Clay Pit Tower
| Historic Site
Town Lake is a recreational site for people today. But in the past the shores of the Colorado River were the home of industry. One might be hardly able to recognize the shores of the "River City" at the turn of the century.
On the Town Lake hike and bike trail there exists a relic of one of the industries that resided there. In the early 1900's bricks were made from clay mined on the south shore of the Colorado River. The clay pits resided on land that is now part of Zilker Park.
Zilker park is named for Andrew Jackson Zilker, who owned much of the land around Zilker Park, including Barton Springs. It was Zilker who built the conveyor system and owned the land from which the clay was mined. Zilker sold some of his land
around Barton Springs to the city in 1917 for $100,000. In 1932 Zilker donated an additional 300 acres that formed the nucleus of Zilker Park today.
|Last remaining sign of the brick industry in Austin|
The brickmaking plant that would use the clay resided on the north shore of the Colorado River on a bluff overlooking present day Austin High School. Before Austin had multiple bridges to choose from getting to the opposite bank where the clay resided was a problem. The solution was to create a cable conveyor system over the river, which was done in 1902, if not
|Now just a relic in the paths of walkers|
To support the cables, three concrete and steel towers were constructed. Buckets attached to the cables carried to clay across the river, but they sometimes carried other payload too. Workers found the buckets a convenient way for them to cross
the river. The system was in operation through 1942 when WWII helped close the brick plant down. Wartime price controls were deemed to make it unprofitable to continue operations so the Butler Brick Company closed it down. If anyone has access to photos or drawings of the towers when they were in operation we'd love to see them.
|The historic plaque at the base of the tower|
One of those towers remains today, east of MoPac near Austin High School. Located right next door to a rowing house, it includes a plaque providing some history about the structure. Most folks run or bike right by without considering for what purpose it was used.
Austin High's north hill was the scene of a brick dump where broken bricks were disposed of. Apparently a layer of bricks were found 5-6 feet under the ground when planting a memorial oak tree. Currently, we have no indication that any of the brick refuse is visible above ground level.
of Stephen F. Austin High.
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Austin: A History of the Capital City (Fred Rider Cotten Popular History)
David C. Humphrey
List Price: $9.95
Our price: $8.86
State capital and home of the University of Texas, Austin is the one city that belongs to all Texans. This finely written book, illustrated with historic photographs, tells the story of Austin’s transformation from an Indian haunted” frontier village into a residential mecca and high-tech hot spot.
Called by Sam Houston at its founding the most unfortunate site upon earth for the seat of government,” the infant community struggled for three decades against political enemies and competing towns before winning recognition as the permanent capital. The founding of the University of Texas turned the seat of politics into the seat of education, but Austin’s nineteenth-century dreams of becoming a river port and a factory town came to naught.
A slave city in a slave state, Austin cast its lot with the Confederacy. Retaining a frontier flavor into the 1890s, postCivil War Austin became the headquarters of the Texas gambling fraternity and a magnet for cowmen seeking booze and women of the night.”
Turning the nineteenth-century frontier town into an appealing twentieth-century residential community taxed the energies of civic leaders for several decades. Virtually parkless and with no paved streets in 1900, Austin by the 1940s boasted tree-lined boulevards, a cornucopia of parks and pools, and a leisurely lifestyle. But for African American residents these were years of oppressive segregation. Mexicans encountered similar treatment as Austin became a tri-ethnic community during the 1920s and 1930s.
Segregation gradually gave way in a divisive but nonviolent struggle. While adjusting to this, Austin experienced eye-popping expansion. Fearful that Austin would become another Houston,” residents sought to preserve the lifestyle that had made the capital city such an attractive place to live.