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Eastwoods Park was once Emancipation Proclamation Park

Michael Barnes
mbarnes@statesman.com

History rises upon history.

Eastwoods Park, hidden along Waller Creek in the Harris Park neighborhood just north of the University of Texas campus, is known to UT alumni as the earliest location for Eeyore's Birthday. That whimsical salute to a fictional donkey has long since moved to larger Pease Park, but wandering through majestic trees and inviting play areas at Eastwoods, one could imagine UT faculty and students delighting in its quiet charm.

Long before this bit of hippie history, however, the area was known as Wheeler's Grove and hosted among the city's earliest Juneteenth parties. The June 19 holiday celebrates the day in 1865 when the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation was first read to Texans. Thus, Eastwoods can be considered an early Emancipation Proclamation Park. (It lies between the Blackland neighborhood and the since-disappeared freetown of Wheatville.)

In 1929, the City of Austin acquired the land, opening the playground in 1930 and a pool in 1933. Jac Grubbles, chief landscape architect for the Texas Highway Department, laid out the park. Hugo Kuehne, a hero of the Austin parks system, designed the stone shelter house, which, as was the custom, contains the park's restroom, but also serves as a picnic and performance area. Check out the tree stump carved by David Kestenbaum into a wizard's head.

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