Mayfield Park — Austin, Texas

Mayfield-Gutsch House, Old Bull Creek Road

In 1833 Stephen F. Austin wrote to his friend Samuel May Williams of his intention to retire to "land on the east side of the Colorado at the foot of the mountains," ambition destroyed by Austin's early death in 1836. Polly Carlton and her husband Fred inherited ninety-five acres of this tract in 1874. The Carletons may have constructed the country cottage in this photograph in the early 1890s in anticipation that upcoming dam construction would create a lakefront location. Or Texas Railroad Commission chairman Allison Mayfield may have built the house during an Austin construction boom after his purchase of the property in 1909 for $1,305. Of Mayfield, Congressman and future Vice President John Nance Garner once said, "He is too modest, and that is the only fault I can find with him." After moving into the home in 1920, Mayfield lived only another three years. He bequeathed the house and its 28 3/4 acres to his only child, daughter Mary Mayfield Gutsch. Mary and husband Milton, a long-time University of Texas history professor and department chairman, had lived in the country cottage since 1922.

A 1927 gossip columnist noted that "out at the Allison Mayfield place pretty Mary Gutsch watches her garden grow." With help over the years from Milton and resident gardener Steve Arredondo, Mary expanded existing gardens, added many others, constructed stone walls and lily ponds, and planted thousands of flowers and exotic plants. The Gutsches received two Blue India Peacocks for Christmas one year; by 1950 the grounds held 35 peacocks of four different varieties. When Milton died in 1967 a university press release noted that "class attendance (for his lectures) was near-perfect, especially just before the Christmas vacation, when Professor Gutsch always sang student drinking songs from the Middle Ages." Mary lived another four years after her husband's death, spending much of that time as she always had, working on her beloved gardens. In a hand-written will she decreed, "the home and acreage is left to the City of Austin as a park to be used for no other purpose — not to be used by any other organization — otherwise it shall be given to the Austin Travis County Humane Society." Mrs. Gutsch also stated that the property be designated Mayfield Park. Community volunteers established the Mayfield Park/Community Project, which in 1988 hired Gregg Free to design a master plan for restoring the site, along with its shaded walks, lily ponds, and exotic peacocks, to its former status as a secluded country retreat.

The text above is quoted from Jeffrey Kerr, Austin, Texas Then and Now: A Photography Scrapbook (Austin: Promised Land Books, 2004), pp. 212-213, and the photograph is illustration 91 from p. 212.
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Last modified on March 27, 2007 by Kay Keys (