The Zilker Neighborhood is bounded by Zilker Park, Robert E Lee Drive and Barton Skyway to the west and Lamar to the east. The northern boundary is Barton Springs Drive and the southern boundary is roughly La Casa street. The Zilker neighborhood is truly a microcosm of Austin history and culture.
The Zilker neighborhood has, in its time, been home to Tonkawa and Lipan Apache Indians, descendants of slaves, farmers, artists, politicians and musicians. The Zilker neighborhood combines people of all ages, races and classes. There you can find the blue-ribbon Zilker elementary school and the Barton Hills Assisted Living facility.
While Zilker has its contingent of young families and older residents, its primary population is probably best described as affluent bohemians. The Zilker neighborhood’s proximity to coffee houses, bars and local eateries on Barton Springs and Lamar, ACL and music events in Zilker Park and Lady Bird Lake hike and bike trail has made the neighborhood especially attractive to 30 and 40-somethings. Lamar Plaza to the east is a shopping area as “assorted” as the neighborhood including a new-age bookstore, an old-school beauty salon, a fabric store, movie house, bowling alley and cocktail bar.
Area school children attend the exemplary Zilker Elementary on Bluebonnet Lane; junior high follows at academically “acceptable” O. Henry Middle School and “recognized” Austin High School , located across the Lady Bird Lake. There is an active Neighborhood Association, an annual 4th of July Parade and a small dogs-off-leash park located at Little Zilker Park on Bluebonnet lane. This year will see the 10th annual Zilker Backyard Concert , a fundraiser for Zilker elementary which has featured local residents such as Alejandro Escovedo, Marsha Ball and Jimmy La Fave.
Zilker Park and Barton Springs define the laid-back mood of the neighborhood. In the 1830’s “Uncle Billy” Barton built a cabin at Spring Creek as it was called . Over time, and after a few scalpings by the displaced Native American residents, Barton Springs became the beloved public swimming and recreation site that it is today. In the mid- 1800’s, The Rabb family bought much of the land around the springs which hosted flour and saw mills, a quarry and a confederate soldier encampment during the civil war.
The Rabb family sold some of the land to Andrew Jackson Zilker who continued to improve the area, adding an ice house, bath house and pastures for his horses. In 1918 Zilker deeded the springs and surrounding thirty-five acres to the city. Zilker neighborhood architecture is reflective of this eclectic mix of by-gone days. Depression era homes from the 1930’s stand next to three-story, city houses designed by green, Austin builders .
The grandest Zilker home, at 1610 Virginia Avenue, is the “Old Kinney farm home” built in 1875. Cater Joseph, purchased the house from Gerard Kinney 50 years ago. Mid-century modern homes, by local, renegade builder A.D. Stenger, dot the western side of the neighborhood with his distinctive, rock and glass, angular dwellings. Streets in the neighborhood reflect the families that once lived there. Rabb road ran through the large Rabb Ranch. Goodrich and Wright streets are both named for original homesteaders. Arthur lane, on the bluff to the west of the neighborhood, is named after A.D. Stenger’s son.
Well known artists Charles and Ageline Umlauf bought and remodeled their Zilker home in 1941. In 1985, the Umlaufs donated their home, studio, and 168 Umlauf sculptures to the City of Austin. This 2.5 acre area is now known as the Umlauff Sculpture Garden and is located in the northwest corner of the neighborhood. Much of the southwestern side of the Zilker neighborhood (Barton heights) was an early African-American settlement.
The Barton Springs Baptist Church Cemetery is one of the first African-American cemeteries in Central Texas. It began in 1866 and some of the people buried there were born before 1840. In the 1940s, the original wooden building burned and was replaced by the cinder block one that stands today. The site was zoned historic by the City of Austin in 1993 (text from the historic marker). Some Zilker homes have downtown or park views. Lost Canyon is just east of Kinney Avenue. The canyon adds to the rural, peaceful , feeling of the neighborhood, although vagrants sometimes wander the canyon as do other wild creatures such as racoon, deer and possum.
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Based on information from the Austin Board of REALTORS® (alternatively, from ACTRIS) from June 26th, 2017 at 8:32pm CDT. Neither the Board nor ACTRIS guarantees or is in any way responsible for its accuracy. The Austin Board of REALTORS®, ACTRIS and their affiliates provide the MLS and all content therein "AS IS" and without any warranty, express or implied. Data maintained by the Board or ACTRIS may not reflect all real estate activity in the market.
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