Eastwoods Park is a shady 9 acre neighborhood park that sits along Waller Creek, just north of the University of Texas. Prior to development as a city park in 1930, the site was referred to as Wheeler’s Grove1. The site is historically significant for hosting one of the earliest Juneteenth celebrations in Austin in the latter part of the 19th century. Juneteenth is a holiday that commemorates June 19, 1865, the day that news of President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation reached Texas. Juneteenth later became a time to celebrate African-American cultural traditions and the annual celebrations continue today in other parks in Austin.
In March, 1929, nine acres of land on Waller Creek was purchased for $20,000 for the development of a park and playground. The playground was open by August, 1930, and a pool was opened by 1933. Eastwoods Park is used as a neighborhood park by the Eastwoods neighborhood and students from the University of Texas. The park was the original location of Austin's Eeyore's Birthday Party, an eclectic and uniquely Austin festival started by students at the University of Texas. The event is now held in Pease Park.
Historic and Cultural Resources
Eastwoods Park was designed by the landscape architect, Jac Gubbles.2 Gubbles is well known as the chief landscape architect for the Texas Highway Department (THD) Landscape Division. It was Gubbles who is credited with the early beautification initiatives along Texas highways. Prior to his work with the THD, Gubbles restored the San Jacinto Battlefield to its original 1830s appearance and worked extensively on the 1Austin as a part of a $750,000 bond program to purchase land for boulevards and parks. Gubbles oversaw the acquisition of land along Shoal Creek, Plum Creek, and Zilker Park.3
The Eastwoods Shelter House, built c. 1930, is the only historic building in the park and may have been designed by Hugo Kuehne,4 who was an active board member in the early day’s of Austin’s park system. Kuehne entered practice in 1915. Among his major works was the Austin Public Library (1933), now the Austin History Center. Others include the Bohn Brothers building at 517 Congress Avenue (1929), alterations for Brackenridge Hospital (1933), the Steck Building at 419 Congress (1932), the Commodore Perry Hotel (1950), the International Life Building (1952), the American National Bank (1952), the Texas Department of Public Safety building (1952), and buildings for the Austin State Hospital. He was twice president of the Central Texas chapter of the American Institute of Architects and a director of the Texas Society of Architects; he was elected a fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1944.5
The Eastwoods Shelter House sits on the edge of a clearing in the park and is bordered by a stand of live oak trees. The small, one-story building serves as the restroom facility for the park and has a rectangular footprint. The construction is likely a stone cavity wall and the building exterior is comprised of face-laid limestone veneer in hues of white, light brown and reddish-brown. The current roofing material on the gabled roof is corrugated metal, but historic photographs show the original roofing material to be clay tile. Decorative features include sloping walls of limestone veneer that spring from the side of the southwest façade. A portico with a hipped roof projects off the front façade and is supported by face-laid limestone veneer columns. The northeast façade is composed of a center door with a rounded entrance, which has since been filled in with limestone veneer. Two symmetrical fixed windows with half-round arches flank the doorway. The building contains both a men’s and a women’s restroom.
Remains of a historic masonry wall can also be found along the north side of the softball field. Historic photos show that the wall was part of the original design of the park.
1 Karen Riles, “Juneteenth: Austin’s Jubilee in the 20th Century,” unpublished article, AF-African Americans-A1300-Emancipation Day/Juneteenth (9). Austin History Center. 2002.
2 Photo at Austin History Center of Eastwoods Park lists Jac Gubbels as the landscape architect for the park.
3 Michael Conan, “Environmentalism in Landscape Architecture,” Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, p. 55.
4 A photo of the Eastwood Shelter House was donated to the Austin History Center as a part of the Hugo Kuehne Architectural Archives Collection; however, no construction plans were included. The tie to Kuehne cannot be fully substantiated and is inferred by the photo’s inclusion in the collection.
5 Roxanne Williamson, "Kuehne, Hugo Franz," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fku12), accessed February 16, 2011.
6 Kent Biffle, “Merlin carving stumps visitors to Austin park,” Austin-American Statesman, September 5, 1993.
Eeyore's Birthday Party began in 1963 as a spring party and picnic before the beginning of ‘dead week’, hosted by Plan II students and faculty, and first led by Lloyd Birdwell, an English graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin. It was named for Eeyore, a chronically depressed donkey in A. A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh stories who, in one story, believes his friends have forgotten his birthday only to discover they have planned a surprise party for him.
Despite its name, the event does not fall on the official birthday of the fictional character. The original event featured a trashcan full of lemonade, beer, honey sandwiches, a live, flower-draped donkey, and a may pole (in keeping with the event's proximity to May Day). For many years the party was a UT tradition, but subsequently the annual Birthday Party became a tradition in Austin's hippie subculture.
When the festival moved from Eastwoods Park to Pease District Park in 1974, Austin-area non-profit Friends of the Forest Foundation, an organization which distributes funds to other area charities, began arranging for food and drink vendors at the festival. In the early 80s, the University YMCA took over production of the event, initiating adult beverage sponsorships and creating the child and adult costume contests, the first aid booth, the kiddie area, and many more features still happening at the event. By the mid-1980s, the Friends of the Forest had assumed primary production responsibilities such as arranging public services (toilets, buses, security, medics) and scheduling live music and family-oriented games and contests. The event is still known to most as a festival oriented towards modern hippies. It now boasts an annual attendance in the thousands.
In commemoration, Eastwoods Park features a charming donkey sculpture by local artist Bob Coffee.