“On the north stretch rich farming lands that were once illimitable prairies. Westward is a chain of hills which make a beautiful purplish background for the intervening fields in various shades of green and gold.”
—Dr. John Preston, Superintendent, State Asylum (Austin State Hospital), describing the land north and west of the hospital, where Brentwood and Crestview are today
“The house where I’ve lived the past 40 years is on land where I picked cotton when I was 10 years old — some 80 years ago. Daddy would round up a truckload of kids and go out way past the city limits (45th Street). We’d pick cotton on land owned by two old fellers whose names I don’t remember, but I recognized the area when we moved there. Back then, I could pick 150-200 pounds a day.”
—A neighbor on Vallejo
The eastern half of Crestview and most of Brentwood were annexed by the City of Austin, except for north of Koenig Lane and west of Arroyo Seco.
“I remember when most streets weren’t paved. Cornfields across from [Brentwood Elementary School]. Many bluebonnets and sunflowers. Burnet Road and Woodrow were unpaved.”
One Brentwood neighbor, Mae Waggoner, moved to her home on Justin Lane on March 6, 1950. It was a bitterly cold day. Several homes on the block, including the Waggoners’, had no heat. Mae and her husband “lit a fire” under the responsible parties, and they all soon were snug and warm in their new homes. After settling in, Mae and her husband focused their energies on raising their two children and later improving Brentwood Park behind their house.
Brentwood Park, once a cornfield between Brentwood Elementary and the homes on Justin Lane, was acquired by the City of Austin, and Brentwood Elementary School opened.
There were few trees in the new park—only a few hackberry and walnut. Neighbors formed the Brentwood Recreation Club to help develop and maintain the school and park grounds.
The city had no money for trees but offered to dig holes for them. While picnicking and fishing with a cousin along Onion Creek, Mae and her husband saw that the sycamore trees lining it were thick, practically choking it. They could have all the sycamores they wanted to plant in the park. On March 15, club members and the City of Austin planted 48 trees at the park.
Fifteen members of the Brentwood Recreation Club met to plan a May festival, which helped raise funds for playground equipment.
The Brentwood Recreation Club helped build the stage at Brentwood Elementary School. At the time, Harold Ingersol was president of the club.
In February, the Brentwood Recreation Club and the PTA held their annual planting of trees and shrubs on the school grounds and playground. Everyone was invited to:
“Bring your garden tools, and let’s make our school and park one of the most beautiful in town!”
For the first ten years there was a summer park director and planned activities, Mae Waggoner said. The school and park shared the grounds and the gym. Mae remembers regular potluck dinners in the summer, with volleyball games and horseshoe competitions.
In the winter there were dances in the school gym. “The Schlessingers were beautiful dancers—the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers of the neighborhood,” Mae said. They shared their talents by giving impromptu lessons in the waltz or the two-step to anyone who wanted to learn.
Over the years, Mae Waggoner has visited the park, meeting neighbors old and new and helping care for the trees. She also has attended the Violet Crown Festival when it is held in Brentwood Park. A night of thunderstorms preceded the 2006 festival, and the ground was saturated the next morning. As volunteers worked to fill in soggy spots, Mae walked up and offered bags of mulch from her garage.
The park is a mix of original and newly planted trees. During the ongoing drought, Friends of Brentwood Park volunteers continue to mulch and water the older trees. Other completed projects include a park master plan and a park pavilion. Find out how you can help here.
Sources include From Abercrombie to the Violet Crown by Susan Burneson and the website violetcrownvoices.com.