautiful architecture, including Pemberton Castle and Judge Robert Lynn Batts’ House, designed by famed architect Raymond Everett in 1924 and occupied by the former congressman.
Original development in this historic neighborhood dates back to the 1860s, and construction, along with remodeling and updating, has continued on and off over the decades. As a result, homes in the area vary greatly in age, size, design and quality of construction. Most houses in the area range from comfortable 1,600-square-foot, 3-bedroom homes to sprawling Greek revival mansions with more than 10,000 square feet of living space.
“Our neighborhood has a unique development history,” says Paul Seals, chair of the Old West Austin Neighborhood Association and long-time Old West Austin resident. “We have significant diversity, not only architecturally, but also socially, economically and ethnically. We celebrate that diversity and prioritize the maintenance and enhancement of the character and quality of the neighborhood.”
Highly Regarded Schools, Locally Owned Businesses and Austin’s #1 Dog Park
In addition to its appeal to those who appreciate the local history, Old West Austin is a great place to receive a quality education. Students living in Old West Austin attend the highly regarded schools in the Austin Independent School District, including Casis and Mathews Elementary Schools, O. Henry Middle School and Austin High School.
Old West Austin is also known for its locally owned businesses, many of them on West Lynn. From retail stores and eclectic boutiques to iconic restaurants and popular coffee houses, there is an impressive selection of places to eat, drink and shop in the nearby area.
A paradise for dog lovers, the neighborhood’s West Austin Park is home to one of Austin’s few fully fenced off-leash areas for dogs. There’s also plenty for non-dog owners to enjoy at the park as well, with well-shaded picnic areas, a sparkling wading pool and a playground for the kids.
Over the years, as its skyline continues to reach ever higher, Austin has grown into a grand and thriving metropolis. As the city grows, each neighborhood contributes its personality and character to the unique Austin lifestyle. With a rare combination of historical significance and architectural integrity, Old West Austin adds its own distinctive charm to the diverse assortment of shopping, dining, entertainment and employment, all nearby and deeply nestled in the heart of the city.