In 1911, Booker T. Washington drew 5,000 to Austin park

On Sept. 29, 1911, the celebrated orator, author, educator and presidential advisor Booker T. Washington spoke to a very large crowd in Austin at Wooldridge Square. The founder of the Tuskegee Institute came at the invitation of the Rev. L.L. Campbell of St. John Orphanage and Ebenezer Baptist Church.

This 1894 file photo shows Booker T. Washington. AP Photo/Library of Congress

“He started his day at the St. John Orphanage,” said Ted Eubanks, an Austin certified interpretive planner and heritage interpreter. “There is a photo of him having breakfast there. He then visited both Huston and Tillotson colleges before speaking at Wooldridge Square in the evening. The Texas legislature had denied him permission to speak in the Capitol, so Mayor A.P. Wooldridge invited him to speak at the new park in Wooldridge Square instead.”

Newspaper reports put the size of the crowd of mostly African-Americans at 5,000, this at a time when the area’s population hovered around 35,000. To make a not too far-fetched comparison, that would be like attracting 286,000 citizens from our metro population of 2 million to hear a speech today. That would require a hall three times the size of Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium.

Introduced by the mayor, Washington, a proponent of racial conciliation, argued against the Great Migration of rural African-Americans to northern cities and urged blacks to remain in the South and especially on farms.

More problematic from an historical perspective, Washington had, in 1895, struck the unwritten “Atlanta Compromise” with white Southern leaders. In exchange for education and due process in law, blacks in the South would continue to work and bend to white political control and abjure social justice activism.

Washington’s ideas influenced Mayor Wooldridge and some Austin black leaders, Eubanks said, and, subsequently, helped shape the 1928 urban plan that led to a separate Negro District in East Austin, along with promised civic amenities, not always delivered. It of course also led to stricter segregation for decades and lingering inequities today.

On the 29th of this month, a smaller crowd is expected at Wooldridge Square for a 107th anniversary celebration of the big speech. Spectrum Theatre Company will recreate Washington’s speech and today’s leaders will add their thoughts before Eubanks gives a tour of the area around the square, including the site of the First (Colored) Baptist Church where the Austin History Center now sits. The event is backed by Downtown Austin Alliance, Friends of Wooldridge Square, Travis County Historical Commission and the Austin History Center.

“We will be not only talking about Washington the man, but we will also delve into the lost histories of Wooldridge Square, especially African-American histories,” said Eubanks, who has been working on a collaborative project about downtown history called Our Austin Story. “I could make the argument that Washington’s visit in 1911 represents one of the seminal events in Austin history. No only did the city respond in overwhelming numbers … Washington’s influence on city leaders, especially A.P. Wooldridge, can still be seen today.”

Get a rare look at H-E-B Austin Store No. 1

Readers can’t get enough updates about the early H-E-B stores in Austin.

When H-E-B renamed this small, ornate brick shop, a former Piggly Wiggly, as its “Store No. 1” in the mid-1940s it was at West Sixth and Colorado streets. You are looking south on Colorado. Contributed by Austin History Center

You might recall that two weeks ago, we located the first eight spots — two supermarkets and six grocery stores — in directory listings from the mid-1940s. Four of those stores had been purchased from the Piggly Wiggly chain in 1938 — hence the company’s current celebration of its 80th year in town — but the names did not change until 1945.

RELATED: We found the original eight H-E-B stores in Austin.

Brief silliness: Several readers remember being told as youths that H-E-B — owned by the Butt family — had actually merged with Piggly Wiggly. The new corporate name was to be “Wiggly Butt.”

Most recognized this as a joke rather than as business news.

Here’s the real news: Alert reader Kent Maysel sent us an image of the spot that H-E-B had designated as Austin’s “Store No. 1.” One of the former Piggly Wiggly shops, it stood at 117 W. Sixth St. on the southeast corner of Colorado and West Sixth streets.

It was gone by 1954, when the ultra-modern Starr Building, also known as the American National Bank Building, replaced the grocery store. This landmark was lovingly renovated in 2009-2010. It became the stylish “Mad Men” home of the McGarrah Jessee marketing agency.

Delighted with the discovery of the image, we sent out an appeal for personal memories of those original eight stores. Some readers firmly recalled the ones on East Sixth Street, East First Street and the supermarket in the TarryTown Center.

Yet “Store No. 1” received no such love.

Until we heard from May Smith. We had previously written about Smith’s experiences in the Austin Sunshine Camp in the 1930s, when it was run to help prevent tuberculosis.

PREVIOUSLY: Remembering Austin’s Sunshine TB camp.

“I happen to be one of the people who went to work at that first H-E-B on West Sixth Street,” May said. “I’m so happy you’ve found all the stores!”

No, this H-E-B was not in Austin

Reader Steven Swinnea spotted some contradictions in a H-E-B promotional piece, material taken from the grocery chain’s website, that ran in the American-Statesman earlier this summer. The image in the piece shows a streamlined supermarket, but the clues in the caption and in the markings on the photographic print do not match.

The information on the photographic print and the caption don’t match. Contributed by H-E-B

“The writing purports it to be ‘Austin #1, 18th & Austin,” Swinnea writes. “Where is 18th and Austin? Where would a supermarket fit on 18th — unless it was in the pre-Interstate-35 days?”

He also wonders how the pictured market could be “Austin No. 1,” since the accompanying text says that the earliest H-E-Bs here were elsewhere in town, including at least one on East Sixth Street.

In fact, H-E-B’s homepage reports that the company, founded in Kerrville, then based in Corpus Christi before it settled in San Antonio, purchased three Austin markets in 1938. Based on the car models in this image, the photo, also incorrectly identified on the H-E-B site, was taken in the late 1950s.

Also, several Texas cities do come with Austin streets, some named after the colonist, others after the road toward the state capital.

More Mysteries: Time travel to 1973 on the Drag.

We posted the mystery on three Facebook pages. Two readers solved the puzzle almost immediately, using different methods.

Sam Sargent located the surviving building at 18th and Austin in Waco. How did he find out?

“Googling ‘HEB Food Stores’ and ‘Austin’ to see what came up,” Sargent writes. “I just knew we didn’t have a building like that … in Austin.”

On another page, Donald Spradlin picked the same location.

“I worked through a Google Image Search and TinEye (a reverse image search tool) to get to old images of a close-up of the tower,” he writes, “and went backwards from there.”

Reader Gentry McLean found a KXXV.com article that says the Waco building opened in 1949. It’s now a Sedberry Furniture store.

Next week, we follow the subsequent online discussion about where those first three H-E-Bs, reportedly purchased from the Piggly Wiggly chain, were located in Austin.

From the photo vault: Summer fun at the lake in old Austin

So many readers liked our first foray into the old Austin photo vaults for memories of summer fun, we decided to dive in again. This time we look at the evolution of lake life.

A group of four women in a boat feed a flock of white ducks on a lake in Hyde Park. One could date this scene any time between 1890 and 1900. Austin History Center PICA 19797

The 1890s Hyde Park trolley development, Austin’s first specifically segregated subdivision, was built partially atop an old race track associated with the Texas State Fair. It included a lake and a pavilion approximately where Baker Elementary School later rose in 1911. These women dressed in their best to take in the watery oasis across Asylum Road from what was called the Texas State Lunatic Asylum.

Fish fry in 1921 at the dam, most likely on Lake McDonald, predecessor to Lake Austin. Jacob Fontaine Religious Museum via  Portal to Texas History

Picnics, barbecues and fish fries near cooling waterways were attractive ways to keep religious communities together socially on long Sundays. This photo includes: William Tears Sr., Rev. L.L. Hayes, Rev. and Mrs. J.E. Knox, Rev. and Mrs. Pius and their daughter Ruth Augusta, Sister Mollie Perry, Bualie Murphy and Lewis Mitchell.

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Water skiing on Lake Austin in the 1940s. At least we think it is Lake Austin in this William Hague Foster photo. Contributed by Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary via Portal to Texas History

Lake Austin was formed in 1939 when Tom Miller Dam impounded the Colorado River and replaced Lake McDonald, which dated to the 1890s. Long, serpentine and narrow, Lake Austin was protected from high winds by the surrounding hills and it was soon recognized as an ideal setting for water skiers. They share the lake now with kayakers, paddle boarders and other lake lovers.

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Fishing scene in the shallows of Lake Travis. No date. Austin History Center PICA 16753

When Lake Travis began to fill up in 1942 — it took a while — the flooded tributary creeks and hollows turned into excellent fishing waters, in part because of recently submerged vegetation. This image was taken for the Texas Highway Department, so was likely part of a campaign to lure tourists to the new lake. Roads were still pretty primitive, so communities like Lakeway and Lago Vista would have to wait.

People wading and floating in the water at Lake Austin Beach. No date. Austin History Center PICA 21752

I’m going to take a wild guess and say that this scene is where the Walsh Boat Landing now sits on Scenic Drive near Lake Austin Boulevard and Enfield Road. These days, residences rise on the hills in the background. Although this historical image is not dated, I’d guess the 1950s. During that decade, my family patronized a small recreational lake like this one on the Texas-Lousiana border, not far from our home in Shreveport.

In 1979, hard-living Oscar winner Broderick Crawford lit up St. Ed’s

Longtime photojournalist Robert Godwin has been going through his archives to rescue an abundance of Austin history.

This arresting image catches Hollywood actor Broderick Crawford, who won an Academy Award in 1949 for his role as populist politician Willie Stark in “All the King’s Men,” in half light.

“I remember wanting to move his drink,” Godwin says, “but thought I’d pull back a stub if I reached a hand towards it. It was about 9 or 10 in the morning and he finished his third Bloody Mary — that only had a splash of tomato juice — and then started on martinis that came in a tumbler instead of a martini glass! Never blinked or slurred a word while I was there.”

So why was hard-working, hard-living Crawford in town? He was best known at the time for the syndicated TV crime series, “Highway Patrol.” Yet he came to Austin in November 1979 to reprise his role in “Born Yesterday.” Almost 30 years earlier, in 1950, Crawford had played the bullying boyfriend of Judy Holliday in the film version.

In Austin, he worked with Mary Moody Northen Theatre founder Ed Mangum, who fertilized his budding Equity acting union program at St. Edward’s University with the stars of stage, screen and television. So Crawford joined the ranks of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Mercedes McCambridge and Sal Mineo as a guest star.

“During the 1950s, Crawford became known for his large appetite for food and alcohol,” writes actor, teacher and writer Ev Lunning, Jr. “He brought these appetites to Austin, along with his crusty personality.”

Lunning recently released “Stars over St. Edward’s: The SEU Theater Arts Program, 1962-1982,” a thorough and invaluable online resource published by the Munday Library.

Zelma Richardson, in charge of Crawford’s publicity appearances, was so put off by his brusqueness that she as Bill McMillan to accompany Crawford on one day’s publicity itinerary. When McMillan reported to the hotel, he found Crawford beginning his breakfast Bloody Mary. After each appearance and interview, Crawford suggested a stop at a tavern.”

The long day did not end well for McMillan.

Crawford’s co-star, Susan Loughran, remembered one of Crawford’s first evenings in Austin.
“He drank,” she says. “Tom Graves, who also drank, and Broderick and I went out to talk about the show. We went to — I don’t think it’s there anymore — there was a bar at the corner of Oltorf and Interstate 35 and it had a second story, and it was dark, and the reputation was that there were a lot of divorcees and it would be a good place to meet if you wanted to have an affair. And we went up there to have drinks.”
She recalls that Crawford ordered scotches on the rocks.
“Some manly drink — he was a very manly man, a big rumbling voice, and he wore this hat, a hat that he got from Bear Bryant,” Loughran says. “I probably had maybe two drinks but the bar bill was something like $150. You know, when drinks were maybe $2 apiece. … So that was my introduction to Broderick.”

 

1940-2018: Joe Lung of longtime Austin eatery family is dead at 77

Joe Lung, whose family operated popular Austin eateries for three generations, died of complications from a stroke at Hospice Austin’s Christopher House on Wednesday evening. He was 77.

Joe Lung’s family came to Austin in the 1880s. They owned a series of diners, restaurants and sandwich shops. Late in life, Lung welcomed visitors from around the world at the State Capitol gift shop. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

This is a developing story. Check back for details.

Unhappy twist: O. Henry’s Austin honeymoon cottage went up in flames

Reader Susan Wukasch writes: “I found an old paper from October 2016 and I read your Austin Found column about houses being moved, so I decided I’d ask you about the O. Henry House.”
As a child, Wukasch remembered being told that the famous author’s house had been moved from its original site to a place on Shoal Creek Boulevard, down the hill from Pemberton Heights and facing Lamar Boulevard where Gaston Avenue dead-ends.
This image was taken on April 28, 1949 by Neal Douglass of the O. Henry Honeymoon Cottage when it stood on East 11th Street, before it was moved to Gaston Avenue. Contributed by Austin History Center ND
“And I remember vividly driving with my family down Lamar one night — probably in the mid-to-late 1950’s — when we came upon this house in flames, with firetrucks around fighting the fire,” she writes. “We stopped and watched for awhile, I remember.”
Subsequently Wukasch, whose father was an architect with a fondness for preservation, heard that the remains of the house had been moved downtown and the home rebuilt.
“Your Austin Found column reported the house (in Brush Square) originally was downtown, not far from where it now stands, so I’m confused about why I thought it was placed for several years a significant distance north and west of that area before moving it back,” she writes. “You say the original move was carefully documented, leading me to wonder what I saw burning on the side of Lamar Boulevard all those years ago. Might my small-child self gotten the name of the house wrong?”
There’s no question that the O. Henry House, now a small museum, was moved to its present location in 1934, and that when O. Henry’s family lived in it, the house stood at 308 E. Fourth St., about a block away.
However Wukasch’s memory serves her well.
There was a second preserved O. Henry House, his Honeymoon Cottage, that stood in what was Wooten Park (Pease Park now) on Gaston Avenue. It was moved there from the 500 block of E. 11th Street.
The new neighbors didn’t like the idea of it being there, or the Heritage Society‘s plans to move the other O. Henry House there as well.
On Dec. 23, 1956, it went up in flames. It was actually the third fire reported at the house, each likely deliberately set. All that was left was two recently reinforced chimneys.
Historian Bonnie Tipton Wilson wrote a fine article on the conflagration entitled: “Somebody Around Here Wants to Start a Fire.”

New life for a 1939 Austin gem of an apartment building

Reader Elayne Lansford invited us to an unusual party, which turned into a time machine to the a personal past.

“It is about an old building at 1105 Nueces St., built in 1939, one of many examples of little apartment buildings in that time, offering ‘modern’ places for people to live rather than boarding houses,” Lansford wrote us. “These apartments were once all around the center of town, but now only a tiny handful survive in Austin.”

Elayne Lansford inherited the four-unit 1939 apartment building in downtown Austin from her uncle. She fixed it up. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

She had me at “1939.”

By the time I had arrived on a steamy Friday afternoon, a crowd had gathered outside the recently renovated four-unit brick apartment house. Lansford, dressed period attire, addressed a crowed that included Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, neighborhood organizer Ted Siff and project historian Terri Meyers.

RELATED: Ransom Williams farmstead unearthed.

“I call them the missing middle,” Meyers told me later about the 1930s and ’40s housing options in the downtown area for professional women. “They were not boarding houses or Victorians broken up into apartments. They were modern but with homey touches in a residential scale with revival styles. There were schools and jobs nearby and each unit probably went for $100 a month.”

A small crowd cheered the city and federal historic designations for the building on Nueces Street. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Lansford and Meyers worked with designer Tere O’Connell to bring it back to life. The city and federal governments have recognized the historic value of these once ordinary homes.

“My grandmother, a Jewish immigrant and widow who made her living as a landlady after the death of her husband, bought it in 1945 when she moved to Austin for my mother and uncle to attend the University of Texas,” Lansford says. “It was the height of modernity at that time, fully furnished, with full kitchens, wood floors, faux fireplaces, attic fans for cooling, and a shower and tub both in each apartment. It was largely untouched for 70 years, until I inherited it from my late uncle and decided to do a historical renovation of it.”

This four-unit apartment house on Nueces Street was built in 1939 for professional women. It has been restored and honored by the city and federal government. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Why did it serve as a time machine for me? My first grown-up apartments in the early 1970s were created in almost the same mold — same fixtures, same tiles, etc. — during the same period in Houston.

Time travel to 1973 Austin Artists Market on the Drag

Reader Sean Massey was going through a stack of family photos and found a series of undated black-and-white images related to his father, Austin counterculture jeweler Jerry Massey.

Two possibilities presented themselves right away, the what is now known as the open-air Austin Renaissance Market on the Drag, or possibly the City Wide Garage Sale at the since-demolished City Coliseum. The former seemed more likely, especially since the garage sale did not take off until 1977, and this outdoor scene looks very early ’70s. The checkered vest is a clue.

“It appears to be the 23rd Street Artists Market, if that’s the Tower in the background and the Union in front of it,” determined Sam Sargent right away on Facebook. “The building to the upper right should be on the Architecture Building. That’s my guess.”

Sargent had plenty of company on three Facebook pages where we subsequently posted the query: “Austin As It Used to Be,” “Old Austin Dives, Greasy Spoons, etc.,” and “Dazed and Confused/Keeping Our Austin Memories Alive with Its Rich History.”

Journalist and cultural historian Joe Nick Patoski pegged the date circa 1973. Laurence Eighner Hexamer agreed and pointed out the stripes on the pavement that defined the stalls.

“That would have happened about 1972,” Hexamer writes on “Old Austin Dives.” “I think we should see a scrap of the mural if it was there, but it won’t be until 1974. The customer looks familiar, but I cannot name him — note slightly flared pants. I don’t recognize the vendors at all.”

The picture attracted more than 50 comments and replies on “Dazed and Confused,” a good number devoted to the displayed watercolors by Walter Falk, who still has plenty of fans. Others detailed the history of the market, including its slight move away from the Drag proper in 1974, while still others wondered whether they had met up there more than 40 years ago.

The apparent presence of the high-rise Dobie Center in the upper right corner offers another dating clue since it opened in 1972.

“It’s pretty much where all the street venders have been for decades,” writes Gary Klusczinski on “Austin As It Used to Be.” I’d say the timeframe would be somewhere in the early seventies.

 

 

On 1911 Austin crime: ‘That murdered deputy sheriff was my grandfather’

These days, readers provide the lion’s share of material for Austin Found. Or at least they get the ball rolling.

Last month, we serialized the report of a 1911 double murder on West Monroe Street as reported in Ken Roberts‘ new book, “The Cedar Choppers: Life on the Edge of Nothing.” John Teague, son of a Hill Country clan, killed John Gest, owner of the Little South Austin Saloon, attempted to kill his bartender, Max Himmelreich, before heading west to the Balcones Escarpment. Around South First Street, he encountered Deputy Sheriff George Duncan (sometimes referred to as Lemuel). They wrestled and Teague killed Duncan as well. He received a 99-year sentence, yet less than 10 years later, Teague was released from prison.

RELATED: Double murder in 1911 did not merit much prison time.

Murdered Deputy Sheriff George Duncan. Contributed by Anna Galloway

Anna Galloway, who had worked with me on a story about the old rural community of Duval, which is now subsumed into North Austin off Duval Road, called to say: “That murdered deputy sheriff was my grandfather.”

“Of course you’ve heard the story that when Gov. Pa Ferguson was impeached, he asked for the names of 99 felons with 99-year sentences and pardoned them all,” Galloway relates about the extraordinarily corrupt politician. “John Teague was one of the 99.”

In fact, Teague was only on trial for the murder of Gest, since Himmelreich was a living witness. The authorities figured they had him.

Some 40 years later, Galloway says, one of Duncan’s five orphaned girls, Alta May Duncan, was working at Brackenridge when Teague was hospitalized. As a nurse, she was required to attend to the man who had murdered her father. She refused and was backed up by an upper supervisor who had the good sense to realize that Brack would be held liable if something fishy happened to Teague under her care.

Online records indicate that Teague died in May 1972.

RELATED: Best Texas books: “The Cedar Choppers” by Ken Roberts.

“The irony is that my great-grandmother made a decision soon after the funeral to move the widowed mother and her five girls to Hays County,” Galloway says. “They bought acreage with a lot of cedar trees. They built a charcoal kiln, chopped cedar and burned it in the kiln. Then they sacked charcoal which was brought into Austin and sold.”

In other words, they, too, became cedar choppers.