Austin is a beautiful town with a storied past. Like most Texas towns, the neighborhoods in Austin have pretty straightforward names, but there are a few that have left Austinites puzzled. Never one to turn down a challenge, I set out to de-mystify some of them below.
In the early 1900s, 4 families of florists took up residence in the rich farm and dairy land we now know as Rosedale. These families and their quest to beautify their neighborhood have created a legacy that’s one of Austin’s coziest. Many trees and flowers were planted due to these committed citizens, and one notable plant, the Rosedale Arbor Vitae, a Texas hybrid of two similar plants, came to define the verdant neighborhood.
One of Austin’s most documented historical neighborhoods, Rosedale is filled with treasures that extend beyond its lovely foliage. From the performance-ready, beloved Ramsey Park to the modern, ever-crowded Uchiko, Rosedale reigns as one of the most desirable neighborhoods to live in Austin.
Bee Cave is a small city that was absorbed by the City of Austin as the blob like city center expanded over the years. As you would expect, the town got its name when an early settler walked into a cave filled with Mexican bees and shouted, “Hot Damn, these are some of the biggest Bee Caves I’ve ever seen.” A few years later, the post office registered under the name of Bee Cave, and people have been echoing that settler’s cries ever since.
As a gag in 2007, Bee Cave was listed as the world’s West Pole. Even with no geographical significance, the town took the name and ran with it. This glorious little neighborhood also hosts “Armadillo Day”, the Texan version of Groundhog Day. Each year, I can only guess they predict the continuing heat of a Texas “winter.”
A common sense name, like most Texas things, Deep Eddy was named for the large spring-filled whirlpool that formed near a large boulder in the Colorado River. A swimming hole of historic significance, the Deep Eddy Pool has served the Austin community for a century.
The entire neighborhood in which the pool resides is known as Deep Eddy to honor this unique landmark. With Deep Eddy Vodka making national waves with its Austin-inspired booze, the swimming hole’s humble beginnings have started to outstrip its availability. Be sure to bring cash and plan for parking!
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde… Park? Surprisingly, this area of Austin is named for an even more exciting character than the famed fictional one. Alright, so maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but Monroe Martin Shipe, a real estate entrepreneur in the 1890s, dreamed of creating a “White Only” Suburb just outside of Austin. He marketed the then far away plot of land as a shade covered paradise, and pioneered a streetcar system to allow Austin’s first commuters easy access to the city center. Hoping the name would evoke a sense of London’s class, he chose this name to embody the swanky ideals of Austin’s first true suburb.
His ploys largely failed, but did draw some compelling figures to the area. Most notable is famed sculptor Elisabet Ney, who built her stunning studio there as a cultural hub for early Austinites. The neighborhood’s charm has certainly not been lost on the relatively diverse group of students, professionals, artists, entrepreneurs, and yes, even hippies, who helped create one of the most pleasant and quintessential Austin neighborhoods over the years.
One the opposite end of the spectrum, we get Clarksville. A town named by Charles Clark in 1871 as a post-war settlement for freed slaves, Clarksville holds the title of being the oldest surviving freedomtown in the US.
In what you’ve come to expect of the history of Austin, Clarksville’s value soon caught the eyes of the white higher ups in the city. After the black community started feeling the pressure to resettle and resisted most of the city’s attempts to relocate them, the completion of the Mopac Expressway finally forced over 30 families to move.
However, the embroiled story of Clarksville does end on an arguably happier note. Clarksville residents were able to win some key funding to provide low-income options and preserve the community over the years. Combine that with several long standing local businesses and a commitment to the neighborhood, and eventually you get a Clarksville which launched the first ever Whole Foods, and a received a historical charter to boot.
Photo Credits: Rosedale Courtesy http://www.rosedalerambler.com
Hyde Park Courtesy http://aaroninaustintx.com
Clarksville Courtesy http://gjhlife.com
Deep Eddy Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Bee Cave Courtesy http://laketravislifestyle.com/
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