History of French Place – Part Deux

PLAT MAP of Dancy Addition 1938

Plat map of Dancy Addition 1938

The Peyton Wade Nowlin family included six daughters and two sons.  Nowlin’s original 40 acre land grant of 1849 was bounded by East Ave to Lafayette on the east, and Manor Rd/27th on the south to Edgewood on the North.  In 1850, just one year after receiving the land grant, Nowlin bought an additional 40 acres immediately to the east of him from George McClintock for $280.  On his death, he willed eldest daughter, Lucy Dancy, the 20 acres that became Dancy Addition. He gave the ‘North 20′, known as Avalon (from 35 to the east side of Dancy and from 30th to Edgewood), to daughter Addie who married David Robinson (hence the street name “Robinson”).  He willed this other 40 acres to another daughter, Mrs. Annie LeSeur and Mrs. Molly Dinkins.  Molly Dinkins’ land was developed as Nowlin Heights from Manor Rd to 30th St. and the land from 30th to Edgewood was sold to Walter Staehely in 1938 for $6,000 to be developed as Lafayette Heights.  Annie LeSeur’s land was passed to her heirs and purchased by J. H. and Olivia French in 1939 for $25,000 to became Forest Hills!!! (This land is from Manor to Edgewood and from the west side of French Place to the east side of Cherrywood.  It also includes properties along the south side of 32nd St as it runs east of Cherrywood and properties on the south end of Hemlock and the east side of Walnut Ave) That is the part of our neighborhood with streets named French Place and Breeze Terrace.

Landmarks in the area include the home of Nowlin’s daughter, Addie Robinson, at 1110 East 32nd Street.  Addie had a sensitivity for handicapped children so she bequeathed her property to the Brown School.  It has been in semi-public hands ever since and is now Pediatric Cardiology of Austin. The granddaughter of Addie, Frances McClellan Dieter and husband, H. B. Deiter along with their sons, Hank and John, lived at 3108 Robinson, one of the oldest homes in Avalon dating from 1932.  Hank, purchased several homes in Avalon which remain in the family to this day.  Hank was a bachelor all his life, but he loved to sing and was a member of the German social club at Saengerrunde Hall. His father, H. B., was an engineer and inventor who patented bucket seats for automobiles that we still enjoy today!

William and Annie Shirriffs, were early residents at 1107 East 32nd St. (at the corner of 32nd and Robinson). Built in 1931, this is the oldest home in Avalon.  When I knew her as a widow in 1975, Annie loved to sit on her porch and tell stories of her early years in the neighborhood in the 1930s and 1940s. Ms. Shirriffs was a member of the Women’s Air Corp and was the only person in her unit who had top secret clearance for the flying missions for our airmen who were stationed at Bergstrom AFB during WWII.  She’d get a call to go to the base and once the pilots would be in the air, she would issue their flight plans for their critical missions.

Homes in Nowlin Heights were mostly built in the 1930s, with the noted exception of 2806 Lafayette, built in 1912. One property of note is the Austin Convalescent Home, aka, the Old Man’s Home at 2900 Lafayette.  Built in 1931, this two story structure was built as a home for the aged. The current owner has preserved the room numbers (1 through 8) that are attached to the jamb above each door.

2900 Lafayette

2900 Lafayette

Homes in Forest Hills were mostly built in the 1940s, but the earliest existing home at 3005 Cherrywood was built in 1905, making it one of the oldest homes in the entire neighborhood, followed by 3008 Cherrywood in 1921.

Homes in Lafayette Heights were mostly built in 1939 and 1940 with no early exceptions.

2904 Dancy in 2012

2904 Dancy

The oldest existing home in Dancy Addition is the noted J. H. French house at 2904 Dancy, built in 1934.  It seems strange that J.H. French’s subdivision was called Forest Hills, yet the name French Place is what stuck!  Everything south of Edgewood to Manor Road and east from IH35 to Cherrywood could be called French Place.  There’s no legal precedent for the name French Place as a neighborhood in any city records. It’s not a legal subdivision, it’s just the way neighborhood terminology evolved.  However, this entire area was in the Nowlin family land grant.  Since the Nowlin family had so many ties to France and New Orleans, maybe they called it French Place from the very beginning. Maybe neighbors just liked the name of the street …and it had little to do with J.H. French, the man.  We may never know for certain….