Travis County acquires new park land near Hamilton’s Pool

December 31, 2011 § Leave a comment

Travis County has purchased a 770-acre ranch owned by Eugene and Jean Reimers in southwestern Travis County that will connect Milton Reimers Ranch Park and Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve (Hill Country book, page 333).
The purchase completes a park system that includes a sliver of sandy Pedernales riverfront, limestone cliffs and more than 3,000 acres of wooded hills, peppered with trails and caves. The purchase is the third and final piece of the Reimers family property and comes more than 25 years after the county began to purchase Hill Country land from the family, beginning with Hamilton Pool in 1985.

The ranchland has remnants of movie sets, including that from 2003’s “Alamo,” much of which burned in a September fire.  But the long-term benefit to the Hill Country’s water quality — not the property’s natural beauty — is arguably the most important reason for the acquisition. If the ranch had been developed, runoff from construction and typical residential use would probably deposit harmful bacteria and chemicals into neighboring Hamilton Pool. The Reimers family could have easily sold the ranch to developers for a better price than they charged the county. However, the family wanted to keep the land preserved.

Public access to about 80 acres of the new parkland will have to wait about a year, while the county prepares a trail connecting Hamilton Pool to the newly acquired mile and a half of Pedernales riverfront. The Reimers will retain a 40-acre estate and will lease about 650 acres of the property for grazing. The rest of property is scheduled to open up after the Reimerses die and after the county restores the property to its natural state. At that point, park-goers will get to the river from either Milton Reimers Ranch Park or Hamilton Pool park, after paying a day use fee.

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The First Noel, the Houston Morning Star did say …

December 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

December 25, 1839
The Houston Morning Star — By letter we have learned from Austin that mattresses are particularly in demand, and that there is not one to be obtained at any price. The good people of that city have got tired of sleeping upon blankets and would like an immediate and plentiful supply of beds. Candles are selling at $9 per pound – an excellent reason why the people want beds, as nobody can afford to sit up long after dark; and hard floors, with only a blanket or two, are not so very agreeable these long winter nights.

Merry Christmas, y’all.

Hill Country Update — Blanco County Jail at Johnson City to be Retired

December 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

This mini-fortress (p. 362)  has served as county jail for nearly a century, but is finally being replaced by a new county justice center. The jail was lacking in most all the modern penal “conveniences.” There is no kitchen, which meant that meals had to be fetched from the outside world — shades of Mayberry and Aunt Bea! It has been one of the oldest county jails in use in Texas, until now. It won’t be demolished, but I don’t know of future plans for it — yet.

Central Texas — Old 1870s stagestop at Buda renovated, reopened

December 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

Buda’s historic Stagecoach House and visitor center at Buda’s Stagecoach Park (p. 57), 880 Main Street, a few hundred yards east of the railroad tracks, is now open. The complex consists of the large stagecoach house out front, and the small limestone post office out back.
The wide entrance hallway of the Stagecoach House contains museum displays of local artifacts and a written history of Buda. Other rooms hold the tourism information center and parks and recreation offices, and a small conference center.The original wood beam floors, window casings and hand-hewn cedar post rafters have been retained.
The house had been renovated several times over the years, as late as the 1940s, with new rooms and electricity. The buildings’ exteriors now appear more or less as they did when built, while featuring modern conveniences indoors.

San Marcos Update for Hill Country book

December 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

A thoroughly wretched drive to San Marcos today for a doctor’s appointment, but it gave me a chance to check on the progress of the old Hays County jail restoration (page 260). The outer walls’ stabilization appears largely completed and the old bastille looks nice and tight, not fixing to crumble and fall like before. The windows are all boarded up with what appears to be gun metal gray steel plates, but which are probably plywood. The jail is fenced off so closer examination was not possible. The lot on which it sits has also been cleaned up and is free of weeds.

Unfortunately, there has been no progress on the future Eddie Durham Museum (pp. 260-61), and the sign proudly announcing its coming is fading into illegibility.

Woody’s Bar-B-Que (p. 261) had to change its name several months ago to Hays County Bar-B-Que, but everything else is unchanged and still great.

Fuschak’s Pit Bar-B-Q is now at 1701 S Interstate 35 (east side).

Owing to the wretched weather I did not take the Old Post Road route through Kyle and Buda, but took I-35 as far as Toll Road 45, where I cut over to US 183, since the traffic on I-35 northbound earlier this morning had been backed up from the river to Slaughter Lane. Talk about about a beige and asphalt elephant! I was the only east bound car in sight the whole way. I will refrain from further comment about the idiocy of all of this. I-35 like a parking lot and TRs 45 and 130 like ghost towns. Only in Texas, where the inmates rule the asylum.

“That Miserable Old Hut”

December 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

As restoration and renovation work nears completion on the historic Texas Governor’s Mansion, newspaper, magazine, radio and TV stories and reports wax prosaic about its stateliness and quality of construction and craftsmanship.

What a difference nearly 130 years can make. Back in February of 1883, the Galveston Print editorialized: “The San Antonio Express wants a new executive mansion built at Austin. We quite agree with it. The miserable old hut now answering that purpose is a disgrace to any state, and especially to the great state of Texas.”

 The Austin Statesman agreed with the Print and the Express on every point, save tearing it down and building a new mansion, and minced no words about the disgraceful state of affairs within and without.

The legislature is contemplating an appropriation for the improvement of the executive mansion, and unless the proper caution be taken in expending money for such purpose any sum so appropriated will absolutely be thrown away. The mansion was built twenty-seven years ago, and it has already done the service usually expected of houses. The state could well afford to rebuild it, but this not being a necessity, it should provide for such renovation as will make the house suitable for the purpose contemplated, for probably twenty-seven years longer. The proposition is to appropriate forty-five hundred dollars for renovating and refitting the mansion, when in reality it will take that sum to provide it with proper furniture when renovated. To patch up is not the point. There should be a complete overhauling of the building, involving the removal of the old and the addition of a new roof, fresh plastering over air chambers in the walls to protect the house from dampness in the future, new windows, and new blinds and floors relaid; in fact, a renewal of almost everything about the house, excepting the walls, is needed. The house was built at a time when good work was not done in Austin, and since it so happens that the walls are substantial and solid, the money now expended in the mansion should be of a permanent character. To go to patching up a decayed old roof and putting glaziers at work on rickety old windows, and workmen to mending old blinds, is absurd. The state is able to have the work done in a decent manner, and the legislature should not hesitate to authorize a competent architect to make plans and estimates for modernizing the building, for making it a fit residence of the governor of Texas. On the suggestion of such an architect an appropriation should be made covering his estimates, and then in a few months the house might be made habitable. As it is, it is not fit for a residence. The dampness of the walls, the exhalations from vapory and noxious cellars, the leaking roof, and other notable faults, make it unfit for any human being to dwell in. It is a noted fact that the residents of the mansion have through many years been plagued with disease. As far back as the day of Governor Houston it had this reputation. Disease has taken hold of every family occupying it. Governor Hubbard’s children became infected with miasmatic poison in the mansion, and they died after they left it from its effects. Diphtheria and chills and fever prevailed among the members of Gov. Roberts’ family as long as they occupied the building; and upon this to invite Gov. Ireland to make it his residence without curing its defects is most unreasonable. The STATESMAN’S advice to him, in fact, with the lights before it, would be not to take his family into the mansion unless it be thoroughly renovated as we suggest. It was an oversight probably of the retiring governor that he did not ask the legislature to so renovate the building. He was the proper person to urge it; not the governor who has just been inaugurated. It will take but a short time, however, to remedy what has been overlooked. The governor not being the proper person to suggest that the building be prepared for his reception, the legislature should take the matter under careful deliberation and have done that which is absolutely necessary in the premises.

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