Rollickin’ Rodeo History of the Steiner Ranch Neighborhood

Can you hear the crackle of the campfire? See the ranch hands eating their biscuits, eggs and refried beans? Can you feel the nearness of cattle, hear the snort of horses? That’s right: the popular master-planned Steiner Ranch neighborhood’s unique origin is that of a true working ranch where real rodeo cowboys raised calves and foals, while horses and bulls ranged — and often bucked.

When you look across the sweeping vistas of the Steiner Ranch neighborhood, you might be enchanted with the breathtaking views of Lake Austin and the Hill Country, the elegant well-appointed homes or the many luxurious resort-style amenities. But just for a moment, step back in time to 1899, when downtown Austin was a day’s horseback ride away and crossing the Colorado River could be a life-threatening adventure.

T.C. “Buck” Steiner, Big Daddy of the Family

Until the mid-1980s, the land that is now Steiner Ranch was a working cattle ranch. T.C. “Buck” Steiner Texas was a cowboy and big daddy of several family–run businesses, and is perhaps best remembered for his favorite enterprise, Capitol Saddlery, a legendary downtown Austin institution. (The saddle shop still operates, now on Research Boulevard.) Until he died at 101 in 2001, Buck Steiner often worked behind the Saddlery’s counter, selling merchandise directly to customers, as well as through Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs.

Charlie Dunn’s Boots and the Famous Feet That Wore Them

Capitol Saddlery provided saddles and tack to many local horse owners, but was especially noted for the perfectly crafted original designs of famed bootmaker Charlie Dunn. From 1945 until he retired in 1973, both regular and fancy folks clamored for Dunn’s boots from the Capitol Saddlery. Customers included Gene Autry, Harry Belafonte, Rusty Weir, Carole King, Jerry Jeff Walker, Ernest Tubb, J. Frank Dobie and Peter Fonda. (An interesting sidebar:  the original Capitol Saddlery building, site of the first permanent fire station in Austin, is now an ultra-chic private residence.)

A man of many talents, Buck used money he earned on the rodeo circuit to buy the original 5,200 acres that comprised Steiner Ranch and founded the Steiner Rodeo Company.

The Steiner Cowboys

Son Tommy Steiner assumed operation of the rodeo company in the 1940s. In fact, the family has continued to cherish and maintain the rodeo cowboy legacy: grandson Bobby earned World Champion Bull Rider in 1973, while Sid wrestled his way to the top in 2002, winning World Champion Steer Wrestler. Both remain involved in the family cattle business. Entertainment didn’t end with rodeo: In 2002 grandson Tommy Shane hit #2 on the country music charts with his song, “What If She’s An Angel?” These days you can view some of Buck’s saddles and rodeo memorabilia on display at the Steiner Ranch Steakhouse. And of course, many of the saddles are still hard at work on the backs of countless horses throughout Texas.

Buck’s wealth allowed him to accumulate many parcels of property, but surely Steiner Ranch was the crown jewel. Home to a family, its heritage, and livestock marked with the “XS” brand, the “land between the lakes” also offered sanctuary for the wild horses that Buck rescued from destruction.

Steiner Ranch Leaves the Family

Recognizing its potential when he purchased Steiner Ranch in the late 1980s, real estate developer Al Hughes initiated construction on Mesa North, Chaparral and Plateau. The first houses were built in 1988, and street names in those sections honor famous Texas Rangers. In 1989, the John Simpson Community Center opened for the few residents who chose to live there and share the acreage with cattle that still roamed the range. Into the nineties, development faltered as a result of that era’s dismal real estate market. But in 1992, along came visionary developer Gerald Kucera and his partners at MK Development, Inc., who purchased Steiner Ranch out of bankruptcy.

And then it happened: from that point onward, the only direction for Steiner Ranch was up. Explosive growth of new neighborhoods led to the opening in 1996 of Steiner Ranch Elementary School. In 1999, Steiner Ranch Lake Club opened, christening more good times for the community. And when the University of Texas Golf Club opened in 2003, one thing became clear: Steiner Ranch was more than a beautiful setting for a home — it was a full lifestyle experience.

The Blossoming of Steiner Ranch

Since Taylor Woodrow bought Steiner Ranch in 2000, neighborhood growth and development has increased rapidly, while community amenities like roads and recreation centers have expanded to support residents and their active lifestyles. Today Steiner Ranch boasts three community centers, along with the Steiner Ranch Lake Club and the UT Golf Club. Three Exemplary-ranked elementary schools lie within the borders of the community, as well as numerous restaurants, a fitness center and other service-based businesses. Fittingly, 20 miles of walking and biking trails amidst breathtaking natural beauty keep the spirit of the founders and their close commitment to the land alive and well for future generations to enjoy.