Highland Park West / Balcones Area Neighborhood History Article: David Barrow – Developer of Balcones Park

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Highland Park West / Balcones Area Neighborhood History Article: David Barrow – Developer of Balcones Park

This is the 11th in a series of articles about the history of our great neighborhood.

Having now spent a few months on Highland Park West, I am shifting my attention a little south in the neighborhood to Balcones Park.  You can look at my blog for the map which shows the various subdivisions and the precise boundaries, but this month I will focus on the developer: Mr. David Barrow.

David Barrow was born to Thomas Heskew and Sarah (Graves) Barrow in Manor in 1896.  Thomas was born in 1862 in Openshaw, England, and came to the US in 1871.  He married Sarah in 1884, and they moved to Austin in 1908 from Waxahachie, and he was involved in insurance and real estate.

David was one of seven children in a family prone to remarkable achievements.  Two of David’s brothers, Edward and Thomas, were close associates of Gus Wortham and intimately involved in the founding and growth of American General Insurance (what is today known as “AIG”).  Another brother, Leonidas (L. T.), worked for Humble Oil, starting as a field geologist in 1924 and eventually advancing in the company to become Chairman of the Board in 1948.[1]

David himself was an accomplished athlete and leader from an early age.  In 1914, he led Austin High School to the state championship as quarterback.  Later, he played baseball for the University of Texas.  He married Nelle Barrow in 1925, and they had one child: David Barrow, Jr. in 1931 (who would go on to become an accomplished architect in Austin).

David started out his professional career as a railroad clerk before going on to work in the Texas Insurance Department where he made his way up to chief examiner.  He developed a reputation for high standards and integrity and later opened his own company in Austin.[2]  It was through this work that he became interested in land purchase, and circumstances led to an exciting new endeavor as a developer.

Mr. Barrow was also an active member of his community, serving as a member of the Austin City Planning Commission from 1956 to 1968, and as chairman for the last eight years of that service.  He also served on the committee on Natural Resources and Environmental Quality (appointed by the Austin City Council), served as a director of the Austin National Bank for many years, and was a director of the Natural Science Center of Austin.  Lastly, he was a member of University Baptist Church from 1909 to his death in 1980.[3]

Mr. Barrow was also an avid collector of Native American artifacts.  He was well-known for his knowledge and extensive collection, which included thousands of artifacts from arrowheads and spear tips to pottery and tools, discovered in the hills of Austin during the development of Balcones Park and later Northwest Hills.  He later donated over 4,000 pieces to the East Baptist University in Marshall, TX.

[1] https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbabj
[2] Gus Wortham: Portrait of a Leader, by Fran Dressman, p. 125, Texas A&M University Press, https://books.google.com/books?id=BllXIU8q90gC&pg=PA125&lpg=PA125&dq=gus+wortham+and+edward+and+tom+barrow&source=bl&ots=JL0p3F95r8&sig=OB0xYJ0vOYHmJNmodOFSzIa4vqE&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwizsfDS0bvKAhVGl4MKHVGqBb8Q6AEIHDAA#v=onepage&q=gus%20wortham%20and%20edward%20and%20tom%20barrow&f=false
[3] “Realtors Honor David Barrow”, The Austin Statesman (1921-1973); May 23, 1972; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Austin American Statesman pg. 19
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