Highland Park West / Balcones Area Neighborhood History Article: Happy New Year!

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Highland Park West / Balcones Area Neighborhood History Article: Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!  I hope that 2024 will be a great year for all of us!  I’ve really enjoyed writing these history articles and appreciate the positive feedback I have received.  I just wanted to kick-off this year by briefly introducing myself and then telling you a bit about what I’ll focus on from here.

My name is Trey McWhorter and I live at 3405 Perry Lane.  Do say hello if you are walking by and see me, and please don’t judge me by my yard… it was a hot, dry summer and it will be a long recovery.  My wife, Sarah, and I have two kids – our son is a freshman in high school and our daughter is a sophomore at UT-Austin.  We’ve been in the ‘hood since 2009.

I’ve loved this area since I was a student at UT back in the early 90’s.  I was out driving around and exploring the city and happened to turn down Balcones Dr.  I was awestruck by the winding road through the hills, cool houses on huge lots, beautiful trees and spectacular views.  Such a unique and special area of Austin… it felt like some secret world.

One of the first classes I took at UT in 1990 was an “Introduction to Architecture” class taught by Larry Speck.  I fell in love with the mid-century modernist aesthetic and the designs of architects like Mies van der Rohe, Richard Neutra, Philip Johnson and of course Frank Lloyd Wright.  I didn’t become an architect, but that class inspired in me a love for architecture which I still pursue today as a realtor with Moreland Properties.

In 2009, Sarah and I were looking for a home and I quickly developed an appreciation for the great number of exceptional mid-century modern designs here.  And a few things started to click for me… the UT School of Architecture was producing great architects, many of whom designed homes in our neighborhood and lived here, too, and this amazing period of innovation was happening right at the time that our area was being developed.

So last year I wrote about the various subdivisions that compose the HPWBA neighborhood, when they were developed, and the men that developed them.  And I’ve tried to cover some of the major attractions in the area: Camp Mabry, Bright Leaf Preserve, the Highland Park West Shopping Center.

But now I want to turn to the architecture in our neighborhood and the architects behind these incredible designs.  I’m going to kick things off next month with some background on the UT School of Architecture and then jump into the architects and the amazing homes they designed here… thankfully there are many that are still standing and have been lovingly restored.  You’ve probably noticed and admired a few of them, so I think you will enjoy the next few articles.  I’ve got stories!

Austin and UT Skyline, 1964 (from Mount Bonnell)Item # AS-64-47813A, Austin American-Statesman Photographic Morgue (AR.2014.039). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas

For reference, here is a recent image taken from a similar spot at Mount Bonnell to see how the skyline has changed:

Austin and UT Skyline, 2023 (from Mount Bonnell) – by Trey McWhorter from Mount Bonnell, September 2023

Many more buildings, of course, but also do you see the difference in the UT stadium?  And I see a water tower that may be on the grounds of the Austin State Supported Living Center at the intersection of Exposition and 35th St (you can see it just below and to the right of the Capitol building in the 1964 photo).  Right-of-center and just below the horizon line you can also see what I believe is the roof-line of the All Faiths Chapel at the Austin State Supported Living Center.

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