The Austin History Center's mission is to procure, preserve, present and provide the historical records that make up Austin's unique story.
Wooldridge Square dates to the Waller Plan of 1839, when the City of Austin was surveyed and platted as the capital of the Republic of Texas (1836–1845). In 1909, Austin Mayor A.P. Wooldridge led a beautification effort to formally dedicate Wooldridge Square as a park. The 1.75-acre park sits directly south of the Travis County Courthouse and is characterized by its unusual bowl-shaped topography resulting in a natural amphitheater with generous slopes of green grass.
The 1910 Classical Revival bandstand, designed by prominent Texas architect Charles Page, is the centerpiece of the park. Wooldridge Square was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and designated as a State Antiquities Landmark (SAL) in 1981. The park is also a City of Austin Historic Landmark.
“Wooldridge Park, and the bandstand specifically, is a pure and fairly pristine vignette of an original Austin park,” said Tere O’Connell, AIA, principal with VOH Architects, a firm that donated its time and expertise to the bandstand maintenance project. “The bandstand gives us a clear and unmistakable physical reference point that helps tell the history of public celebration, recreation, and civic involvement in Austin.”
Park advocates, downtown residents, and the business community hope the recent investments in Wooldridge Square will enable the park to once again become the center of civic life in Austin. The park has a long history of hosting performance and political activities. In 1911, Governor Colquitt began the tradition of launching campaigns from the square, followed by Govs. Allan Shivers, Pat Neff, Dan Moody, Jimmy Allred, Jim Ferguson, and W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel. Lyndon Baines Johnson famously announced his bid for the U.S. Senate in 1948 at Wooldridge Square.
Future plans for Wooldridge Square include the development of a long-term master plan to guide the development of programming at the park, as well as more extensive physical improvements to address access and shade. As a stakeholder in this planning process, the THC will work to ensure the historic character of the park is showcased while allowing for compatible improvements.
Cover Photo Courtesy of Cesar Garza via Flickr