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Arroyo Seco means “dry creek” in Spanish. The term also refers to an intermittently dry creek — a good description of the waterway through our area today. Many neighbors still call this waterway Arroyo Seco (or Seca). On the United States Geological Survey Austin East map, it’s Hancock Creek. On City of Austin and Federal Emergency Management Agency documents and maps, it’s the Hancock Branch of Shoal Creek.
By 1945, at the end of World War II, most of the area that became Brentwood and Crestview was outside the Austin city limits, primarily farmland with few trees. (More about the neighborhoods’ boundaries, below.) As veterans returned home, married, and began to raise families, the two neighborhoods began to be developed in earnest as part of Austin, but the unpaved streets and swampy areas near Hancock Creek were challenging for builders and early residents.
In 1951, Al Kirby and his family moved to a brand new house on Payne Avenue in Brentwood. In the video clip below, Al talks about Arroyo Seco and an adventure they had one night on the way home from the drive-in.
So, it became imperative to dig a deeper channel for the waterway, to alleviate the poor drainage near the creek. This also created more usable land to build homes for the young families moving to the two neighborhoods.
Longtime Crestview resident Beverly Lester remembers that her father, C. H. Lester (at far left in the photo) helped “build the arroyo.” He owned the C. H. Lester Construction Company and was a dirt excavator.
(Read more about Beverly’s son, juggler “Red Ryder” Schwartz, here.)
If you’ve lived here a while, you’ve probably noticed there is no 1600 block on some streets in Brentwood and Crestview. It appears to be because of the way the creek meanders through the area and how the streets originally were numbered. Addresses on these streets jump from the 1500s to the 1700s, which can be confusing for anyone coming here for the first time.
(For anyone not familiar with the neighborhood, Brentwood and Crestview are between Lamar Boulevard and Burnet Road, with Crestview from Anderson Lane to Justin Lane, including property on the south side of Justin between Hardy and Reese, and Brentwood from property on the north side of Dwyce Drive down to West 45th Street.)
Coming Monday, 9/26/11: Hancock Creek/Arroyo Seco, Part 3—Is it Arroyo Seco or Arroyo Seca?