Neighborhood Treasures

Hyde Park is known for its rich history and architecture. Among its many historic structures are several treasures that are unique or rare in the city of Austin: the Elisabet Ney Museum, a historic fire station, a moonlight tower, Shipe Park and Pool, and Avenue B Grocery & Market.

Elisabet Ney Museum

The Elisabet Ney Museum is the former studio and home of 19th century sculptor Elisabet Ney (1833-1907) and houses the portrait collection she created. The museum offers a range of educational programs, exhibits, special events, workshops, and lectures throughout the year.

At the turn of the 19th century, Ney’s studio, which she designed, became a gathering place for influential Texans drawn to “Miss Ney” and to the stimulating discussions of politics, art, and philosophy that took place there.  Following Ney’s death in 1907, her friends preserved the studio and its contents as the Elisabet Ney Museum and established the Texas Fine Arts Association dedicated to her memory.

The Elisabet Ney Museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a member of the Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It is an Austin Historic Landmark, a Texas Historic Landmark, and a State Archaeological Landmark. Unless otherwise indicated, the portraits and personal memorabilia in the Elisabet Ney Museum form the Elisabet Ney Collection of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center of the University of Texas at Austin.

The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 5 pm and closed on Monday and Tuesday.  Additional information is posted on the City of Austin website.

Fire Station #9

Austin Fire Station #9, at 4301 Speedway, officially opened on August 1, 1929. Its distinctive Tudor Revival architecture, exemplified in the half-timbering of its gambrel roof, qualify it as an Austin Historic Landmark and a contributing structure in the Hyde Park Local Historic District.

However, the significance of the fire station to Hyde Park far transcends its architecture. In 1969, the city had selected it for closing. Led by Dorothy Richter, Hyde Parkers united to save it. A few years later, in 1975, they had to repeat the process.

The salvation of the fire station is celebrated yearly by Hyde Park at its Fire Station Festival.  In 2012, neighbors contributed to fund a plaque mounted on the front of the station to honor Dorothy Richter, known as the Mayor of Hyde Park, for her work saving the station.

Moonlight Tower

Once a feature of numerous cities throughout the United States and Europe, moonlight towers now remain only in Austin, Texas. Hyde Park’s moonlight tower, at Speedway and 41st Street, was the first to be lit, in May 1895, reportedly powered by the energy from Monroe Shipe’s own generator. The towers, standing 150 feet tall, originally had carbon vapor arc lights, but over time their technology changed, first to incandescent lights (1925), then to mercury vapor lamps (1936), and finally to today’s metal-halide bulbs.

Some writers have speculated that the desire for nighttime illumination in Austin resulted from Austin’s notorious serial killer, the Servant Girl Annihilator, but the towers didn’t appear until 10 years after the last Annihilator killings. At the time the towers were installed, many Austinites were wary of the effects of nighttime illumination: they feared the light would lead to giant vegetables and chickens who laid eggs 24 hours a day.  Austin’s moonlight towers received national recognition with the release of Richard Linklater’s 1993 movie, Dazed and Confused.

For more information about Austin’s moonlight towers – their history and locations – see Not Even Past and the City of Austin – Austin History Center.

 

Shipe Park and Pool

Originally known as the Hyde Park Playground, Shipe Park was given its current name in 1928, four years after the death of Hyde Park founder Col. Monroe Shipe.  Its log cabin structure dates from 1935. During its existence, Shipe Park has served as a social center for Hyde Park. According to Sarah and Thad Sitton (Austin’s Hyde Park … the first 50 years: 1891-1941, Pecan Press Publications, 1991, page 80-81), at least as early as 1928, there were summer sports and recreation programs at Shipe Park including such activities as swimming, baseball, folk dancing, games, and pet shows. More recently, The Friends of Shipe Park have provided a yearly Shipe Pool Party, with swimming and a movie, and the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association has provided an Ice Cream Social in the park during August.

Each spring, neighbors come together to give the park a yearly facelift on Austin’s annual It’s My Park Day.  Threats by the city to close the pool due to budget constraints and the pool’s age have rallied the neighborhood in its support. In 2014, the City of Austin committed to rebuilding the pool. That same year, the Friends of Shipe Park, in collaboration with Griffin School, finished the installation of a mosaic on the wall at the north end of the pool, a celebration of its importance to the Hyde Park community.

Avenue B Grocery & Market

Avenue B Grocery, at 4403 Avenue B, is Austin’s oldest continuously operating grocery store. Built in 1909, it began operations the following year under proprietor Marshall L. Johnson. According to Sarah and Thad Sitton (Austin’s Hyde Park … the first 50 years: 1891-1941, Pecan Press Publications, 1991, page 56), “There were several small grocery stores in Hyde Park. Most residents lived no more than one or two blocks from a store, making it easy to shop and carry groceries home.”

Today, under its tenth owner, Avenue B Grocery is the only remaining one of those small grocery stores. While it still sells groceries, it is known primarily for its home-style deli sandwiches and outdoor picnic tables.

Learn more about Avenue B Grocery & Market on their website.