TABLE OF CONTENTS
Roberta Crenshaw Papers
An Inventory of the Collection
Roberta Purvis was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, in April 1914. In 1932, she moved to Austin, Texas, to attend the University of Texas where she earned a liberal arts degree. Her first husband was Austin business executive Malcolm Hiram Reed with whom she had two daughters. After his unexpected death in 1945, she married attorney Fagan Dickson. They divorced in the 1974, and she remarried to Charles Crenshaw in 1975.
She was appointed by Austin City Council to the Parks Board in 1952, which was at that time under the Public Works Department. She helped push for the parks department to be joined with the recreation department, and in 1963 the Austin Parks and Recreation Department was officially formed. Crenshaw served 12 years on the Parks Board, serving as chair from 1964-1969. She was also a member of the Board of Trustees for the National Recreation and Park Association, and served on boards of the Austin Symphony, Laguna Gloria, and the Paramount.
In her personal efforts to support city parks, she donated more than 30 acres of land to the Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Park in East Austin. She also donated the land for Reed Park in West Austin. Additionally, she was one of the founders of the Austin Environmental Council.
Allen, Phoebe. “Roberta ‘Bobbie’ Purvis Reed Crenshaw.” Paramount History. http://paramounthistory.org/portfolio-items/roberta-bobbie-purvis-reed-crenshaw/
The collection documents the activities of the Austin Parks and Recreation Advisory Board through research materials, correspondence, budgets, meeting minutes, administrative records, news clippings, drawings, and photographs. The bulk of the collection documents the planning activities for the Town Lake development project during the 1960s.
The research materials concern the reorganization of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department. Prior to 1963, parks maintenance was under the Public Works Department. Of interest are notes and drafts of letters penned by Roberta Crenshaw (then named Roberta Dickson) regarding the reorganization of PARD. There is also material related to the National Recreation and Park Association, and articles and correspondence regarding various aspects of municipal departments, specifically the nationwide push to have designated parks departments. Organizational charts of various cities’ departments, including Albuquerque, Corpus Christi, Pittsburgh, Detroit, and others, are also included in the research material. Some correspondence regarding the organization of the parks department sent to City Council and the City Manager is included as well. More detail on the reorganization of the Austin Parks and Recreation Department, including drafts of organizational charts and personnel information, is located in Box 1/Folder 3.
Original folder groupings were retained, and Box 1/Folders 4-6 contain Crenshaw’s assorted board member materials including news clippings, correspondence, bylaws, minutes, budgets, from 1960-1969. Materials on national legislation impacting local parks is documented through correspondence, articles, and National Recreation and Park Association newsletters. A 1965 report from the Conservation Foundation outlines major federal actions of interest to municipal parks and recreation departments including the Land and Water Conversation Fund Program, Federal Open Space Programs, and the President’s Council and Advisory Committee on Recreation and Natural Beauty. Of note is an address to the House Subcommittee on Interior Appropriations that Crenshaw (then Dickson) prepared concerning the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Drafts are included of a 1964 Austin American article concerning parks reorganization written by Dickson in collaboration with staff writer Chris Whitcraft. Campaign materials, clippings, and correspondence between Dickson as chair of the Parks Board and various City Council candidates dates from 1967-1968. Materials dating from 1969-1970 document the planning for a city convention center, including Dickson’s handwritten notes. Of note in the materials documenting the 1966 Little Texas proposal are a group of letters Dickson received after speaking at a City Council meeting about the matter. The Little Texas Group was a private commercial company who wished to use public land for an amusement park and was asking the city to lease land. The Parks and Recreation Board’s response and opposition to the proposal is included, in which they give recommendations. The Waller Creek materials document the University of Texas’s effort to protect trees along the creek from getting bulldozed.
Most of the Town Lake development project records document Phase I of the project, which was adopted by City Council in 1968. Phase I involved landscaping and irrigation of the shoreline between Shoal Creek at Lamar and Congress, construction of a walk and bikeway, and construction of a fishing dock, observation shelter and parking areas. There is documentation of the planning and consultation of architects Stewart King, Sam Zesman, and Alan Taniguchi in developing the lake, including detailed drawings. Dickson’s correspondence during the proposals reveals her opposition to making Town Lake an amusement site with concessions and carnivals. Pre-development in 1969 is documented in photographs, drawings, grant records, budgets, and correspondence. Other materials include research into lighting or “landscape illumination” of the lake; articles, notes, correspondence, and council records regarding the use of motor boats; and specifications for a fountain on Auditorium Shores. Other issues documented include the use of the Brackenridge Tract owned by the University of Texas and zoning requirements for the Town Lake area.
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The Austin History Center (AHC) is the owner of the physical materials in the AHC collections and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the AHC before any publication use. The AHC does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.
Roberta Crenshaw Papers (AR.1993.001). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: DO/1968/063
Donation Date: 1992 January 5
Initial processing by Jessica Whitaker in March 2019. Final processing and finding aid by Kelly Hanus in April 2019.