Zilker Park: Founded on a fortune made in ice

lone star ice works

Above: Lone Star Ice Works, George H. Berner and H.R. Marks, Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Portal to Texas History

The loss in this climate is enormous and it is probably within bounds to say that at least one sixth of the gross output melts away. The manufacture of tons of ice and its delivery to customers at a cent a pound is one of the novelties of this age, and had you ever hinted such a thing 30 years ago you would have been looked upon as insane.

Austin Statesman, July 17, 1890

Born in 1858 on the banks of the Ohio River in Indiana, Andrew Jackson Zilker started working riverside as a stevedore and cabin boy while young. He stumbled across a copy of Henderson Yoakum’s extensive History of Texas, published in 1846, and began dreaming of Texas. He worked his way via riverboat to New Orleans; earned his way to Texas by driving oxcarts to San Antonio; and arrived in Austin at age 18.

The 50 cents in his pocket, according to numerous accounts, was quickly depleted – half for a bed on the first night and the other half for food. Hunger motivated him to land employment helping to construct the International-Great Northern freight depot and then the Congress Avenue Bridge over the Colorado.

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An Ostrich-Plumed Hat: Chapter Thirty-Nine

cuero turkey trot 1912

Above, 1912 Cuero Turkey Trot, Francisco A. Chapa Family papers, UTSA Libraries Special Collections, The Top Shelf

an ostrich-plumed hat

Begin with Chapter One ~ Return to Chapter Thirty-Eight

Andrew Stevens, November 1912

“‘Personal antagonism,’” sputters John. “Bryan Callaghan must be rolling over in his grave. His reasons for renaming the park Waterworks were not petty.”

“Alderman Mauermann stuck to his ground, though,” adds the Colonel. “George Brackenridge’s gift to the city had more strings attached to it than a spider’s web. What good is a park with no way to access it?”

Mr. K’s grumpiness that this topic resurfaced at City Hall is obvious. “As big a proponent of parks as Alderman Lambert is, he sees the gift for what it was—a scheme to line George Brackenridge’s pockets. The city was hamstrung. Forced to buy property on River Avenue from him for an entrance to the parkland.”

John waves a hand dismissively. “A technicality. That’s a mere technicality according to Alderman Boynton. Says it’s poor grace to censure a benevolent donor simply because the city failed to notice the hitch at the time the gift of land was accepted.”

Continue reading “An Ostrich-Plumed Hat: Chapter Thirty-Nine”

An Ostrich-Plumed Hat: Chapter Twenty-Eight

san antonio river in brackenridge park
an ostrich-plumed hat

Begin with Chapter One ~ Return to Chapter Twenty-Seven

Andrew Stevens, July 1912

“A piece of good news emerged from Mayor Callaghan’s funeral,” announces Mr. K. “The Kalteyers finally can breathe easier. Doctor Herff says he expects their nine-year-old, little William, to recover from his concussion.”

“Speeding driver right there on Blum Street,” gripes the Colonel. “Hurled the boy off the wheel he was peddling and then sped out of Alamo Plaza, leaving Willie behind, a little heap in the street. Lucky the lad’s not dead. The only way to control these speed demons racing through downtown is to hire motorcycle policemen to chase them.” 

John has been running his hands through his hair over and over, and it now sticks out at all angles. Andy pats his own head to try to signal John to smooth it back down, but John is still too deep in mournful thoughts to pick up on it. “Otto, I know I shouldn’t compare the loss of Bryan Callaghan to your loss of your twin brother. After all, Bryan Callaghan was more stubborn than any mule….”

Continue reading “An Ostrich-Plumed Hat: Chapter Twenty-Eight”