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2019 Lakeway Heritage Bus Tour

LMUD Board of Directors Vice President Jerry Hietpas speaks with attendees of the 2019 Lakeway Heritage Trail Bus Tour outside the historic Liebelt Cabin. Photo Credit: City of Lakeway

“In the summer of 1962, three wise men from the east discovered a lovely inlet on recently created Lake Travis, approximately twenty miles west of Austin. The following year they built and opened the Lakeway Inn. Despite the surrounding land being populated mostly by goats, the founders laid out residential streets, hoping that a few hardy souls might build vacation or retirement homes.” This is an excerpt from Lakeway: A Hill Country Community by Lewis H. Carlson, which documents the early years of Lakeway. The book was graciously given out by the City of Lakeway to each attendee of the free annual Heritage Trail Tour which took place on September 20, of which several of our staff attended. This year’s tour was highlighted by a special opportunity to tour the historic Liebelt Cabin adjacent to City Hall, considered the most historically important building in Lakeway, which was opened for this one-day event.

Although relevantly young compared to some cities’ histories, understanding how Lakeway started can impact its future. After the Heritage Trail Tour, Mayor Sandy Cox posted in the Lakeway Current blog stating, “Our history is important. As we move forward on improving the quality of life for our residents in Lakeway with a new Comprehensive Plan and improved transportation options, we should also take time to reflect on the past. As Maya Angelou once said, ‘You can’t really know where you are going until you know where you have been.’”

The tour started at the Lakeway City Hall where attendees were offered the opportunity to visit the inside of the Liebelt Cabin before boarding the large tour bus. Inside the cabin, Kay Andrews from the Lakeway Heritage Committee (who also dedicated 12 years to serving LMUD as a board member) and Gwendolyn Wunneburger were dressed in attire befitting the cabin’s Civil War era heritage. Inside, relics that Wunneburger had donated to the Lakeway Heritage Commission tastefully decorated each corner of the small room depicting what a home was like for an early Central Texas settler where water was scarce and the land was dry. During the afternoon tour, the Mayor proclaimed September 20 as Gwendolyn Wunneburger Day in her honor. Wunneburger was a former owner of the cabin with her late husband Joe during the early years of Lakeway’s development. The cabin was previously located on their land which is now a part of the Oaks at Lakeway off Ranch Road 620; it was relocated to its current location in November 2011.

Nearly 150 Lakeway residents took part in this year’s tour. The route meandered through Lakeway’s main roads, heading down Lohmans Crossing Road to the Heritage Center – the location of the WWII Spirit of Freedom Monument and on to Hurst Creek to Lakeway City Park, which opened in 1994 – where the tour guide stated that opposition to its development voiced concerns about the potential for nefarious activity turning the park into a “hippy hollow” environment; the same concern was voiced when the Hamilton Greenbelt (which opened in 1990) was being considered. Of course the Lakeway Inn (now Lakeway Resort and Spa), at the end of Lakeway Drive, made the list of Lakeway’s historic markers since it is the first building constructed in Lakeway, on France’s Bastille Day in 1963, with a grand opening attended by Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson and Governor John Connally. The World of Tennis, opened in 1973 (now Elevation Athletic Club) and Live Oak Golf Course (opened in 1965) mark the popular recreational destination for residents “back then” and now, both playing host to major tournaments where the popular athletes of their day have competed.

Lakeway residents can take a self guided tour of the Heritage Trail anytime by picking up a brochure at the Lakeway Heritage Center. Look for the blue historical marker signs at each location! Photo Credit: City of Lakeway

Other highlights on the tour are less known to residents, such as a time capsule that was buried near the Justice Center in 1986, set to be opened in 2036 and a story about the Lakeway Church, which started by serving both Catholics and Protestant in the mid-60s in a very harmonious partnership between Pastor Ralph Keller and Father Richard, who, one year, dressed up to ride in the 4th of July parade as the Blues Brothers, calling themselves the “Righteous Brothers.”

A few of the stops were too far down the tight, winding roads for the tour bus to tackle, so they were just mentioned, such as Lee Blocker’s family home on Sailfish – one of the original founders of Lakeway, Alan Shepard’s family home on Mariner – the first American astronauts in space, and the Lakeway Stables and ranch headquarters which used to be on Dasher.

The majority of these sites can be found in the area of Lakeway now designated with “Old Lakeway” signs at each intersection; these signs were installed with the idea of designating the area as historically significant to Lakeway. The initiative was led by Lakeway resident Mike Threinen, paid for by the Lakeway Civic Corporation and installed by the City of Lakeway.

Residents can take a self-guided tour of Lakeway’s Heritage Trail any time by picking up a brochure at the Lakeway Heritage Center, located at 963 Lohmans Crossing Road. Look for the blue historic marker signs at each location. LMUD will be joining the list of historic sites. Details are coming soon!