Life in gardens: Austin, Texas

Pressler's Beer Garden, Austin, TX, ca. 1890s, via The Portal to Texas History

Five adults and two children at wooden tables beneath the large trees of Pressler’s Beer Garden, Austin, Texas, between 1890 and 1910, by Samuel B. Hillvia Austin Public Library and The Portal to Texas History (University of North Texas Libraries).

Pressler’s (originally a brewery) was located at 1327 West 6th Street for more than 30 years, closing in 1910. Its grounds featured a concert hall and dance pavilion,  “ornamental shrubbery, arbors, and a fountain. . . . a boating ramp, a shooting club, and an alligator pond.” Pressler’s also hosted the German-American Austin Garten Association one Sunday every month.

Detail of photo above.
Detail of photo above. Click to enlarge.

The city had at least five biergartens at the time of the photo above“Austin’s beer gardens of the 19th century were tightly woven into the fabric of local social life,” according to an interesting article in The Austin Chronicle, “Gardens of Eden.” “They were convivial places, patronized by both men and women, their families, and children.” They were particularly loved for their musical performances.

Today, only Scholz Garten remains — the oldest operating business in Texas.

Life in gardens: June 14, 1944

PX Beer Garden, June 14, 1944, via LoC

PX beer garden at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, June 14, 1944, by Victor Alfred Lundy, via the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

A beer garden is simply a shady outdoor area with tables and chairs where beer and sometimes food is served. The idea originated in the Bavaria region of Germany in the 19th century and soon came to America. There’s a brief history of beer gardens in the U.S. here.

Some American beer gardens were such pleasant, seemingly wholesome places that they rattled the resolve of the temperance movement. A woman on a committee investigating Chicago drinking spots wrote of one: “Isn’t it beautiful? Can it be, is it possible, that after all our ideas are wrong and these people are right?”

Beer gardens, like the one pictured above, were features of at least some homeland military camps and forts in the mid 1940s. Camp Mackall in North Carolina had six. I found a reference to one at Fort McClellan near Anniston, Alabama.  

During his U.S. Army service, Victor Lundy filled eight sketchbooks with scenes of his training at Fort Jackson, his life on a transport ship crossing the Atlantic, and his frontline duty in France.

After the war, he became an architect, admired today for “his sculptural sense of form” and  “innovative use of engineering technology,” according to the Smithsonian Institution.