A Green History of Brentwood & Crestview

In recognition of the tenth anniversary of the Friends of Brentwood Park, a collaboration of Brentwood and Crestview volunteers founded in Summer 2009. Based on oral histories of neighbors and other research by Susan Burneson.

Somebody before us planted these trees, and it’s up to us to do the same, so there will be trees here for the next generation.
—Emily Wilson, Friends of Brentwood Park

A community is the heart and soul of a city.
—Hedrich Michaelsen, Friends of Brentwood Park

1914 • “On the north stretch rich farming lands that were once illimitable prairies. Westward is a chain of hills which make a beautiful purplish background for the intervening fields in various shades of green and gold.”
—Dr. John Preston, Superintendent, State Asylum (today’s Austin State Hospital, between Guadalupe and Lamar, south of West 45th St.), describes the land north and west of the hospital, where Brentwood and Crestview are today.

1927 • “The house where I’ve lived since 1967 is on land where I picked cotton when I was 10 years old, in 1927. Daddy would round up a truckload of kids and go out way past the city limits (45th Street at the time). We’d pick cotton on land owned by two old fellers whose names I don’t remember, but I recognized the area when we moved there. Back then, I could pick 150-200 pounds a day.”
—A 90-year-old neighbor who lived on Vallejo and was interviewed in 2007.

1936 • The Pease family, including daughter Mickey, moved to a 14-acre farm between what is now Burnet Lane and Hancock Creek (Arroyo Seco), before there was a Brentwood or Crestview. Frank Pease sold some of the land so that Brentwood Elementary could be built there; it opened in 1951. The family sold the rest in the late 1970s. Where the house once stood (approximately 6503 Burnet Lane) remains the only undeveloped lot on the street, and trees that Mickey planted 80 years ago are still standing.

1947 • Violet Crown Heights, a subdivision of Brentwood, was promoted as having a “beautiful view of the Violet Crown Hills,” west of today’s Mopac, since there were few trees here at the time.

1950 • Kay Ramsey’s family moved to 1406 Ruth Avenue, one of the first houses in the area. Her father, Gladstone Swenson, planted plum, pear, peach, and pecan trees; a large garden; and colorful flowers on the bare land. Gladstone also knew how to graft pecan trees. When the harvest was ready, he would hang a sign out front to let neighbors know he had pecans for sale. (Kay and her mother, Erna, left.)

March 6, 1950Mae Waggoner and her family moved to their new home on the south side of Justin Lane, where they raised their children and Mae lived until she died in 2018.

1951 • Brentwood Park, once a cornfield behind the Waggoners’ home, was acquired by the City of Austin, and Brentwood Elementary School opened. Neighbors, including the Waggoners, formed the Brentwood Recreation Club to help develop and maintain the park and school grounds. The City of Austin had no money for trees but offered to dig holes for them. The Waggoners dug up sycamores along Onion Creek, and they and other neighbors planted them in the park and helped care for them.

1952 • Early in the year, fifteen members of the Brentwood Recreation Club met to plan a May festival to help raise funds for playground equipment. On March 15, club members and the City of Austin planted 48 trees at Brentwood Park. The club also helped build the stage on the north side of Brentwood Elementary the next year. Longtime neighbors have said a bomb shelter was built beneath the stage, something common during the Cold War of the 1950s and 1960s.

1953 • After they moved into their Crestview home, Emory and Wanda Muehlbrad wanted trees for their yard but couldn’t afford to buy them, so they dug up young trees along Shoal Creek to plant there.

1954 • The Brentwood Recreation Club and the school’s PTA held their annual planting of trees at the school and park. Everyone was invited to “Bring your garden tools, and let’s make our school and park one of the most beautiful in town.”

1955 • Billie Herron and her family moved to their Crestview home. She said there were no trees, and from her house you could see the hills to the west (background, right). She planted a magnolia tree in her front yard. For more than 60 years, she cared for the majestic tree.

Early 1960s • A mature oak tree was slated for removal at Crestview Shopping Center on Woodrow Avenue. The tree and the grassy mall where it stood between the two buildings were in the way of a new parking lot being planned there. Maude Yates, wife of Crestview developer Ray Yates, was an avid gardener and longtime member of the Violet Crown Garden Club. She had the large tree moved, and today it provides welcome shade for outdoor seating at Little Deli (below). Maude and Ray (and later Maude’s grandson Craig Cherico) lived at 1313 Richcreek Road for many years.

Summer 1990 • Crestview Neighborhood Association began its annual tradition of holding an ice cream social in the shade of the large oak tree (left) near the Little Deli, in Crestview Shopping Center.

1992 • Brentwood and Crestview neighbors, through a project coordinated by the Brentwood Neighborhood Association and TreeFolks, planted 259 trees along Hancock Creek (Arroyo Seco), from Koenig Lane north to Justin Lane.

December 1994 • Brentwood neighbors began a luminaria project along the creek, in honor of the trees planted in 1992. Today, the project has expanded into Crestview and continues as an annual holiday event.

Mid-1990sMadi Ward was nine months old when she and her parents, Angie and Bob Ward, moved to Brentwood. Madi remembers: “There was a tree in our front yard, just about my height. So, the tree and I have grown up together, and I’ve always spent a lot of time climbing it.”

Early 2003 • As we planned the first spring Violet Crown Festival, a project of the nonprofit Violet Crown Community Works, we couldn’t imagine having it anywhere except Brentwood Park, where there’s plenty of shade and grassy areas. (Entrance to the Community Tent at the first festival, right. Sandra Miron built the entrance. Jean Graham designed the violet crown topped with trees. The Community Tent, at the first five festivals, featured neighborhood history and resources.) Since then, the spring festival has been held at the park or at Brentwood Elementary, except in 2011, when it was held at the Travis County Farmers’ Market between Burnet Road and Burnet Lane and south of Justin Lane, now the Marq on Burnet mixed-use development.

May 6, 2006 • Thunderstorms overnight preceded the fourth spring Violet Crown Festival, held in Brentwood Park. As we scrambled to set everything up and fill in puddles and low, soggy spots in the grass, Mae Waggoner, who lived on Justin Lane north of the park, walked up and offered us bags of mulch and her wagon to carry them from her garage to the park. From the time she and her family moved to Justin Lane in 1950 until she died in 2018, Mae was a regular visitor to Brentwood Park, visiting with neighbors and helping care for the trees.

March 26, 2008 • Jean Graham completed the mosaic Wall of Welcome (above), which features this quote by her: “Our neighborhood has roots and wings. Our feet are in the cotton [which once was grown here] and our heads are in the violet crown [a natural phenomenon which can occur in the western sky at sunset and can be seen from the neighborhood]. May the spirit live on.” The mosaic wall, at 7100 Woodrow Avenue at Crestview Shopping Center, was dedicated in a community celebration on March 29, 2008. The film A Community Mosaic premiered at the event.

April 2008 • Bill Williamson, who moved to Crestview in 1952, shared a story with neighbors about a tree and community spirit. A neighbor’s tree fell and blocked the street, and the city was slow to respond. Bill and others didn’t hesitate to pitch in. “We take care of our own in this neighborhood,” he told city workers who arrived after the street was cleared. We featured Bill in our first Voices of the Violet Crown blog post on July 5, 2011.

May 2008 • Neighbors interested in gardening and other green projects set up an online group (crestview-gardeners@googlegroups.com, still active today) to exchange information. They also began holding plant swaps and local garden tours.

November 1, 2008 • Dartmouth Avenue neighbors gathered to plant trees, shrubs, and vines along their street at the once-bare Crestview Baptist Church. Cheryl Goveia coordinated the project and has taken care of the plantings ever since. (The photo below was taken in 2014.)

January 12, 2009 • As part of a City of Austin/TreeFolks project, neighbors planted 98 trees along the median on St. Joseph and Morrow in Crestview, coordinated by Kat Correa, and along Northcross Drive in Allandale.

Spring 2009 • Emily Wilson began coordinating Crestview’s application to become a City of Austin Green Neighborhood. Among other projects, Emily and Hedrich Michaelsen looked into adopting our local park, one of the activities the city suggested to fulfill the program’s requirements.

Summer 2009Friends of Brentwood Park, “dedicated both to keeping the park maintained and to continuing its development as a community resource,” was founded, after Emily and Hedrich signed an Adopt-A-Park agreement with Austin Parks and Recreation Department. The original Leadership Team included Emily Wilson, Hedrich Michaelsen, Karen Lorenzini, Denman Glober Netherland, Elaine Dill, and Kat Correa.

September 2009 • John and Judy Carlson moved to their newly built home on Princeton Avenue in Crestview in the mid-1950s. When we interviewed them in 2009 for Voices of the Violet Crown, we asked them about the thriving plants that were everywhere. John, who grew up on a farm outside Georgetown, Texas, told us: “That comes from a love of farming. You look at a plant and see what it needs. My dad was a good farmer and taught us everything. He was my hero, and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. We didn’t own the land, though, so there was no way I could return to it after I served in World War II. I was a good farmer, and if I had owned the land I could have made a good living. I knew all the aspects of farming, and I had new ideas about how to do it.”

December 5, 2009 • Friends of Brentwood Park had its first workday in the park. The group has held regular workdays ever since, as part of the Austin Park Foundation’s It’s My Park Day. The citywide volunteer event is now held twice a year, in March and November.

January 3, 2010 • Karen Lorenzini coordinated the planting of young trees along Arroyo Seco north of Justin Lane, in Crestview. She also recruited volunteers to help care for them as they grew.

February 8, 2010 • Crestview officially became a Green Neighborhood. The documentation includes a history of Hancock Creek (Arroyo Seco), which runs through Crestview, Brentwood, Allandale, and Rosedale, where it joins Shoal Creek.

July 24, 2010Native plantings all around North Austin Fire Station #16, 7000 Reese Lane, were coordinated by Emily Wilson, based on a design by Cheryl Goveia and with the assistance of Elaine Dill and other neighbors. The project continued with regular workdays, including a mural painting on November 5, 2016.

October 3, 2010 • Sustainable Neighborhoods of North Central Austin, established in 2007 by Steven Zettner, held the first of its 11 tree plantings in the Brentwood-Crestview-Allandale area. By November 2014, volunteers had planted 170 trees and maintained them until they were established. Locations include Burnet Road, North Lamar, and near Lamar Middle School and McCallum High School.

November 6, 2010 • Friends of Brentwood Park, in conjunction with the Austin Parks Foundation and Austin Parks and Recreation Department, held a historic tree planting of 115 trees in the park (right), including 15 dedicated by neighbors in honor or in memory of someone special to them.

February 23, 2011 • A film about the November 2010 event, “We Planted 115 Trees,” by Rob and Susan Burneson, premiered at the Brentwood Neighborhood Association annual meeting. Interview clips with FOBP founders and other neighbors who participated in the event are featured in the film.

September 2011 • Friends of Brentwood Park completed a neighborhood survey and park master plan. As a result, the group planned and raised funds for a new park pavilion, coordinated by Kat Correa and dedicated May 5, 2012, and a new walking trail, completed in June 2013, and installation of a new drinking fountain, new backstop fencing, and six benches in 2014, all coordinated by Emily Wilson. A purple martin house was installed in the park on February 9, 2012 (and later moved to a better location). Since 2013, caretakers of the purple martin colony have included Emily Wilson, Elaine Dill, Denise Wolff, and Denise Dailey. (See also November 2016, below.)

Summer 2012 • Landscaped traffic medians were installed in Crestview, as part of a neighborhood-wide traffic calming project by the City of Austin. Emily Wilson helped coordinate volunteers to maintain them, and today neighbors have continued to care for them as needed.

2013 • Karen Lorenzini planted trees along Woodrow Avenue near Crestview Shopping Center (left). As they grow, the trees will provide welcome shade at the sunny bus stop. Dominique Levesque coordinated a tree planting along West St. Johns on the south side of the center.

April 2014 • The City of Austin Community Character in a Box for Crestview includes photographs of local landmarks, including its mature canopy of trees (Richcreek Road, below).

2014 • Lynnette Alley asked the City of Austin for permission to care for the median north of St. Johns at Arroyo Seco. The city decided to create the Adopt-a-Median Program, with Lynnette as its first participant.

January 27, 2016 • Friends of Brentwood Park added information about the park’s memorial trees, benches, and purple martin house to its website.

Summer 2016 • The Pour House Pub reopened as part of the Burnet Marketplace mixed-use development (now the Marq on Burnet), replacing what once was Travis County Farmers’ Market between Burnet Road and Burnet Lane and south of Justin. The developers preserved a large tree in the northwest corner of the property, which shades outdoor seating at the pub.

November 2016 • A Friends of Brentwood Park subcommittee, coordinated by Nancy Barnard, began meeting to plan Brentwood Park playground improvements, another result of the FOBP neighborhood survey and park master plan. (See September 2011, above.) In 2018, the group received a $50,000 grant from the Austin Parks Foundation and continues to raise funds from donations and proceeds of the local Violet Crown Festival and Oktoberfest. In 2019, the subcommittee is working with the Austin Parks and Recreation Department to finalize the first phase of the project.

April 30, 2017 • Billie Herron’s majestic magnolia tree, planted in the mid-1950s, unexpectedly fell on a quiet Sunday morning, narrowly missing a house, car, and person working under it. Crestview neighbors quickly gathered to trim and clear limbs and brush, visit with Billie and give her a hug, clip and share remaining flowers (left), and be sure the tree was stabilized. The bulk of it rested on two massive elbow-like limbs until it could be cut down and cleared away later that day and the next.

November 15, 2018 • At the request of Preservation Austin, Voices of the Violet Crown researched the source of the name “Ryan” in Ryan Avenue and Ryan Planting Strip, in southeast Crestview. The street and park likely were named for George L. Ryan, who worked in the A. B. Beddow real estate agency at least from 1947 to 1949. A. B. Beddow and Ray Yates began developing Crestview, from Justin Lane north to Anderson Lane, in 1947. The Ryan Planting Strip, at less than a quarter of an acre, is one of Austin’s tiniest parks and is owned by the Austin Parks and Recreation Department.

Spring 2019 • Brentwood neighbor James Gavin created a film about the history and importance of Brentwood and Crestview’s canopy of trees, which he describes as “the roots of the community.”

A human community, if it is to last long, must exert a sort of centripetal force [moving toward the center], holding local soil and local memory in place. Practically speaking, human society has no work more important than this.
—Wendell Berry

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