Pemberton Heights is a beautiful, established neighborhood located in the Old West Austin National Register Historic District just minutes from downtown Austin, Texas. Majestic trees form canopies over its graceful, immaculate streets. The community’s 613 residences are a diverse mix of charming cottages, spacious dwellings and grand estates. The schools that serve the area are amongst the most exceptional in the city.
Pemberton Heights’ central location provides convenient access of less than two miles to the main campus of The University of Texas at Austin, Texas State Capitol complex, the downtown Central Business District and the city’s main medical center area. Whole Foods, Central Market and Trader Joe’s also are located within two miles of the neighborhood. For those who enjoy the outdoors, the neighborhood is adjacent to the Shoal Creek Trail, a half-mile from Pease Park, two miles from the Lady Bird Lake/Town Lake Trail and just a short drive from Zilker Park, the Barton Creek Greenbelt, Mount Bonnell and Emma Long Park.
Pemberton Heights’ community-centered residents enjoy regular neighborhood get-togethers, including happy hours several times a year, and annual events such as Easter egg hunts, picnics and carriage rides.
Location: Austin, TX 78703
Historic Designation: Old West Austin National Register Historic District
Main architectural styles:
Spanish Colonial Revival
Italian Renaissance Revival
Set-back requirements: 30 to 40 feet from the street
Heritage trees: oaks, elms and pecans
Students living in Pemberton Heights are assigned to these Austin Independent School District (AISD) campuses:
Alternately, students can choose to apply to these AISD magnet and academy programs:
Numerous preschools and private schools are located in adjacent neighborhoods:
The land that Pemberton Heights is situated upon was originally part of the George W. Spear League. After Spear’s death, the league was sold several times and eventually divided. What is known now as the Pease Mansion, or Woodlawn, was built by James B. Shaw in the 1850s on a section of the land. Shaw sold part of the large property north of where the mansion sits to Judge John Woods Harris in 1859, and eventually this portion was developed into Pemberton Heights by the Austin Development Company. When it was first built, the neighborhood was considered outside of the Austin city limits.
The building of two major bridges across Shoal Creek connected Pemberton Heights with what was then the center of the city and allowed for the development of the neighborhood as one of the first Austin automobile suburbs in the 1920s. The Windsor Road Bridge spanning the creek at Windsor/24th Street was built in 1928 and widened in 1939. It is considered one of the most beautiful bridges in Texas and is one of the city’s historic landmarks. The old bridge at 29th Street was replaced with a reinforced concrete structure in 1926, repaired in 1933, and then replaced again in 1938. A smaller, two-lane bridge located at the bottom of Gaston Avenue also offers passage across the creek.
Pemberton Heights sits upon a limestone shelf overlooking Shoal Creek, offering expansive views of downtown, the Capitol, and The University of Texas to the homes along the eastern edge of the community. The first house in the neighborhood was built in the late 1800s, but full-scale development of the area began in the 1920s. Construction began in 1927 on Wooldridge Drive, Harris Boulevard, Hardouin Avenue, Jarratt Avenue, Westover Road, Northwood Road, and Oakhurst Avenue. Claire Avenue was platted in 1935 and Wathen Avenue in 1936, followed by Preston Avenue, McCallum Drive, Ethridge Avenue, and Gaston Avenue in 1938. Pemberton Place was established in 1945. The main entrance to Pemberton Heights is at Harris Boulevard where it intersects Windsor Road.
Unique Pemberton Heights landscape and design elements include towering century-old heritage trees, landscaped traffic islands, small parks designated as official and unofficial play areas and street names identified on curbs by inlaid white and black ceramic tiles.
Pemberton Heights is most likely named for Walter Pemberton Fisher and James Pemberton. Both men were related to Samuel William Fisher Jr., who also was known as Budley. Budley was president of the Austin Development Company. Walter Pemberton Fisher was Budley’s uncle, and James Pemberton was an ancestor of the Fisher family.
Harris Boulevard was named after Judge John Woods Harris, Texas legislator, attorney, and special counsel to the United States Supreme Court. He and Governor Elisha Pease, owner of the Pease Mansion, were law partners. Harris purchased the land that would become Pemberton Heights from Pease in 1859.
Wooldridge Drive was named after Alexander Penn Wooldridge, an attorney and bank president who served as the mayor of Austin from 1909 to 1919, and was the first recipient of the Austin’s Most Worthy Citizen Award in 1924. Wooldridge was the organizer of the Austin Public School System and secured Austin as the site for The University of Texas’ main campus. Wooldridge Elementary and Wooldridge Park also are named after him.
McCallum Drive was named after Arthur Newell McCallum, Sr. and Jane Legette Yelvington McCallum. Arthur McCallum was a teacher and school administrator, and was the superintendent of the Austin Public Schools from 1903 until his death in 1943. He hired the district’s first Hispanic teacher in the 1920s. McCallum High School was named after him. Jane McCallum was an author, suffragist leader and the Texas Secretary of State under two different governors from 1927 to 1933. One of the accomplishments of which she was most proud was the discovery, restoration and exhibition of an original copy of the Texas Declaration of Independence.
Claire Avenue was named after Claire Caswell, whose brother, W.T. Caswell, named the street after her and Gaston Avenue after her first husband, P. Gaston Dismukes, who tragically died of tuberculosis during their first year of marriage. Unfortunately, Claire Caswell died during her honeymoon when the ship on which she was honeymooning with her second husband sank just two days after their wedding.
Wathen Avenue was named after Josephine Lucille Wathen Fisher, who was married in 1905 to Budley Fisher, one of Pemberton Height’s original developers. Even after her divorce from Budley, Fisher lived on Wooldridge Drive until 1949.
Stark Place is thought to have been named after H.J. Lutcher Stark, a businessman with a lumber empire who was a University of Texas graduate and who promoted the longhorn as the university’s mascot.
Jarratt Avenue was named after J.E. Jarratt, the board chair of the Austin Development Company, the first developer of the neighborhood.
Ethridge Avenue was named after E.B. Ethridge, the president of the Austin Development Company in 1935.
Windsor Road is named after Windsor, Connecticut.
Westover Road is named for the fact that it travels west and over a hill.
Janet Long Fish is known as the mother of the Hike and Bike Trail system in Austin. In the late 1950s, she famously took $5,000 meant for her to purchase a new station wagon, hired a bulldozer and operator, and began creating the first Hike and Bike trail along Shoal Creek from Pease Park to Gaston Avenue. In subsequent years, she extended the trail to 31st Street, supervised the planting of hundreds of flowers and fruit trees, and watered the plantings regularly during hot Texas summers. Her vision inspired the city and other private groups to expand the original trail system to include Lady Bird/Town Lake the Barton Creek Green Belt, as well as other local creeks. She received the Certificate of Appreciation from the Austin Metropolitan Trails Council in 1996, the Sue and Frank McBee Visionary Award from the Heritage Society of Austin in 1997, and the Roberta Crenshaw Park Patron Lifetime Service Award from the City of Austin in 2006. The pedestrian bridge built across Shoal Creek just south of 29th Street in 2006 was dedicated in her name.
Triangles are the empty (often unimproved) lots at the intersections of neighborhood streets. Triangles in Pemberton Heights that are part of the beautification plan are located at:
Gaston Avenue and Wooldridge Drive (east side)
Gaston Avenue and Wooldridge Drive (west side)
Harris Boulevard and Wooldridge Drive
Hardouin Avenue and McCallum Drive
Hardouin Avenue and Wooldridge Drive
Windsor Road and Harris Boulevard
Jarratt Avenue and Leigh Street
Please contact Sabrina Brown to learn how you can help.
Hartford Park was once an overgrown traffic triangle in Pemberton Heights. In 2012, a grassroots effort was initiated to convert it to a park.
Working with Austin Parks Foundation (APF) and City of Austin, the grassroots organization Friends of Hartford Park (FOHP) created a beautiful park complete with picnic tables, benches, swing sets and playscapes for children of all ages.
Hartford Park is located at the triangle formed by Hartford Rd on the east, Ethridge Ave on the north and Jefferson St on the west.
You can find more details about the park's origin and transformation at the AFP website. Additional information is also available at the Hartford Park website.
Historic and Notable Homes
More than 40 homes in Pemberton Heights are designated as historic landmarks. Here are a few of the neighborhood’s more distinctive homes with interesting histories.
The Pemberton Castle, also known as the Fisher-Gideon House, is located at 1415 Wooldridge Drive. It originated as a water tower used for fighting fires and then for watering crops on surrounding farms. In 1925, construction began to convert it into a Gothic Revival castle.
From the historic landmark plaque at the property:
"Pemberton Castle began in the 1890s as a cylindrical water tower. It was converted into a small castle in the mid-1920s by Samuel (Budley) Fisher for use as the Pemberton Heights subdivision sales office. The castle was acquired in 1937 by Samuel Gideon and his wife Sadie Cavitt. Gideon, a respected professor of architecture at The University of Texas, added many distinctive features to the structure. The house is an asymmetrical gothic revival style structure with a rough stone face and prominent castellated parapets."
The Malcolm and Margaret Badger Reed Estate, located at 2407 Harris Boulevard, was built in the late 1920s. This magnificent five acre property at the main entrance to Pemberton Heights boasts a house three stories tall and containing eight bedrooms, nine full bathrooms and six half bathrooms. Other remarkable features of the $20 million property (as of 2016) include a park-like lawn with a view of downtown, gorgeous pool, six-car garage, wide verandas, expansive terraces, an impressive koi pond, multiple fountains and an exact scale replica of the Belvedere Pavilion on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles.
From the property’s Texas Historic Landmark plaque:
“Central Texas native Malcolm Reed followed his father into business and ultimately became a leading cotton exporter. He wed Margaret "Maggie" Badger of Marble Falls in 1898, and in 1908, they moved to Austin. In 1929, they moved into their new home at this site. Designed by noted architect Hal Thomson, the home retains much of its original Italian Renaissance design, including a low-pitch hip roof, brackets, recessed porch and elaborate detailing. The home remained in the Reed family, passing on to daughter Margaret and her husband Joseph Cocke, until 1990.”
The Keith House, located at 2400 Harris Boulevard (formerly 2501 Windsor Road), was built in 1933. It is situated at the entrance to Pemberton Heights across from the Reed Estate, at the intersection of Windsor Road and Harris Boulevard. The two-story home is an example of the Monterey style, a revival of English-influenced Spanish Colonial houses of northern California. From its perch at the top of a hill, the house has a clear view of the State Capitol and downtown Austin.
William Dixon Anderson, a noted Austin builder and salesman employed by the Calcasieu Lumber Company, designed the Keith House for his sister, Maggie Mae Keith, and her husband Jacque Nicholas Keith. In 1994, the Texas Historical Commission designated the Keith House as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.
The Bohn House, located at 1301 West 29th Street, sits on a cliff overlooking Shoal Creek with views of The University of Texas and the downtown skyline. The house, built in 1939, was designed by Herbert Bohn in the Art Moderne style (a late Art Deco style). Herbert and his wife Alice were devoted fans of the Frank Capra sci-fi film, Lost Horizon, and they built the house to look like the castle in the movie. Special architectural features include a cantilevered top floor, porthole windows, rounded balconies with ship railings, speed lines and a circular magic door that opens by rising up into the wall above it.
The Splitrock House, also known as the Burns-Klein House, is located at 2815 Wooldridge Drive. It is the oldest surviving home in Pemberton Heights.
From the home’s historic landmark plaque:
“In 1891, Thomas F. Burns bought 3 ¾ acres of the Jones and Sedwick property along the west bank of Shoal Creek. Burns, a Scottish immigrant, married Arbanna J. Nelson in Travis County in 1876. Property records and lumber marked “Sutor & Co.” date his house to circa 1892. Thomas, Arbanna and six children lived here in 1900. Thomas was listed as a stone cutter and owner of a marble shop. He added an additional acre to his homestead in 1901. Thomas’ son, Frank C. Burns, owned the Capitol City Marble Co. at 211 W. 6th Street. In 1911, Thomas Burns sold the property to Hippolyt Dittlinger, owner of Dittlinger Roller Mills in New Braunfels. His niece, Anita Dittlinger Quinlan, and her husband, James, lived here with their three children from 1912-39. In 1939, the Quinlans moved to Fredericksburg and subdivided land surrounding the house into eight city lots on the east side of Splitrock Avenue (later Wooldridge Drive). In 1945, Anita sold the property to Joe H. Klein, Jr., and his wife, Jayne Linville Klein. The 1 ½-story frame house is a vernacular center passage dwelling, designed with three rooms on each side of the hallway. Stairs provided access to the attic and dormer bedrooms. Originally, the east side of the house, looking toward the city, was the front. When Splitrock Avenue became a designated street in Pemberton Heights, primary access was reversed and the west side became the front. The scenic property on a bluff above the creek includes numerous centuries-old live oak trees, the largest of which is a city of Austin registered tree. The house has remained largely unaltered, even as the city has expanded far beyond its once-rural setting.”
Additional information about the Splitrock House can be found here.
IRELAND AND MARY GRAVES HOUSE
The Ireland and Mary Graves House, located at 2 Green Lanes, was built in the late 1930s. Ireland Graves, an attorney and former district judge, purchased the property from Josephine Lucille Wathen Fisher and hired architect Hugo F. Kuehne to build a home for his family. The home is built in a Southern Colonial style and features bricks from the old main building at The University of Texas campus. The judge and his son-in-law formed the Graves Dougherty Law Firm in 1946. The house was designated as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 2013.
The Catterall-Mills House, built in 1937 for Gordon and Margaret Catterall Mills, is located at 2424 Harris Boulevard. It was modeled after George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate in an Early American Georgian Revival style. The property includes a backyard bomb shelter, built because Austin’s Bergstrom Air Force Base was believed to be a prime target for a Russian attack.
REBEKAH JOHNSON'S HOUSE
Lyndon Baines Johnson’s mother, Rebekah, lived in this house at 2519 Harris Boulevard from 1942 until 1958 while he was a US Representative and then a US Senator.
The Sandgarten House, located at 1513 Hardouin Avenue, was built in 1939. It is a striking Tudor Revival style home with ivy-covered courtyard walls at the corner of Hardouin and Harris
· Austin American-Statesman
· Austin Business Journal
· Austin Eco Network
· Cash, Elizabeth A. and Suzanne B. Deaderick, 2012. Austin’s Pemberton Heights. Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, South Carolina.
· City of Austin
· National Register of Historic Places
· Old West Austin Historic District (OWAHD)
· Pease Park Conservancy
· Texas Historical Commission
· Texas State Historical Association