Fiesta Gardens at Edward Rendon Sr. Metropolitan Park at Festival Beach was recently listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Noted for its historical significance, Fiesta Gardens joins other properties under the stewardship of the Austin Parks and Recreation Department system with National Register status.
Opened to the public in 1966, Fiesta Gardens is an entertainment complex in East Austin on the northeast shore of Lady Bird Lake. Conceived in 1960 as a tourist attraction, Fiesta Gardens was designed by architect William C. Holmans, and built by a coalition of local and regional investors led by businessman and Austin Chamber of Commerce staffer, Tom Perkins, and Ed St. John, former Chamber President and Austin Aqua Festival Commodore. The complex has been in continuous use since 1966, and currently serves as an event space, hosting music festivals as well as smaller community-based events.
The complex includes several buildings, a designed tropical landscape, a hiking trail with scenic overlooks, and spectator seating overlooking a man-made lagoon that was port to a 25-seat excursion boat. Fiesta Gardens originated as one of the first private ventures operating on public land and ultimately failed to reap the profits touted by its proponents. Despite its unprofitability, Fiesta Gardens was a popular water-based event center from the time of its opening, later expanding under city ownership to serve as home base for the city’s annual Austin Aqua Festival, Austin Boat Club races, and other civic and community events. The site was pivotal in shaping the development of the northern shore of Lady Bird Lake. The property is further recognized for its association with community organizing efforts by Austin’s Hispanic community to prevent displacement of East Austin residents for facility expansion through the early 1970s.
Kim McKnight, Environmental Conservation Program Manager at Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department said, “Fiesta Gardens is a ground breaking nomination for PARD and the recognition for community planning and development as well as social history makes it a unique listing. We are proud to have this history recorded and recognized.”
The National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of cultural resources deemed worthy of preservation. Authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Register is part of a federal program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect the country’s historic and archeological resources. The National Register includes more than 3,300 listings in Texas. Listing affords properties a measure of protection from the possible impact of federally funded projects, as well as access to technical expertise and grant funds to facilitate their restoration and preservation. Income-producing properties are also eligible for federal tax benefits for sympathetic rehabilitation work.
Communications and Public Information Office
301 W. 2nd Street, Austin, TX 78701