Cherrywood History Through the Years

Cherrywood History

The neighborhood now known as Cherrywood takes its name from the major north-south artery that bisects the neighborhood, Cherrywood Road. But Cherrywood Road was once called Chestnut Street, and Cherrywood itself was once cotton fields, pastures and woods. The area bounded by Interstate 35, Manor Road, Airport Boulevard, and Wilshire Boulevard certainly has seen its share of changes over the last 170 years!

A land grant from Mexico and Texas in the 1830s paved the way for settlers from the east, who encountered native tribes. These settlers transformed hunting grounds into farms and ranches that remained for a century. Rapid post-war development in the 1940s and 1950s transformed the area once again, this time sprouting houses and businesses where cattle once grazed, and parks in former peach orchards.

While most of the livestock is now gone, Cherrywood today hosts a mix of bungalows, ranch style houses, and two-story stucco duplexes. The names of early owners, like Doris and J.H. French, Bascom and Rogan Giles, Walter Schieffer, Nye Patterson and others, are reflected in the names of streets and parks.

(ca. 1830s-1850s)

The original residents of the Cherrywood area were clans of the Tonkawas and Comanche people. In 1834, Thomas Chambers obtained a land grant from the Mexican
states of Coahuila and Texas. Settlers of European and African heritage began arriving in the 1840s.

In April 1841, Thomas Hawkins of Kentucky arrived to claim a grant of 510 acres from Texas President Mirabeau B. Lamar. Hawkins surveyed the land north of what is now East 38 1/2 Street but in 1850 surrendered 165 acres to Ashford B. McGill, the county clerk, for $0.52 in unpaid taxes. McGill sold off much of the land for a total of $800, but city records still refer to this area as the “Thos. Hawkins Survey.”

The Wright family, Joseph, Rachel, their three children, two slaves, Milton and Caroline, and another family, arrived in 1852 to farm land now located in north Cherrywood, obtained from the Reverend Ainsworth. The second Wright house, later sold to the
Giles family, still stands on Ardenwood near Interstate 35, next to St. George’s Episcopal Church in the Wilshire Wood neighborhood.

Interstate 35 was once a cattle trail. Newspapers at the time recounted herds so large they darkened the sky with dust and took hours to pass. The trail later become Cameron Road, then East Avenue, a two-lane blacktop that was the main north-south road into Austin.

(ca. 1860s-1940s)

For over a century, farms and ranches thrived on this land on the outskirts of Austin. By the early 1900s, a few scattered houses had been built on land south of Manor Road, which was then the main route to Houston. The land north of Manor Road remained woods, cotton fields and pasture, excellent for hunting rabbits, raccoons, possums, squirrels and other varmints. Joe Fortier ran cattle, horses and mules on the large
pasture he owned north of Manor Road between Lafayette Avenue and Chestnut Street, now Cherrywood Road.

In 1887, Walter Schieffer purchased 96 acres north of East 38 1/2 Street and operated a dairy at what is now Brookview Road and Vineland Street. The Schieffer grazing land stretched from where Maplewood Elementary School now stands to the former airport site. The Schieffers also owned a slaughterhouse and meat market in Austin, and a cattle barn was located near where East 40th Street meets Boggy Creek. In the 1920s, the
Schieffers sold the Delwood and Maplewood areas east of Cherrywood Road to the Giles family.

A frame farm house and outbuildings sat on a hill overlooking the property, at the end of a lane now called Schieffer Ave. The original house burned down and was replaced by the modern ranch-style house at the intersection of Brookview and Vineland.

A railroad spur, owned by the Texas and Southern Pacific Railroad and the Houston and Texas Central Railroad, was built through Cherrywood during this period. The railroad is currently owned by Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and by 2008 will add commuter rail service to current daily deliveries of gravel quarried near Llano.

By the 1930s, subdivisions began appearing in the southern portion of the neighborhood. Forest Hills, north of Manor Road between Lafayette Avenue and Walnut Street, was only the largest of developments with names like Lafayette Heights, Nowlin Heights,
Upland, Avalon, and University Park.

Cherrywood Road, then known as Chestnut Street, ended at East 38 1/2 Street, then known as Ardene. This secluded rendevous was known for the large oak tree that still stands near the corner. Austin City Limits fans will note that several streets in Cherrywood, including 38 1/2, Maplewood and Schieffer, have been denoted as the city limits of Austin over the years.

In those days, East Avenue, now the Interstate 35 frontage road, was a stately divided boulevard of houses with lush lawns, sculpted trees and shrubs, flower gardens, even limestone fountains. Numerous businesses also lined the busy thoroughfare, creating
an inviting and prosperous downhill entry into downtown.

Robert Mueller Municipal Airport, north of Cherrywood, began passenger service in 1930, and was a major influence on the neighborhood until its closing in 1999. In the spring of 1940, the airport was expanded into orchards owned by Nye Patterson. On the day the bulldozers arrived to level the 2,000 blooming peach and plum trees, Mr. Patterson was reported to have watched with tears in his eyes as his “children” were
destroyed. Mr. Patterson died soon after and a portion of his original orchard became Patterson Park at the north end of Cherrywood.

(ca. 1945-1970)

The end of World War II brought G.I.s and an unprecedented housing boom to Austin. Post-war suburbs arose in the pastures and cotton fields in the northern part of Cherrywood, while previously built areas saw infill developments.

In 1946 and 1947, the Giles brothers began building and selling affordable houses and duplexes in Giles Place and Delwood Park near the railroad tracks. Returning G.I.s were the market for these sturdy houses built of concrete block and stucco.

In 1951, the Giles brothers opened Delwood Shopping Center, the first commercial center of its kind in Texas. It had a breezeway, with parking behind the building. The building and its large red neon sign stood at the corner of East 38 1/2 Street and East Avenue until the early 1990s, when it was replaced with the current arrangement. The neon sign now
stands at the entrance to the shopping center on East 38 1/2 Street. A drive-in theater used to occupy land next to the railroad tracks, where apartments now stand.

In 1946, as Austin’s population grew and the city limits pushed north, Emmett Schieffer sold about 40 acres of family land to developer Perry Jones, who began selling lots in Willowbrook for about $2,000 each. Schieffer Place was also developed at this time. A Schieffer cow pasture made way for Maplewood Elementary School in 1951 to serve the growing population of families in the area. The original building housed five classrooms and a lunch room, which doubled as a classroom.

Built in 1949, Asbury United Methodist Church, at the corner of Cherrywood Road and East 38 1/2 Street, began when neighbors talking across the back fence agreed the neighborhood needed a church.

Interstate 35 replaced East Avenue in the early 1960s, with traffic jams on opening day. Many original houses in the southern part of Cherrywood were demolished to make way for the underpass and interchange at East 26th Street, now known as Dean Keeton Avenue.

(ca. 1970-present)

The creation of the Cherrywood Neighborhood Association in the 1980s unified the eclectic collection of neighborhoods and gave it a voice in shaping future changes. The 1990s and 2000s have brought these changes in abundance, and the people of Cherrywood are continually working to preserve its heritage and accommodate its future.