Locally designated historic districts offer the strongest protection and greatest benefit for older neighborhoods. Designation involves adding an HD to the base zoning and requires the support of a majority of property owners or land area owners, as well as high architectural integrity. Check out the Historic Properties Viewer for information on specific districts, and see the historic district application guide and application form for more information.
Click below to jump to a historic district:
- Aldridge Place
- Castle Hill
- Harthan Street
- Hyde Park
- Mary Street
- Robertson/Stuart & Mair
- Rogers Washington Holy Cross
- Smoot/Terrace Park
Albert Buddington, a prosperous local settler, built the first home in what would become Aldridge Place in 1860. The University of Texas was established to the south in 1883, prompting the development of Hyde Park in 1891 and associated streetcar lines that connected the neighborhood to the rest of Austin. Other commuter suburbs were soon platted nearby, and in 1912 Lewis Hancock, a former Austin mayor and prominent banker, saw an opportunity. He platted Aldridge Place as “the suburb beautiful,” hewing to the nationally popular City Beautiful style.
Development was initially slow. However, the end of World War I precipitated more rapid growth, as well-to-do professionals purchased homes along the neighborhood’s winding treed streets. During the Great Depression, construction continued apace; many property owners also converted garages into apartments by adding a story. By 1941, Aldridge Place was nearly fully developed. Postwar Ranch Style and Mid-century Modern houses filled the remaining vacant lots in the late 1940s-1950s. The district retains a high degree of architectural integrity.
Period of Significance: 1860; 1912-1965
Description of the District
The 34-acre Aldridge Place Historic District contains 147 residential buildings, 10 structures such as bridges and stone entry gates, historic streetlamps, and Hemphill Park. Of the 159 surveyed resources, 141 (88%) contribute to the historic character of the district. The district contains 14 locally designated historic landmarks significant for their outstanding Craftsman and Period Revival architecture.
The earliest existing building is Albert Buddington’s 1860 limestone Texas Vernacular plantation house. Other buildings include early 20th century houses built in a simple vernacular style, Period Revival-style houses built between 1919 and the late 1930s, and Ranch Style and Mid-century Modern houses built in the late 1940s-1950s. Hemphill Park retains original landscape elements from its 1912 founding, as well as rough-hewn elements constructed as part of the Depression-era Works Progress Administration’s New Deal.
James Raymond, the last treasurer of the Republic of Texas and the first treasurer of the State of Texas, originally owned this area as part of 200 acres west of downtown Austin. Raymond sold 32 acres of this land to the Texas Military Institute (TMI), which constructed the iconic "castle" structure in 1869 that is now the namesake for the district. In 1871 Raymond platted the first subdivision in West Austin, “Raymond Heights,” consisting of large lots along West 6th Street. Most of these lots were developed with large mansion properties, five of which, built between 1872 and 1877, remain in the district with little alteration. By the end of the 1870s, TMI had once again moved, later to become what is now Texas A & M University. The "castle" then served as a German school for the next decade.
The Castle Hill Historic District comprises most of the eastern portion of the West Line National Register District (NRHD), named for the establishment of the City's first streetcar line, which ran along what is now West 6th Street. Much of the second wave of development during the period of significance (1870-1960) for Castle Hill occurred as a result of the availability of this transportation for working class families and individuals.
Period of Significance: 1870-1960
Description of the District
Within the approximately 39 acres of the Castle Hill Historic District, there are 175 properties, of which 116 were considered contributing. Within the district are 16 city landmarks including Fire House #4 and a Moonlight Tower at the corner of West 12th and Blanco Streets. The district is primarily residential, except for Fire House #4, built in 1908, and commercial properties along West 6th Street. Queen Anne and Classical Revival styles dominate the earliest buildings constructed during the end of the 19th century, some of which were large family mansions. Smaller buildings built after the turn of the century tend to be bungalows and Classical Revival style homes. The overall blend of architectural styles reflects the transition from the Victorian Age to the 20th century and the development of West Austin.
The Harthan Street Local Historic District is a residential street one block long, extending north from West 6th Street. Located within the West Line National Register District, Harthan Street is composed of ten houses, of which nine contribute to the historic character of the district. The earliest of the contributing properties is a designated City historic landmark, dating from 1875. Seven of the contributing buildings were built between 1906 and 1920; the Spanish Colonial Revival house at 600 Harthan Street is the newest construction in the district, dating from 1930.
Period of Significance: 1875-1930
Description of the District
The architecture of the district reveals its periods of development with unusual clarity and express a variety of styles including Italianate, Classical Revival and Craftsman. The oldest house in the district is a ca. 1875 two-story Italianate villa; the ca. 1906 house at 1206 W. 6th Street exhibits prominent Neo-Classical detailing on a late Victorian vernacular cottage. Neo-Classical detailing appears on several of the houses built between 1910 and 1925, including modest transitional cottages. The 1910s and 1920s houses also reflect the change from transitional cottages towards bungalows forms. The most recent house built on the street is a Spanish Colonial Revival house, reflecting the popularity of period styles in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
Platted in 1891 by the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Land and Town Co., Hyde Park was marketed under the direction of Monroe Martin Shipe as an affluent suburb featuring large, majestic residences. The 1891 completion of Shipe's streetcar line provided reliable transportation to downtown. Trees were planted, parkland, lakes, and a theater pavilion augmented the pastoral quality of the area, marketed as the "fashionable part of the wealthiest and most aristocratic city in the land." The first houses built in the neighborhood were stylistic examples of late 19th-century domestic architecture. Many, such as the Oliphant-Walker House at 3900 Avenue C, were built in the Queen Anne style by locally prominent citizens.
Shipe's vision of Hyde Park as a self-sufficient community led him to provide municipal services, including mail delivery, street lighting, and sanitation, as well encouraging churches, schools and stores to locate in the neighborhood. Residents had access to establishments such as the Avenue B Grocery and the Hyde Park Presbyterian Church.
Sluggish land sales prompted considerable changes in marketing strategies within 8 years of Hyde Park's founding. Shipe began portraying it as a neighborhood for the middle and working classes. In response, Hyde Park’s architectural character shifted to smaller, more modest frame houses. While fairly steady growth characterized the area throughout the first part of the century, its greatest building boom occurred between 1924 and 1935. The preponderance of bungalows in the neighborhood was the result of construction during this period. Popular across the nation from the 1910s through the 1930s, bungalows, such as the Charles William Ramsdell House (Avenue H), often were associated with early efforts in suburban development.
Period of Significance: 1892-1960
Description of the District
The district is comprised of approximately 186 acres and includes 640 properties, of which 480 are contributing. There are a number of designated historic landmarks within the district, as well as several examples of historic infrastructure, such as the Hyde Park Fire Station and a moonlight tower. The Hyde Park Historic District incorporates two existing National Register districts: Hyde Park and Shadow Lawn. The district is primarily residential, although there are several churches, a historic grocery store, and other commercial structures. Queen Anne and Classical Revival styles dominate the first buildings completed towards the end of the 19th century, with transitional houses and bungalows representing construction from the 20th century. The overall blend of architectural styles reflects the transition from the Victorian Age to the 20th Century and the development of Austin.
Mary Street was platted in 1928 as part of the Blue Bonnet Hills Subdivision, and the first home in the district was constructed the following year. When the neighborhood was developed, its distance from downtown was a deterrent to wealthier families who preferred to live closer to amenities and businesses. Thus, the 500 block of E. Mary Street was part of a working-class neighborhood comprised of a mix of homeowners and renters, including many World War I veterans. Early residents commuted to workplaces downtown, where many were employed in federal and state government and blue-collar jobs.
Though only one block long, the Mary Street Historic District is in close geographic proximity to an important development trend that shaped the growth of Austin and other cities around the country. The rapid, largely unplanned growth of American cities following the Civil War caused concern among architects. As director of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition, architect Daniel Burnham helped to spread a growing interest in urban planning that would continue to develop over the next several decades as the City Beautiful Movement. This movement promoted order and harmony in architecture and urban design, including incorporation of parks and green spaces. The Blunn Creek Greenbelt—including Stacy Park, to the east of the Mary Street Historic District—was initially platted in 1928 and is reminiscent of the “necklace” configuration of many City Beautiful parks.
Period of Significance: 1929-39
Description of the District
The Mary Street Historic District covers nearly 3 acres and contains 19 residential buildings. Of those 19 buildings, 16 (84%) retain a high degree of historic integrity and contribute to the historic character of the district.
The style, scale, and age of the housing stock on Mary Street is very similar to that of other houses in Blue Bonnet Hills and nearby subdivisions: primarily one-story, modest-scale homes in the Craftsman, Tudor Revival, and Minimal Traditional styles. The Craftsman and Tudor Revival Styles are particularly well represented.
The varied history of the Robertson/Stuart & Mair Historic District reflects that of Austin and the State of Texas. The district’s earliest building is the French Legation, which was built in 1840 for the French representative to the Republic of Texas. At that time, the building was located in a rural area called the Outlots. After the Civil War, the Outlots were subdivided and sold to newly free African Americans and European immigrants. The African American landowners settled on the west edge of the district in a community first called Pleasant Hill and later Robertson Hill; European immigrants settled in the central and east portions of the district.
Throughout the 20th century, the district’s population grew to include more African Americans, Mexican Americans, and Lebanese Americans. Significant turning points included the 1928 city plan that segregated Austin by restricting public services east of East Avenue (now I-35) and, after World War II, the exodus of predominantly white households to the suburbs. Though the district’s population decreased in the postwar period, Mexican American households continued to move there, and African American community institutions in the district and nearby remained strong. After 1956, East Avenue was widened into I-35 and many properties in the Robertson Hill community were demolished.
Period of Significance: 1840-1965
Description of the District
The Robertson/Stuart & Mair Historic District is roughly bounded by the French Legation’s western boundary on the west, San Marcos Street, the alley between E. 9th and E. 10th streets, Waller Street, the alley between E. 10th and E. 11th streets, Lydia Street, W. 9th Street, Navasota Street, and the alley between E. 7th and E. 8th streets (see map). It contains 123 principal buildings, of which 85 (69%) retain a high degree of historic integrity and contribute to the historic character of the district. Most contributing buildings were constructed as residences; the district also includes a church and a commercial building.
Principal architectural styles in the Robertson/Stuart & Mair Historic District include:
- Victorian and Folk Victorian (circa 1870-1925)
- National Folk (1880-1940)
- Craftsman (1910-50)
- Minimal Traditional (1940-60)
The Rogers Washington Holy Cross Historic District is a largely intact postwar neighborhood that demonstrates the determination and success of the African American community in Austin. The neighborhood was developed by Black professionals for Black professionals. This was a major milestone at a time when many white Austinites with similar socioeconomic and community standing were buying suburban homes and moving out of the city. Racially restrictive covenants, redlining, prejudiced lenders, and other social and governmental barriers prevented African Americans from making the same move. Rogers Washington Holy Cross was a powerful symbolic response, and established a tight-knit neighborhood of movers and shakers in the Black community, Austin, and beyond.
Early residents included Huston-Tillotson Chancellor John Q. Taylor King; Carnegie H. Mims, Jr., the first Ombudsman at the University of Texas; T. C. Calhoun, longtime principal of Kealing Junior High School; and numerous other educational leaders, including Willie Mae Kirk, Carnegie Harvard Mims, Sr., and Ira Poole. The Kirk family lived on Maple Avenue; Ms. Kirk’s husband Lee Sr. was the first African American postal worker and certified pilot in Austin, and her son Ron served as Dallas’s first African American Mayor and an Obama cabinet member. Jimmy Snell was a City Council member who served as the first Black Mayor Pro Tem. Norman Scales was a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen. Prominent business owners, some of the earliest graduates from UT following desegregation, and even more leaders also called the neighborhood home.
John Chase, the first African American graduate of UT’s School of Architecture and the first licensed African American architect in Texas, designed several houses in the neighborhood, attesting to residents’ prominent standing and creating a rich architectural legacy. Nash Phillips, a well-known and prolific Austin builder, constructed houses along Maple, Givens, and Werner avenues.
Period of Significance: 1953-1970
Description of the District
The Rogers Washington Holy Cross Historic District is roughly bounded by E. 21st Street on the north, Cedar Avenue on the east, E. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on the south, and Chestnut Avenue (to E. 20th Street) on the west. It contains 55 properties, of which 47 (85%) retain a high degree of historic integrity and contribute to the historic character of the district. The district is entirely residential.
The prevailing architectural style is Ranch; other styles include Minimal Traditional, Split Level, and Contemporary/Mid-Century Modern.
The Smoot/Terrace Park Historic District was first developed as country estates, encouraged by more affordable land prices outside of what was then a much smaller city. In 1877, while much of Austin’s upper class was building city mansions on high ground close to downtown, five country estates were built in Smoot/Terrace Park on larger parcels of land. These were likely influenced by the picturesque vision of Andrew Jackson Downing, a contemporary landscape designer and writer with a broad national following.
By the late nineteenth century, the taste for the picturesque spread to the development of residential suburbs that were accessible to the middle class. Suburbs such as Hyde Park were enabled by streetcar lines from downtown. Though the West Line streetcar was constructed along Pecan Street (now W. 6th Street) in 1891, suburban development along the line did not begin until the Wendlandt family created the Wendlandt Subdivision on the north side of W. 9th Street in 1911. In 1913, F.H. and Emma Smith subdivided a former country estate into the Terrace Park Subdivision and built Highland and Oakland avenues.
Through the 1910s and into the 1920s, middle-class families gradually purchased lots and constructed single-family houses (mostly Craftsman bungalows) in these new subdivisions. Between 1921 and 1935, Pressler Street was built between W. 6th and W. 9th streets. The residents along Pressler at that time were predominantly white and middle-class, with occupations like shopkeepers, repairmen, and office workers. Their houses were mostly more modest bungalows, often with elements of Colonial and Classical Revival. The west side of Pressler, across from the Smoot family home, was filled in with houses prior to 1956. Many of these homes were demolished for new construction or altered as demand for property near downtown increased in the 1990s and 2000s.
Period of Significance: 1877-1945
Description of the District
The Smoot/Terrace Park Historic District is roughly bounded by W. 9th Street, Pressler Street, W. 6th Street, and Highland Avenue (see map). It contains 81 principal buildings, of which 52 (64%) retain a high degree of historic integrity and contribute to the historic character of the district. All contributing buildings were constructed as residences, with nearly all remaining in that use.
Principal periods of construction within the Smoot/Terrace Park Historic District include:
- The Italianate “homestead” period (circa 1877 – 1894). All five homestead houses remain, most of them standing on large lots. Originally constructed with vertical emphases and Italianate detailing, some of the houses have later additions built in the Stick and Classical Revival styles.
- The Craftsman period (1911-1929). Houses constructed in the Craftsman style have more horizontal emphases, with wider windows, prominent porches, and broader eaves supported by brackets and rafter ends. Houses are one to 1½ stories tall.
- The Colonial Revival period (1921-1945). Houses constructed in the Colonial Revival style are generally more modest one- or two-story buildings. Roof forms were simplified, with shallower eaves.