Every property or homeowner in Windermere Oaks on Lake Travis is here by choice. Each one of us thought it would be a wonderful place to live either full time or on weekends. Some of us thought it would be interesting to trace and record some history of this chosen spot.
Use the contact page if you have historical "tidbits" to share.
Obviously the first Americans who lived here were North American Indians. Some tribes felt this was a prime spot, too, and probably derived great pleasure from sitting on these hills and looking off across the Colorado River at other picturesque hills nearby. Across Marina Cove from Windermere Oaks an Indian burial ground occupies the land now known as Grelle Park. During years when the lake level was low, many arrowheads and artifacts were found in this area as well as in Center Cove. State Antiquities Law now forbids traversing this land and removal of any artifacts. J. S. Hollingsworth bought 324 acres, which included what is now Windermere Oaks, in 1890 from George B. Ritter of New York for a total price of $1,010. The Hollingsworth family still owns land in and near our subdivision and some of this tract has been in the family for 103 years. Windermere Oaks became property owned by his son, William Henry Hollingsworth, who was to become the father of seven boys. They were all raised here. A portion of the land was farmed, mostly in cotton. corn, pumpkins and even mules were raised along the creek where the marinas are now located.
In September of 1878, a Post Office was established on the hill to the left as you come into Windermere Oaks. Also located there was a general store that functioned as a stage coach stop for people traveling Northwest from Austin. West of this building was a church, and the community was called Corwin, Texas. The Post Office remained here until September of 1882, when it was deactivated and then re-established in 1883 for another five years. In October of 1898, it was moved to Double Horn, a community further west. The original Spicewood Post Office was established in 1914. It remained active in the same vicinity until its move, in 1992, to the corner of Highway 71 and Spur 191, across from Hollingsworth Corner.
The chain of "Highland Lakes" was created in the late 1930's when Lyndon B. Johnson, then a U. S. Congressman, helped to successfully steer through Congress and several governmental agencies the necessary approval and funding to build the chain of dams along the Colorado River which flowed through Central Texas and down to the Gulf. LCRA was formed as a quasi-state agency to acquire land and operate the Lakes and their power generation function. Landowners at that time could either sell their land to LCRA or sell only the right for LCRA to inundate their land up to 715 'above sea level. W. H. Hollingsworth elected to give up only the inundation rights in 1941; therefore Windermere Oaks Waterfront property extends under the lake with LCRA only having the right to inundate it up to the 715' contour.
The dam for Lake Travis was originally named Marshall Ford since it was being built at an old river crossing on the Marshall Ranch. Later the name was changed to Mansfield Dam in honor of Joseph J. Mansfield, the influential Chairman of the Rivers and Harbors Committee at that time. The dam was completed in 1941 with the spillway elevation finally being 714' above sea level.
Lake Travis is obviously not a constant level lake. It reached its lowest level of 614' in August of 1951. The official "full" elevation is 681'. On December 25 of 1991, the lake reached a new all time high of 710'. Central Texas experienced what was known as the "four-year drought" between 2011 and 2015 when in September of 2013 the lake dropped to a 2nd all-time low of 620'. At that time it was predicted that Austin and surrounding areas would be out of drinking water within a year. On October 19, 2018 the lake reached a 3rd all-time high of 104'. Many shoreline trees were 10-25 ft underwater. One of the purposes of Lake Travis is to protect the City of Austin from years of ravaging floods. It also acts as a holding tank to supply Austin and surrounding areas with water.
Windermere Oaks Development: After the death of William Henry Hollingsworth, the family property was partitioned among the remaining six sons, one boy having died in 1944. Dewey Hollingsworth, uncle to the current owner of Hollingsworth corner, became the owner of the 283 acres that later would become Windermere Oaks. Dewey's widow, Mayme Hollingsworth, deeded this 293 acre tract to Herman Neusch, Trustee, in 1969. A Limited Partnership was formed with Neusch and Don Hart known as Windermere Investments. Title was carried in the name of Windermere Oaks, Trustee, Inc., with Herman Neusch as President. Roads and a water system were installed, and development began.
Real estate prices fluctuate in all kinds of markets, but since Windermere Oaks kept its charm, property values continued to rise. All of the first lots were relatively inexpensive. The owners who built one of the first houses said they could have bought many of the cliff-top waterfront lots with marvelous views; but since they were afraid this might turn into a mobile home community, they bought only Lot 300. They built the house that was later purchased by the Brantley Scott family. During the boom of the mid 1980's, these same lots were prime locations.
Edwin Arldt, Grant Roane and Charles Wright (225, 296 and 21 Coventry respectively) in the 90's were homeowners going back to the Herman Neusch days. We have several current lot owners today who also go back to this era.
Charles Winston (The Chase Corporation) and Grant Roane acquired Windermere Oaks from Herman Neusch, plus an additional 132 acres from the Hollingsworths', in April, 1972. Approximately 32 lots had been sold and others were under contract at the time of the Winston-Roane purchase. There were no more than two or three on-site houses when this purchase was made. A house, to be used as a restaurant, was built on Lot 336 with an attractive rock lined swimming pool nearby.
From the beginning, the goal was to preserve the woodsy, natural appearance of the subdivision and make it a pleasant, attractive place to live. Architectural rules and regulations were established in the Deed Restrictions and supplemented by Charles Winston. Sub-sections were given British names such as Essex, Devonshire, Yorkshire and Chestershire, with street names following this theme, based on a similar setting named Lake Windermere in England.
The original sales office was a mobile home, which was later moved and has now become a part of the dwelling on the McAlister Quarter Horse Ranch. You might notice the "Miniature Donkeys" as your drive into Windermere. A new structure was built to accommodate Ewing Design, which also served as the residence for the Joe Ewing family. They moved from a house in Tennis Village where he had designed homes for that subdivision as well as Windermere Oaks.
The original water system was installed in 1972 by Herman Neusch. He also had the roads in place by this time. The sewer system, however, was added by Charles Winston in about 1974. Don Whisenand moved to Windermere Oaks in 1976 and in 1979 managed maintenance of the water system. Later he also managed the sewer system performing these jobs until the utilities were sold in the mid 90's. The Chase Corporation name went with the utility system, which was then, in the 90's, operated by Eco Resources of Austin. Charles Winston's new company became Harbor Corporation.
The 90’s brought us the Windermere Oaks Water Supply Corporation (WOWSC) - formed by a mere handful of Windermere residents (some may be your neighbors). In 1995, Malcolm Bailey, who was in the utility business, was contacted about taking over the Clear Springs Utility system in Windermere Oaks. It had been poorly operated by the people that bought it from the original developer and the facility equipment was in disrepair.. The company had an outstanding debt of $55,000 to Eco Resources Inc., for maintenance and repairs. The company was offered for purchase to Malcolm Bailey.
Bailey, being a long time Windermere property owner and previous president, spoke to the current president of Windermere Oaks, Chuck Threat, and suggested WOPOA buy the system so it could be run as a community-owned, not-for-profit company, verses having it being taken over as a for-profit company. WOPOA lent the $55,000 to purchase the company & created a non-profit corporation called Windermere Oaks Water Supply Corporation. The WOWSC paid back Windermere Oaks, with interest, over the next 7 years.
In 1997, for fear of not having enough land to expand for a future new WOWSC sewer plant, Malcolm sold 9.78 acres in the airport area to the WOWSC at his cost of $2,500 per acre. Then, in February of 2000, Malcolm assisted in the acquisition of 35.954 acres from the original developer Charles Winston to the WOWSC. There were utility and electric lines in WO that needed to be installed so the WOWSC traded these installations for the 35.954 acres. This resulted in additional acreage on the East side of Exeter where the new sewer plant currently resides. This negotiation also cleared the way for the old land (in the airport area) to be sold off to help fund the new facility.
The initial Directors were Chuck Threat, Arthur Alworth, and Robert Wynne. The WOWSC has continued as a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to the service of approximately 350 water connections serving Windermere Oaks, Tennis Village, The Ranch, Pilots Landing, and the Spicewood Airport. It is run by a Board of Directors elected by tap-owner members and it employs numerous contractors to troubleshoot and operate the facility. The community, in spite of temporary increased costs to defend unwarranted legal attacks (see: Lawsuits) between 2017-2022, continues to enjoy not only pristine water quality but the benefits of being a not-for-profit (no taxes, no profit margins, no big CEO salaries, etc) corporation, owned by community members.
The Spicewood Volunteer Fire Department was organized in 1977 by Lamar Cook. EMS was added in 1979. This group, now led by Dean and Patsy Lester, has faithfully given help when needed. Molly Hill thoroughly enjoyed baking her marvelous cakes for enjoyable fund-raising events. Filler plugs were added in 1992 to help improve the subdivision's fire fighting capability.
The marinas. Originally, East Cove was to be the location for the Marina. In the final analysis, the slope of the land was too steep to accommodate the proper roads. It was then shifted to West Cove, also frequently referred to as "Marina Cove." The first boat slips in the Marina and the Park Area were built in the mid-1970's. Two other Marina sections were added in 1981, and slips were each individually owned. Marina parking was expanded to newly acquired Park Area land in 1993 and a generous land-swap by the Womble Family provided the long-term (72 hour) parking area at the top of the boat ramp in exchange for some rocky terrain. The parking area allows for residents to keep their boat convenient to the boat ramp over long weekends or other boating times. Tom Womble turned the rocky terrain at the end of Derby into a groomed grassy area to benefit the deer and for the viewing joy of neighbors passing by.
The Sunset View and Windermere Marina docks reside alongside Windermere near the boat ramp in West (or Marina) Cove. The Marina associations' ownership is restricted to WO property owners, but otherwise the marinas are privately owned entities. In 2016 members of the WOPOA Board questioned the marinas' easement rights which led to a lawsuit and with a final agreed judgement of the marinas easement rights to access, for electrical & anchorage and gangway grounding in perpetuity.
Tennis Village houses were also called Sunday Houses as they were small "weekend" houses reminiscent of those in Fredericksburg that were used by farmers and ranchers who came into town on weekends to do their shopping, stay overnight, and go to church on Sunday morning. In 1976, when the Utterbacks bought property in Windermere Oaks for their retirement home, there were less than a dozen houses in Windermere and a few in the first section of Tennis Village. Many current residents developed their love for Windermere and desire to purchase a home after renting a tennis cottage.
The Spicewood Airport. In the early 1970's, a 3000' paved and lighted airstrip was built just outside of Windermere Oaks. To have an airstrip available for property owners to fly back and forth on weekends has been an extraordinary convenience for Windermere Oaks pilots over the years.
The facility was initially sold to Beverly Howard who owned and operated the Windermere Soaring School from 1975 to 1981. Bev Howard built one hanger and Mike Evans and B. B. Long built another. At the closing of the Soaring School in 1981 Malcolm Bailey and Derick Boldt served in liaison capacity in leasing the existing hangers and monitoring the use of the landing strip. In 1996 Malcom Bailey bought a small plot of land from Charles Winston and contracted Dana Martin-Whatley to develop a 4-plex for himself and his wife, Patsy, and other owners: Charlie Van Trease, Bob & Carol Foy, and Chuck Walters. Dana was a commercial developer who had moved to Windermere with her husband Martin Whatley in 1991. The friendship and partnership that ensued between Malcolm, Dana, and Martin proved a boon to the development of what is now the Spicewood Airport. In March of 1997 Bailey purchased 29 acres from Charles Winston and immediately sold 9 acres to the Windermere Oaks Water Company, at $2,500 per acre, so they would have enough land to expand the sewer plant as Windermere grew. In 1997 Malcolm and Dana formed the Windermere Airpark LLC and begin developing Phase I and Phase II of the remaining acreage. They also created the Windermere Airpark Pilots Association which is now known as Spicewood Airport and Pilots Association. Initially, the only legal access to the airport was through Windermere Oaks, but an easement to enter from the South was granted by WOWSC in 1999 and a separate entry then built. Windermere Airpark LLC. shared the cost with the WOWSC to have trees installed on Exeter road based on a landscape design from Carol Foy. The idea was to enhance views along Exeter for Windermere residents driving in and out.
Later, Malcolm Bailey and Dana Martin, with 8 other pilots formed Spicewood Aviation Inc., and with the idea of keeping the local airport in friendly local hands, purchased the airport, Spicewood Aviation brought fuel operations back and in 2001 lengthened the runway. Dana Martin built 4 hangars in '96 and later, under Friendship Homes & Hangars LLC, built many of the hangers you see today.
After many years of operations and growth, Spicewood Aviation sold the airport to the Pilot's Association so it would be governed as a non-profit and continue fostering friendly relationships with pilots & neighbors of Windermere. In 2017 the Pilots Association resurfaced the runway at a cost of more than $375,000. The airport does not receive funds from the FAA. It is self-governed and self-funded.
The lighted tennis courts built near the entrance to the subdivision in 1975 were updated and refurbished in 1988. Two rock swimming pools were in use in the late 1970's with the second pool constructed over the edge of a hill with a beautiful view of West Cove and the surrounding countryside. This pool was used until 1988. Excessive repair cost estimates caused the Windermere Oaks Property Owners Association to deed it back to Charles Winston and build a new pool near the tennis courts in 1989. A Cabana was added in 1991. In 1993 the Board of Directors added cluster mail boxes in this parking area and moved the entrance sign to where Windermere Oaks actually begins.
In 1976, what had once been a three-acre Lot 39 was re-platted into Center Cove I. The small lots were to be used for garden style homes with shared common areas. Center Coves II and III soon followed based on this same concept. The oval shaped Center Cove pool was built for these residents, but later in 1985, the pool was deeded to Windermere Oaks Property Owners Association in exchange for the Association taking on future maintenance costs and responsibilities.
From 1975 to 1981 Sam Boyd worked for Charles Winston as a real estate salesman. In 1981, he purchased the eight acres known as "The Hill at Windermere" and replatted it into five Sections.
They had two tiers of 25' wide lots so more property owners would have marvelous views of Lake Travis. A new pool was built for the exclusive use of the Hill property owners. In 1982, Larry Muske built two sets of four townhomes facing Marina cove.
Windermere Oaks Property owners Association was formed in January of 1983 with the first Board of Directors and officers being Pat Trojanowsky, President and Treasurer; Jim McAlister, Vice-President; Alan Kent, Secretary; Jim Stokes, Director and Bruce Mallum, Director. In 1985 all of the common areas and amenities were deeded, by Mr. Winsto,n to the Association. The highway and street signs were installed about 1997 with Jack Chandler overseeing the task. These men, and Board members since, have spent a great deal of time and effort organizing and planning an effective way to operate Windermere Oaks.
Property owners on The Hill and the three Center Cove Sections elected not to form separate associations. Tennis Village is a separate subdivision and has its own Association. Original dues were $35 per lot per year as provided in the 1970 Restrictions; they were raised by the membership in 1986 to $215 per lot per year to provide sufficient funds to maintain the roads, tennis courts, pools, boat launch and park area as well as provide additional amenities when required by future growth. While the early 1980's saw slow growth in Windermere Oaks, the year 1985 brought increased activity and it became quite difficult to manage financial services with just volunteer help. In 1985, Planned Community Management, Inc., of Houston, was chosen to provide financial services as worked out by John Mariner. Increased construction and the considerable turnover of lots along with many legal, operation and maintenance problems made it necessary to seek additional management expertise. In just one year, 1993, there were seven new houses started. Windermere Oaks needed true full-service management that caused the Board to seek a management company located in Austin. Capstone Real Estate Services, Inc. was selected by the Board to take on this expanded task and give foresight for the future of this unique property.
These writings are an ongoing compilation of many interested and enjoyable people rethinking Windermere Oaks, its past, its present and its future. We are grateful to everyone for their help in making these pages possible so you can tuck them into your homeowner file.