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.

The Sunday porch: Austin, Texas

A repeat porch from June 2014. . .
Austin dogtrot, 1935, via Texas State Archives“Remains of log dogtrot house near Webberville Road. . . Austin Texas,” 1935, probably by Fannie Ratchford, via Texas State Archives.

Unfortunately, it’s a little out of focus, but still beautiful.

. . .  I woo the wind
That still delays his coming. Why so slow,
Gentle and voluble spirit of the air?
Oh, come and breathe upon the fainting earth
Coolness and life!

— William Cullen Bryant, from “Summer Wind

The Sunday porch: recorded

Lomax Collection 2, Library of Congress“Mrs. Alberta Kimball, Mrs. Minnie Smith, and Mrs. Emily Elizabeth Fulks, at the home of Mrs. Fulks, Prairie Lea,* Texas,” September 1940, by Ruby Terrill Lomax, via Lomax Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The three women were folk musicians. Alone or in duets, they sang songs like “Swedes Blessing,” “There was a Wealthy Merchant,” “Way Out West in Texas,” “Barbara Allen,” and “The Gypsy’s Warning.”  Unfortunately, I can’t find an online recording of them. They look delightful in these pictures, however, particularly in those flowered dresses.

Lomax Collection 31, Library of Congress
Mrs. Minnie Smith, Mrs. Elizabeth Fulks, Mrs. Albertina Kimball, at Mrs. Fulks’s home.

These are four snapshots from four hundred made during the sound recording expeditions of the Lomax family.  From 1934 to around 1950, John Avery Lomax, Ruby Terrill Lomax, and Alan Lomax traveled the southern United States and the Bahamas collecting folk music and folklore for the Library of Congress.

Lomax Collection 4, Library of Congress
Mrs. Fulks on her porch.
Lomax Collection 5, Library of Congress
Mrs. Fulks in her garden.

There’s a previous “Sunday porch” from the Lomax Collection here.

Our world, so worn and weary,
Needs music, pure and strong,
To hush the jangle and discords
Of sorrow, pain, and wrong.

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, from “Songs for the People

*These photos were labeled with the location as Prairie Lea or Prairie Lea R.F.D., but also as Stanton, Texas.  Prairie Lea and Stanton are in different parts of Texas, and I have been unable to find out which town is correct.  The labels on the sound recordings the women made say “Prairie Lea” — which certainly sounds like a place in a folk song.