Most precious part of Zilker Botanical Garden reflects the spirit of one man

The drawing-rooms of one of the most magnificent private residences in Austin are a blaze of lights. Carriages line the streets in front, and from gate to doorway is spread a velvet carpet, on which the delicate feet of the guests may tread. The occasion is the entrance into society of one of the fairest buds in the City of the Violet Crown.

“Tictoca,” William Sydney Porter (O. Henry), The Rolling Stone, October 27, 1894

Clara Driscoll Sevier, who loved flowers to the point of promoting a rose garden next to the Alamo as more desirable than saving its historic convent walls, found Austin lacking a garden club for women. To remedy this, she invited a group of ladies to Laguna Gloria, her home that is now The Contemporary Austin, to establish one in 1924. O. Henry’s reference to the violet-crowned hills of Austin inspired the name for the new group, the Violet Crown Garden Club.

Annual flower shows were the primary focus of the club until 1946 when members set aside modest seed money of $50 to initiate efforts to seek space in the city’s Zilker Park for a botanical garden. The Violet Crown Garden Club recruited six other garden clubs to join its quest and their persistence finally resulted in the 1964 completion of the Austin Area Garden Center building in what became the Zilker Botanical Garden.

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An Ostrich-Plumed Hat: Chapter Fifty-Four

october 1913 flood

Above, spectators stand on the Navarro Street Bridge with the floodwaters lapping just below. Photograph from UTSA Libraries Special Collections

an ostrich-plumed hat

Begin with Chapter One ~ Return to Chapter Fifty-Three

Emma Bentzen Koehler, October 1913

“Sophie,” asks Bettie Stevens, “however did you manage to return your house to normal in time for this beautiful wedding? We still don’t have the mud cleared out of the first floor.”

“Many hired hands. The Colonel posted a notice at the brewery offering double pay to any worker willing to shovel, scrub and paint by lamplight after their shifts ended. I cried myself to sleep every night thinking that, after all the planning, we would have to ask Otto and Emma to host the celebration at their house.”

“And, of course,” says Emma, “you know we would have been more than happy to have Jennie wed there. But I understand the sentimental reasons for holding the wedding in your own home.”

John shakes his head. “Eight inches of rain. It was the most frightening night of my life. One day people were whining about not enough water in the river. The next night our whole household is huddled in the attic, hoping not to get washed away.”

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An Ostrich-Plumed Hat: Chapter Forty-Four

east commerce street

Above, the intersection of Navarro and East Commerce Streets. John Stevens’ office building is mid-block on the left side of the street.

an ostrich-plumed hat

Begin with Chapter One ~ Return to Chapter Forty-Three

Andrew Stevens, March 1913

“Thought the prophecies of the Book of Revelation were coming true last night!” John hangs his hat and umbrella on the stand just inside the door of Mr. K’s office.

“My best hens,” responds Mr. K, “never laid an egg as large as those hailstones plummeting down from the heavens. Half the slate tiles from my roof lie splintered on the ground. Both greenhouses shattered. All their contents destroyed.”

“Your financial loss must be enormous,” remarks Andy. “I am so sorry, sir.”

“Approximately 5,000 dollars. But my mourning is not monetary. Insurance will replace the roof and the glass. But those rare specimens of orchids I collected and cultivated? Irreplaceable.”

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