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Photo of arch leading into Hyde Park
Hyde Park: Life on the Avenues Photo of arch leading into Hyde Park
Photo of arch leading into Hyde Park
Detail from PICA 02628

Even before Monroe M. Shipe developed Hyde Park as one of Austin's first suburbs, the area was well known as a center for recreation. The flat, smooth terrain made it an ideal site for racing horses, and the Capital Jockey Club racecourse, located in the southeast corner of the area, was called "the finest in the South." The state militia also took advantage of the expanse of flat land to hold drills and sham battles at its annual summer encampment which attracted thousands of spectators. In 1875 the Capital State Fair Association located the state fairgrounds adjacent to the racetrack, constructing a 3,500 seat grandstand, a large exhibition hall, stables, cisterns and wells to accommodate visitors to the fair. Initially successful, the fair began to lose money and relocated to Dallas in 1884.

Following the beautification of the grounds of the State Lunatic Asylum in the 1870s, young ladies and their beaux often strolled by its lakes and took buggy rides on its scenic drives on Sunday afternoons. With the development of Gem Lake across Guadalupe, the area became well established as a resort, and the completion of a pavilion by the lake provided a popular location for concerts, plays, musicals, dances, and other entertainment.

Photograph of three young men standing beside car J.D. Tom, Robert L. Herber and Ervin C. Herber were members of a group of eleven boys who sped around Hyde Park's graveled streets in a red Model T in the 1930s. All eleven fought in World War II and all returned safely.
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Photograph of boy holding baseball bat Murray Perkins Ramsey prepares to bat in front of his home at 4312 Speedway. Baseball was very popular with all age groups. Several men from the neighborhood played hardball every Sunday morning on the grounds of the Asylum.
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Photograph of pavilion reflected in lake By 1892 a pavilion operated by the Austin Rapid Transit Company had been built in the resort area located at the southwest corner of Hyde Park. Next to the lake, it provided an ideal location for summer entertainment such as concerts, plays, and dances.
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Photograph of couple in horse-drawn buggy Joe Barron of 4411 Guadalupe and an unidentified young lady, like many Austin couples at the turn of the century, spend a quiet Sunday afternoon driving on the grounds of the State Lunatic Asylum.
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Photograph of man with his arm around a sculpture as his female companion looks away Ed Barron of 4411 Guadalupe clowns on a courting expedition to the State Lunatic Asylum grounds, which were beautified in the 1870s to provide a more pleasant environment for the patients.
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Photograph of decorated Christmas tree with model train circling underneath A Christmas tree at 4412 Avenue B awaits the arrival of F.T. and Annabel Ramsey's grandchildren about 1921. In many homes parents decorated the tree on Christmas Eve and the children did not see it until the next morning.
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Photograph of two women in rowboat next to shore Rowboats were provided for the pleasure of visitors to Hyde Park's Gem Lake. The resort attracted not only afternoon excursionists from Austin but also out-of-town tourists who stayed at local boarding houses.
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Photograph of women in small rowboat feeding ducks Ladies enjoy a boat ride on Gem Lake. Feeding the ducks was one of the many pleasures the area offered. The islands were landscaped with banana and other fruit trees, and the smaller "auxiliary lakes" had water lilies with leaves so large a child could stand on them.
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Men in military uniforms stand outside their tents on camp ground In the late 19th century, the Texas Militia held its annual summer encampment in Hyde Park. The encampments attracted thousands of spectators to dress parades and sham battles.
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Photograph of Mr. Thorp and two friends standing in the yard of one-story house Raymond D. "Boss" Thorp, an unidentified man and Mark Burnette stand in front of the Thorp home at 4401 Speedway. Thorp played semi-pro baseball before enlisting in World War I. Later he served as Austin's chief of police for 27 years.
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Photograph of three-story hospital building on the grounds of the Asylum The State Lunatic Asylum opened in March, 1861, with about a dozen inmates. Dr. D.B. Wallace, the superintendent during the 1870s, supervised the beautification of the grounds by the creation of 600 yards of drives and a chain of "artistic lakes and lily ponds."
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Photograph of boy in wagon being pulled by a goat Traveling photographers liked to pose children with animals as in this 1924 shot of Harrell McFarland in front of his home at 3903 Avenue B.
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Photograph of older man behind wheel of racecar In addition to horse races and bicycle races, early automobile races were held at the Hyde Park racetrack. An unidentified driver poses in The Green Dragon.
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