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History of the NACA Neighborhood

Newcomers to the neighborhood may find it hard to imagine that the area within the boundaries of NACA was a small, but independent farming community. On a land grant awarded for his service in the Battle of San Jacinto, Josiah Fiske built the first home in this part of Northern Travis County in the early 1850’s. Fiske served in the Texas Rangers in 1859 and in the Mexican War. He was also a surveyor and a land speculator. When the Texas Supreme Court ruled against him in the matter of a disputed real estate transaction he decamped to New Orleans, but returned to Northern Travis County in the early 1870’s. The first post office was established in 1873 and the community named Fiskville in honor of its founder.

Several streets in the NACA neighborhood such as Kramer and Neans bear the names of the families who once farmed the area’s rich soil. Though primarily a farming community, Fiskville with its blacksmith shop, general store, and stage coach inn served as a convenient stopping off place for travelers heading north to Waco on the Upper Georgetown Road, the present North Lamar Boulevard. By the mid-1880’s the population had grown to 120.

It would doubtless surprise many Austinites to learn that the NACA neighborhood boasts one of the three oldest buildings in the City of Austin. The house at 9019 Parkfield was built by Edward Zimmerman in 1854; only the French Legation and a log house built in 1847 are older. Zimmerman used the fachwerk method of construction, which he had learned in his native Germany. Zimmerman’s affairs prospered and he sold the fachwerk house in 1856 and built a larger stone home which now contains the offices of the Settlement Home at 1600 Payton Gin Rd. It is said that Zimmerman’s wife, Regina, had to fight off a marauding bear on the back porch of this house.

Fiskville was a popular destination in the later years of the nineteenth century for Austin residents wishing to spend a day or an evening in the country. Mary Starr Barkley in her History of Austin and Travis County, notes that a bicycle club made frequent excursions to Fiskville by moonlight. E. W. Haller’s peach orchard, which occupied the area west of the Payton Gin and Lamar intersection until 1898, must have added considerable charm to Fiskville. The area’s first school was a stone building built in 1857. It was later destroyed by fire and replaced by a three-room frame structure known as the Fiskville School. The Fiskville County School District was consolidated with the Austin Independent School District in 1959. Fiskville remained a separate community until annexed by Austin.

Once a suburb of the City of Austin, the NACA Neighborhood Planning area was annexed in stages in the mid-1960’s and early 1970’s. With annexation came unplanned growth and the loss of the area’s predominantly rural character. Much of the area was spot, strip, and interim-zoned with predictable results. Not until the completion of the North Lamar Area Study in 1985 was permanent zoning classifications assigned to the interim-zoned properties. It was also at this time that a large number of apartment complexes sprung up through out the neighborhood.

As Austin continues to grow at an unprecedented pace, NACA is rapidly becoming an inner city neighborhood. Besides increasing the area population, rapid growth has also meant increased traffic, increased crime and inadequate infrastructure. Public schools are overcrowded with enrollments hovering at 1000 students. Parkland and recreational facilities are notable by their absence (two parks with a total of some 20 acres). The Little Walnut Creek Library is too small to meet the needs of the growing community. The NACA Neighborhood Plan addresses many of these issues, but at the same time offers a positive vision of a more attractive, more livable neighborhood. Integral to this vision is a renewed dedication to the preservation of NACA’s rich historical legacy.