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"Hindsights"


Looking back at:

Fredericksburg's Tourist Park

By Michael Barr
Michael Barr

Driving through the field that was once Fredericksburg's Tourist Park, dodging cows that mistook our pickup for a food truck, it's easy to imagine the sounds of summer from long ago: the laughter of children, the splash of water in the swimming pool, the crack of the baseball bat, the salty language of the golfer whose easy chip shot flies over the green like a flushed quail and rolls all the way to Baron's Creek.

Until Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park opened in 1969, old Tourist Park, located on Goehmann Lane behind Dollar Tree and the Goodwill Store, was the summer gathering place for locals and tourists.

Today you can't swing a cat on Fredericksburg's Main Street without hitting a tourist, but visitors were few and far between in the early 20th century. In fact tourism as an industry didn't really exist anywhere in Texas before 1900. Then around the turn of the century the Rio Grande Valley and the Texas Gulf Coast, primarily Galveston, emerged as popular winter resorts.



The Hill Country attracted few visitors before WWI. Then came the roaring 20s, and the American economy boomed like never before. The middle class grew, car ownership soared, roads improved, and the amount of leisure time increased.

Texans, with money in their pockets and time on their hands, took to the road. Many small Texas towns catered to tourists by building parks.

The state government tried to help. Gov. Pat Neff proposed that towns all over Texas purchase property for parks. The towns would then deed the property to the state, and the state would foot the bill for improvements and maintenance.

Great plan, except for one snag. The legislature failed to appropriate the money for improvements and maintenance.

So the people of Fredericksburg built their own Tourist Park. In 1926 citizens organized the Fredericksburg Park and Golf Association, Inc. Shares sold for $5 each. By 1927 there were 150 local shareholders.

Fredericksburg TX - Old Tourist Park Swimming Pool
The swimming pool at Old Tourist Park in Fredericksburg
Courtesy Gillespie County Historical Society

Tourist Park covered 34 acres along Baron's Creek. Amenities included several cottages (with and without garages), a bath house, a 9-hole golf course, a concrete swimming pool, a caretaker's office, electric lights, campsites, tables, benches and cooking grates. There was a filling station, operated by the Crenwelge brothers, at the main gate.

Park fees included 50 cents a day for a campsite, $1 a day for a cottage and $1.25 a day for a cottage with a garage. Each cottage came fully equipped with all the comforts of home including a heating stove, a stack of firewood, 2 cots, a table and benches.

The swimming pool was gigantic -110 ft. long by 60 ft. wide, with a large kiddy pool on one end. There was a tall lifeguard stand in the middle, a spinning water top and a diving tower.

The golf course was a marvel. It was a 9-hole par 3 "pitch and putt" course that attracted golfers from all over South and West Texas. Green fees were 25 cents for non-shareholders.

Tourist Park held a golf tournament, probably the first in Gillespie County, on October 17, 1926.

The popularity of Tourist Park exceeded expectations. In the 1926 tourist season, May through September, 800 tourists stayed overnight in the park.

Then the Great Depression hit. Money was tight. Tourists stopped coming. Money for maintenance dried up.

By 1941 the old park was in sad shape. The editor of the Fredericksburg Standard wrote "the swimming pool stands like an empty gravel pit . . . the golf course is indistinguishable from the rest of the park that is now in weeds."

Fredericksburg TX - Old Tourist Park Swimming Pool
A modern day picture of the swimming pool
Courtesy Michael Barr, January 2022

But the tourists returned after the war, and the old park got a facelift. Besides the swimming pool and the golf course, amenities included a baseball field, a playground for children, a rodeo arena and a skeet range.

Tourist Park served the community well until Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park opened.

The new park has its own personality, but the sounds of summer are still there. You can hear water splashing, the crack of the bat and salty language on the golf course.

Some things never change.

Sources:
"Our tourist Park," Fredericksburg Standard, October 2, 1926.
"More cottages for our Tourist Park," Fredericksburg Standard, December 25, 1926.
"Plans Being Rushed For Opening Of Tourist Park Swimming Pool On May 1," Fredericksburg Standard, April 29, 1947
"Improvement at Park," Fredericksburg Standard, October 22, 1947.

Michael Barr
"Hindsights" March 1, 2022 Column



"Hindsights" by Michael Barr

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