Austin Local Life

A Guide to Austin's Historic Districts

In an effort to preserve long-standing city neighborhoods with antique architecture, vintage greenspaces, and historic significance, the National Park Service provides official Historic District designations intended to preserve and protect these enclaves.

On a local level, however, cities have the ability to get even more specific about their historically valuable areas, narrowing down larger districts to particular neighborhoods, blocks, and even streets. In Austin, 7 areas make the city-level “Historic District” cut. Some are full-fledged neighborhoods, while others include only small subsets of present-day urban regions

Regardless of their size, each Austin historic district possesses its own unique identity and contributes to the city’s remarkable character.

Aldridge Place

Aldridge Place is a small “microneighborhood” within the larger area of North University. It encompasses a total of 34 acres, and its rough boundaries include West 34th Street to the north, West 30th Street to the south, Speedway to the east, and Guadalupe Street to the west.

Although Aldridge Place began settlement in 1860, the neighborhood didn’t officially become part of the Austin map until 1912 when Lewis Hancock, the former Austin mayor, developed the area as a “suburb” of the city’s urban center. Property owners jumped at the chance to build beautiful homes in this peaceful enclave, leading to a post-war boom in the 1940s that continued through the 1960s.

What To See and Do:

Fans of historical architecture will enjoy strolling through the scenic streets of Aldridge Place and taking in the evolution of building styles, starting with the neighborhood’s oldest structure: The limestone plantation house built in 1860 by Aldridge Place’s first settler, Albert Buddington. 

Homes from the turn of the century, the 1920s and 1930s, the World War II era, and the midcentury modern time period can all be found in Aldridge Place, and 14 Aldridge Place homes have special City of Austin designations as historic landmarks.

Castle Hill

Like Aldridge Place, Castle Hill qualifies as a microneighborhood, positioned within the downtown-adjacent area of Clarksville. Its approximate boundaries are West 12th Street to the north, West 6th Street to the south, Baylor Street to the east, and Shelley Street to the west. Castle Hill covers a total of 39 acres. 

The property swaths now known as Castle Hill were originally owned by James Raymond, the first-ever treasurer of the state of Texas (and the final treasurer of the Republic of Texas prior to Texas’ inclusion in the United States).

Raymond sold the land to the Texas Military Institute, which constructed the “castle” structure that gave the neighborhood its name. In the late 1870s, Austin established a streetcar line along West 6th Street, and the resulting transpirational ease made Castle Hill a desirable location for working-class families to settle and build communities .

What To See and Do: 

Although the Texas Military Institute’s “castle on the hill” is now privately owned, it’s still fully visible from Baylor Street. Architecture buffs will appreciate the impressive array of Victorian, Classical Revival, and Queen Anne-style houses located within Castle Hill, as well as the well-preserved “Fire House #4”, built in 1908.

One of Austin’s iconic Moonlight Towers can also be found in Castle Hill, at the corner of West 12th and Blanco streets.

If you want to maintain the old-time vibe throughout your lunch break, head a few blocks west of Castle Hill and visit Nau’s Enfield Drug in Clarksville, a quaint soda fountain, hamburger joint, and pharmacy dating back to 1951.

Harthan Street

If you’re looking for a very quick historic-district adventure, you’ll find it on Harthan Street, as this “district” only comprises one block. Harthan Street runs from West 6th Street to West 7th Street in Clarksville, very close to the Castle Hill historic district.

Harthan Street only contains 10 houses, nine of which hold distinction as “contributors to the historic character of the District”, according to the City of Austin. The oldest house on Harthan Street was built in 1875, while the newest finished construction was in 1930.

What to See and Do:

Once you’re finished observing the beautiful Italianate, Classical Revival, Craftsman, and Spanish Colonial Revival houses on Harthan Street, you’ll only need to walk a couple of quick blocks to reach the heart of Downtown Austin. Especially close to Harthan Street are the legendary BookPeople bookstore, the flagship location of Whole Foods, and the beautiful greenspaces along the Colorado River waterfront.

Hyde Park

Unlike most Austin historic districts, which are much smaller, Hyde Park does in fact include the majority of the present-day Hyde Park neighborhood, to the tune of 186 acres. The rough boundaries are West 45th Street to the north, West 38th Street to the south, Duval Street to the east, and Guadalupe Street to the west. 

First founded in 1881 as an affluent suburban neighborhood for elite Austinites, Hyde Park was heavily marketed by the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Land and Town Co. as the “fashionable part of the wealthiest and most aristocratic city in the land.” Historic buildings and residences can be seen throughout the neighborhood, built in the Queen Anne, Classical Revival, and VIctorian styles. 

What to See and Do:

Prominent historic landmarks in Hyde Park (as designated by the City of Austin) include the Oliphant House, the Hodnette-Roberts House, the Shipe House, the Covert House, and many more.

Scoping out gorgeous vintage homes in Hyde Park can take quite a long time, but if you find yourself looking for other local activities, check out our Hyde Park recommendations.

Mary Street

Like Harthan Street, Mary Street is a very petite district, encompassing just three city blocks in the Travis Heights neighborhood of South Austin. The district runs along its eponymous street from Newing Avenue on the west side to East Side Drive on the east side 

The Mary Street Historic District first emerged in the 1920s when East Mary Street was part of a working-class neighborhood comprised of a mix of homeowners and renters, many of them World War I veterans who commuted to workplaces Downtown.

What To See and Do:

The homes on Mary Street aren’t as show-stopping as the manor houses in several other historic districts, but you’ll find a particularly high volume of Tudor Revival homes with picturesque beams.

This historic district also boasts an enviable location in Travis Heights, very close to the food, drink, and entertainment action of South Congress.

Robertson/Stuart and Mair Historic District

Nestled on the western border of East Austin, the Robertson/Stuart and Mair Historic District claims approximate boundaries on 11th Street to the north, 7th Street to the south, Navasota Street to the east, and San Marcos Street to the west. 

The history of the Robertson/Stuart and Mair District predates the establishment of Texas as part of the U.S.; the City of Austin claims that the oldest building in the district is the French Legation, built in 1840 for the French representative to the Republic of Texas. 

The area’s population boomed after the Civil War, with newly freed former slaves and European immigrants establishing communities in enclaves of the neighborhood, and Robertson/Stuart and Mair continued to grow in popularity throughout the mid-20th century.

What To See and Do:

Visitors can typically drop by the French Legation site and building, but this historic destination is currently closed for renovations. Vintage houses throughout the neighborhood feature notable architectural styles, the most prominent including Victorian, Folk Victorian, National Folk, Craftsman, and Minimal Traditional. 

The old-school charm of Robertson/Stuart and Mair exists just steps from the uber-hip dining, drinking, and entertainment scenes of East Austin. Eateries and watering holes particularly close to the historic district’s borders are laid back, like gluten-free Southwestern restaurant Wilder Wood, charming farm-to-table bistro Hillside Farmacy, and craft cocktail boîte Nickel City.

Smoot/Terrace Park

A small historic district found in Clarksville just slightly west of Castle Hill and Harthan Street, Smoot/Terrace Park’s boundaries approximately include West 9th Street to the north, West 6th Street to the south, Pressler Street to the east, and Highland Avenue to the west. 

The Smoot/Terrace Park district was first developed as a location for estate houses during the late 19th century when the “urban” section of Austin was much smaller and the town’s outlying neighborhoods adopted a very suburban and residential vibe.

The emerging streetcar lines connected neighborhoods like Smoot/Terrace Park to the Downtown area, making these areas appealing options for commuting professionals. The busiest thoroughfare in Smoot/Terrace Park, Pressler Street, became established throughout the 1920s and 1930s, with small business owners constructing residences on and around this road.

What To See and Do:

52 historic homes can be found in Smoot/Terrace Park, with Italianate Homestead, Craftsman, and Colonial Revival proving the most popular styles.

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