Neighborhood Description and History
By Jackie Goodman
We’re here in, what for many years, was called “Far South Austin”, but is now more accurately “Mid-South Austin” and sometimes called “Central South Austin.” No matter what our geographical nomenclature is, “South” has always been our middle name. It was a connotation most recognized for south Austin rural roots & atmosphere, & we retain some of that country feel here, even now.
We are just east of the Edwards Aquifer’s eastern edge. We are in Council District 2, & Travis County District 4.
Our neighborhood was mostly developed bit by bit, by independent home builders who built out a few lots or a few streets at a time, on land bought & subdivided out of small family farms. If you look around, you’ll be able to see where land was cleared for farming & where landscaping trees were planted for those new houses. Developers also built around the existing stands of live oak & cedar trees, “weaving” their streets & houses around them.
Some of those farm names, like Huerta and Eberhart, might be recognized by Austin old-timers. The last of Reverend Eberhart’s land is, as he left it, an unusually large lot at the bend where Cooper Lane becomes Eberhart.
The last of our infill lots were developed rapidly when the migration from the north to the Sunbelt states began in earnest- when the “real estate boom” of the nineteen eighties brought so much developmental pressure to Austin.
We are something of a “quilt,” as the diversity of our street names illustrate: from Armadillo Road where our neighborhood park is, to exotic Gobi & Sahara Drive, to Turtle Creek with Odom Elementary, to Clubway, Cougar, Nancy, Prince Valiant & King Edward. Somehow all those individual pieces came together as an affordable neighborhood for present & future South Austinites.
Our neighborhood boundaries are Stassney Lane to the north, following the railroad tracks south to Matthews Lane up over the ridge of William Cannon Boulevard & looping back east along Cooper Lane to Prince Valiant & then to our eastern edge, South First Street.
The first neighbors here had to deal with a few too many hungry coyotes coming up a little too regularly over that ridge from the south, & there was a bounty on coyotes in place for a short time. Happily, the coyotes soon went on to better habitat, & the neighborhood has continued to enjoy a natural green space with less intimidating wildlife.
Turtle Creek, with it’s narrow but pleasant greenbelt, is a tributary of Williamson Creek, running parallel with our eastern boundary. The ridge greenbelt continues to provide a buffer from William Cannon as that developed out. Undeveloped property along Stassney, up-zoned to non residential , currently contributes to the open space ambience. but even when it’s developed, we also enjoy another extended greenbelt corridor along the railroad tracks, our western boundary.
Immediately west of that corridor is Crockett High, adjacent to Garrison Park on Manchaca Road. On the north side of Stassney was the old Skaggs-Albertson grocery store site. Our neighborhood worked with others to convince the ACC Board of Trustees that it should be the great ACC South Campus location it now is.
The little church on Armadillo & Emerald Forest designed a meditation garden that, with the old water tower, joins Armadillo Park to create a block long greenbelt buffer. The water tower was once a visual direction check for visitors coming down a small unlighted country road ~ South First Street ~ when we were “Far” South Austin.
It’s been said that the water tower was also the directional homing point for some others, during the Armadillo World Headquarters’ hey-day. They were out to ‘acquire’ the green “Armadillo Road” street sign. That particular sign was once the most often replaced street sign in Austin. It is always a surprise, for those who have lived in the neighborhood for a long time, to see a street sign actually attached to that post.
One of the first neighborhood associations created in this area, in the 1970s, was the Cooper Lane Neighborhood Association, as was an umbrella organization, Far South Community Organization. That was an umbrella group founded by Betty Edgemond to represent the broader family of South Austin neighbors that we were then, as other neighborhoods began to organize their associations. One of their first advocacy projects for Cooper Lane NA was to acquire the land for Armadillo Park. We were not successful in winning the City’s agreement for it until 1986 or so, in part because of the steep price of the two-acre parcel. As an indication of the times we were in, the land was considered appropriate for commercial use by the owner. Thus, the high price.
Finally able to convince the Parks Board, Planning Commission & City Council that a ‘priceless’ asset for our neighborhood was worth the $210,000, we gained Armadillo Park. PARD, though, is always cash strapped and extra funds for developing and maintaining parkland was hard to come by. And since PARD, at that time, did not support neighborhoods partnering on park work, the park stood undeveloped for many years.
In the mid 2000s, the group then known as the Woodhue Community Neighborhood Watch identified the undeveloped lot as a safety problem for the neighborhood. After some research they found out it was owned by PARD and they worked tirelessly to make it into a usable park – physically clearing the land, obtaining grant money for the park, and convincing the city to give it some attention. It’s appropriate that since Armadillo Park was one of the neighborhood’s first advocacy projects, we finish this history with the note that Armadillo Park has finally been designed, developed, finished. Now it’s ready for us, and others, to enjoy. Please visit and please respect it! It took over 30 years to get here!