Travis Heights

1939map-crop2South Austin, 1939 (click to view full map)

from Greater South River City Neighborhood Plan
September 2005 (pdf)

In 1913, General William Harwood Stacy (Charles Newning’s partner) and Stacy’s sons began development of Travis Heights. Travis Heights was designed with a range of lot sizes, a street system of both grid and curvy streets, and deed restrictions that prohibit multifamily and commercial uses. Travis Heights was the most heavily promoted subdivision of its time. Stacy provided streetcar service from Travis Heights Boulevard to the Capitol for prospective buyers to see the area before the homes were even built. He also gave away Ford Touring cars as part of a promotional campaign.

from Our Little Town: Travis Heights Arrives
Mike Clark-Madison, Dec. 4, 1998 (Austin Chronicle)

It fell to Newning’s partner, Gen. William Harwood Stacy, and later his sons Harwood and Gillespie Stacy, to create a successful uppity Southside neighborhood with Travis Heights proper. This was unquestionably the most heavily promoted neighborhood of its time, the Circle C Ranch of pre-WWII Austin, with ads in nearly every edition of the papers bearing the classic slogan: “Out of the Noise-Zone and Into the Ozone.”

The Stacys learned from Newning’s mistake and equipped the Heights with a few small lots to accommodate selected members of the working class, along with some of Austin’s first deed restrictions. “Travis Heights is restricted to good homes, good people, and strictly residence purposes,” read one 1917 prospectus. “You are guaranteed against the encroachment of undesirable buildings, or disagreeable business or manufacturing enterprises. … If you value your children’s well being, get them a home of your own and get it quick … as far away from business and the fever and sham of transient life as possible. Make it the center of their interests and pleasures, and the downtown attractions will never lay a strong hold upon them.”

from Fairview Park and Travis Heights’ History
From 1988/89 brochures for the Live Oak Festival Tour of Homes, Richard & Barbara Cille (pdf)

Based on his earlier experience with Charles Newning and the success of Fairview Park, coupled with his shrewd business sense, General Stacy laid out his South Austin subdivision with both curving and grid streets and provided lot sizes and prices to fit a range of customers, from the builders of modest bungalows to grand home sites with commanding vistas.

To promote his properties, the General ran streetcars full of prospective buyers out to Travis Heights from the Capitol. He also incorporated deed restrictions against multi-family and commercial development into his subdivision to reassure buyers that Travis Heights would remain a residential enclave.

Travis Heights was an immediate success and a great surge of homebuilding took place in the 1920s, so that by the General’s death in 1928, 600 lots had been sold and more than 160 homes built.

After General Stacy’s death, his three sons, Harwood, Gillespie, and Franklin Stacy, took over their father’s interests and continued to develop Travis Heights.