History of the North Shoal Creek neighborhood

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The North Shoal Creek neighborhood that we know today formed over time as a series residential and commercial developments starting in the late 1950s and early 1960s with the construction of the Steck Company printing facility in 1958 at what is now the site of Lowe’s on Shoal Creek Blvd. Prior to 1960, the area was outside of the city jurisdiction and the land was used for agriculture and rural homesteads. The oldest existing house in the neighborhood is located at 8530 Burnet Rd (now Austin Catering) and was built in 1958 on the 19th century homestead of the Robinson family, long time owners of the Austin White Lime company in McNeil, Texas. There is also an old (possibly 19th century) ranch stable structure behind the former Radian Company office building at 8329 N MoPac (see Richard Denney’s blog post about it).


North Shoal Creek neighborhood in 1965. From the City of Austin GIS

The above aerial photograph of the North Shoal Creek neighborhood was taken in 1965. The image shows the newly-constructed Northtowne Estates development that began construction in 1960. This early North Shoal Creek development includes the three main north-to-south streets of Rockwood Ln, Briarwood Ln, Stillwood Ln, which cross Steck Ave, and end on the south end at Ashdale Dr. Note the area at Vinewood Ln and Firwood Dr is under-construction at the time of this image.

The initial Northtowne Estates development was built and sold by the Dallas-based company Centennial Homes (also known as Centennial Construction Company) led by Lawson Ridgeway and Warren Clark. Newspaper advertisements for the new Northtowne Estates homes built and sold in 1960 and 1961 show that, for each year, Centennial built a series of five model homes at the cul-de-sac streets of Valleydale Cove (for 1960) and Parkdale Cove (for 1961), off Steck Ave. For these homes the builders marketed the new neighborhood as the “Enchanted Village,” a theme they had used in the late 1950s for their similar developments in Garland, Texas (around Walnut St and Jupiter Rd) and northwest Dallas (around Forest Ln and Webb Chapel Rd).


Newspaper ads for Northtowne Estates in the Austin American Statesman. Left, May 1960; Right, April 1961, possibly showing 8203 Parkdale Dr. Digital access provided by Austin Public Library.

Land History

Pre-1860

In research compiled by local historians Richard Denney and Michael Barnes, “Tracing native trails across Austin” , the area around the North Shoal Creek neighborhood was known in the early 19th century as a waypoint where the trail north along the Balcones Escarpment (see “Trail Going North”) met the trail northwest into the Hill County towards Holland Springs (map, today near Burnet, TX). Today these trails are the highways Mopac and 183. Serving this waypoint was what is now called Spicewood Springs (map), which was used by indigenous groups such as the Comanche people and others, as well as by early Anglo and Spanish colonists. Denney describes in “The Death of Jane Simpson at Spicewood Springs” that historic records show that the area around Spicewood Springs was a site of conflict in 1844—1845 between native groups and early Anglo colonists, noting that Shoal Creek, and the larger Balcones Escarpment, formed the front line of the Texas-Indian War / Comanche Wars in the 1840s. Spicewood Springs currently flows from its source at Spicewood Springs Road at Ceberry Drive, under Mopac, along Foster Lane, and into Shoal Creek at the Foster Lane bridge behind Fresh Plus Grocery.

The Original Texas Land Survey (OTLS), which describes the location of the original land parcels registered by the Anglo Texas government, shows that the North Shoal Creek area was originally parceled out in 1841 to James P. Wallace and George Washington Davis (whose homestead was near what is now Beverly Sheffield Park; see “George Washington Davis: Early Settler on Shoal Creek”)

Circa 1900

Richard Denney’s blog also provides links to the 1898—1902 Travis County Road Books, which document the location of public roads in the county at the time, including Upper Georgetown Road (now Burnet), Jollyville Road (now Mopac), Spicewood Springs Road (now partly Anderson and Foster Lane), and Fiskville Road (now 183). The county road books also document the landowners of properties that the roads intersect.

Landowners (not necessarily residents) in the North Shoal Creek area in 1902 included:

  • John La Prelle
  • Anderson
  • George Walling
  • Kirk Williams
  • Mrs. A. B. Payton
  • Daniel McKenzie
  • Edward Foster
  • William Robinson – 8530 Burnet Road was the site of the Robinson homestead
    • In a 2004 interview, Crestview Pharmacy’s late owner J. D. Harper recalled that “Brentwood Park was pastureland and farmland, so there were a lot of farms in this general area. The Robinson family owned a lot of the land along Burnet Road. Those are the Robinsons who still are very active in Austin White Lime (see austinwhitelime.net/history.html). The original Robinson land went all the way from Steck north. There was an old farmhouse near 8530 Burnet Road which was the Robinson homestead. That land was purchased by the Robinsons’ ancestors in 1865. I bought that from the Robinsons [Sam Robinson] in 1986. I just bought where the house was, and at that point they still had the windmill and the water trough for their cattle, and I’ve since taken it all down.” (from interview by Susan Burneson and John Leffler in 2004, https://www.violetcrownvoices.com/j-d-harper-interview-april-2004)

Early Commercial Development

In 1958 the Steck Company printing facility was constructed at what is now the site of the Lowe’s shopping center. Steck Company later became Hart Graphics. Steck Avenue was constructed to provide access to the facility entrance (now the intersection of Steck and Shoal Creek Blvd), as well as to provide a cross route between Burnet Road and Balcones Road (also called Jollyville Road; now the Mopac frontage road).

Below is a 1958 image of the newly-constructed Steck Company printing facility (from the Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth19507/)


Early Residential Development

The area bounded by Burnet Road, Mopac, Anderson Lane and Research Blvd has been known by a number of names: Northtowne, Northtowne West, Allandale Estates, Allandale Place, Northwest Terrace and Cottages of North Shoal Creek. Each name represents a different subdivision area of development that as a whole constitutes the North Shoal Creek Neighborhood.

A map of each subdivision and the dates when they were built. (Click map to enlarge).