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: family and friends

Västra Götaland, Lysekil, Lysekil, Bohuslän, Övrigt-Sällskapsliv

Människor som sitter i en trädgård” (people sitting in a garden), Lysekil, Sweden, ca. 1890, a cyanotype by Carl Curman, via Swedish National Heritage Board Commons on flickr.

Carl Curman was a physician, specializing in the science of health baths (balneology).  He also became a prominent amateur photographer, leaving behind a collection of about 700 photos.  He lived with his wife, Calla (possibly the first person on the left above), and their children in Stockholm and, during the summers, in the seaside town of Lyskil.

The group above may be in an outdoor cafe of the park in Lyskil, rather than in a private garden. The spot looks very much like the one in this photo by Curman.

The Sunday porch: Munich

Chinese Tower, Munich, May 2016, enclos*ureChinesischer Turn and beer garden in the Englischer Garten park, Munich, Germany.

Not a porch, of course, but a grand garden pavilion first built in 1790 — the year the park itself was laid out (officially opening in 1792).

Chinese Tower detail, Munich, May 2016, enclos*ure
The all-wooden tower is five storeys and eighty-two feet tall.

The tower was designed by Joseph Frey, a military architect.  He was inspired by the “Great Pagoda” of the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in London.

The 1790 structure burned down in 1944 after a heavy bombing of Munich.  The current tower, true to the original, was built in 1951.

panoramic Chinese Tower, Munich, May 2016, enclos*ure
Click on the image to enlarge it.

The beer garden surrounding the Chinese Tower seats 7,000 people.

On early Sunday mornings in the late 19th century, up to 5,000 servants, soldiers, students, and other working-class people would gather at the tower to dance to a brass band.  These Kocherlball or cooks’ balls would end by 8:00 a.m., so that the attendees could get back to work or go to church.  The dances were outlawed in 1904, but were revived in 1989 as a annual event every third Sunday in July.

Munich, early May 2016, enclos*ure

As its name implies, the Englischer Garten public park (the oldest in Germany) was laid out in the English landscape style associated with the work of Capability Brown.  Its principal designer was Royal Gardener Friedrich Ludwig von Sckell, who had studied in England.

The park has an area of 910 acres — making it larger than New York City’s Central Park.

I took these photos with my phone while biking through the park last Sunday morning. (There are over 48 miles of paths in the park.)

There’s a brief history of beer gardens in America here.

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.