Now that Austin’s scorching hot streak is over, it’s time to reacquaint yourself with five of Austin Parks & Recreation’s most iconic historic sites.
1. Hancock Golf Course & Recreation Center
Now that cooler temperatures are on the horizon, why not indulge in a few rounds of golf at the Hancock Golf Course? Established in 1899 as the Austin Country Club, this course is recognized as one of the oldest in the state of Texas. Prominent architect Charles Page designed the 1934 clubhouse that is still in use today as the Hancock Recreation Center. Hancock Golf Course and Recreation Center opened to the public in 1951 after the golf course was acquired by the City of Austin. The back nine holes of the course were sold and developed in the 1960s, but the remaining nine-hole course and Recreation Center is listed to the National Register of Historic Places. Set over Waller Creek, this short, serene course welcomes all into nature with a walking only, all-day play environment.
2. Hezikiah Haskell House
West of downtown, the Hezikiah Haskell House stands as a powerful touchstone of Clarksville, an early Texas Freedom Colony, where emancipated Black Texans settled and built independent communities following the Civil War. This Cumberland-style, single wall construction home is among the oldest houses in Clarksville, a community of formerly enslaved people established in 1871 by Charles Clark. A member of the Black cavalry, Hezikiah Haskell, boarded with the home’s original owners and later married their daughter to whom the house was deeded in 1892. This Texas and Austin landmark symbolizes the struggles and triumphs of the formerly enslaved, who for the first time, could openly live their lives after years of bondage. Open by appointment only.
3. Elisabet Ney Museum
The Elisabet Ney Museum showcases the work of 19th-century sculptor Elisabet Ney along with the work of local artists. The German-born artist spent her early career sculpting notable people throughout Europe including Bavarian King Ludwig II, the Italian revolutionary Guiseppe Garibaldi and the naturalist Alexander von Humbolt. Just before the turn of the 20th century, Ney established a studio in Austin, which was then a small town along the Texas frontier. Ney quickly established herself as a prominent Texas artist, sculpting notable Texas figures like Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin. The building itself is iconic, with limestone walls and castle-like styling, and sits on a full city block in the Hyde Park Historic District. Built by Ney in 1893, Formosa, as she named the home studio, is among the most significant studios in Austin and holds designations on the state, local and federal level.
4. Mount Bonnell
Mount Bonnell, a 784-foot-high promontory along Lake Austin, is among the most significant natural landmarks in Austin. Early on, the site had strategic importance to Indigenous Peoples and has served as a popular attraction for Austin residents and visitors since the 1830s. Each year, thousands visit Mount Bonnell to take in sweeping panoramic views of downtown, Lake Austin and the western hills of Austin. The 1938 Covert Monument, carved by Anton Stasswender, commemorates the conveyance of Covert Park at Mount Bonnell by Frank Covert, Sr. to Travis County.
5. Oakwood Cemetery Chapel Visitor Center
Stop by the Oakwood Cemetery and Chapel and take a deep dive into the histories of the people buried in Austin’s first cemetery. Oakwood was originally established in 1839 as “City Cemetery” with only 10 acres of land. It wouldn’t be until 1914 that the Oakwood Chapel, designed by Austin architect Charles Page, would be constructed to serve as the cemetery’s mortuary chapel. An award-winning restoration of the chapel was completed in 2018 and it now functions as a visitor center for the historic site. Annie Webb Blanton, women’s suffragist; Elisha Marshall Pease, former governor of Texas; and “Ernie” Mae Crafton Miller, baritone sax player in the Austin Music Hall of Fame, are among the notable Texas figures buried at Oakwood.