Laguna Gloria, Austin, TX
Laguna Gloria, Austin, TX



United States

Laguna Gloria

Located near the base of Mount Bonnell between a lagoon and the Colorado River, this property was acquired in 1832 by the “Father of Texas” Stephen Austin. In 1915 the 28.5-acre site changed hands and was purchased by newspaperman Hal Sevier and his wife Clara Driscoll who commissioned architect Harvey Page to design a Mediterranean-style villa. Driscoll, a founding member of Austin’s Violet Crown Garden Club, is credited with the landscape design of Laguna Gloria (Heavenly Lagoon).

Comprised of rocky outcrops, oak woodlands, and floodplain forest, the site was left predominantly natural. Native stones were utilized for the construction of steps and retaining walls. Wrought-iron gates that formerly stood at the Texas capital were set into limestone pillars to mark significant transitions in the landscape. Developing a sequence of terraced Italianate gardens accented with Venetian statuary, Roman fountains, and a Tuscan wishing well, Driscoll designed over two acres of formal gardens surrounding the residence. A meandering footpath followed the ridge of the peninsula, terminating at the lagoon where wooden columns supported a barrel tile roof to form a folly that Driscoll called "The Temple of Love." Tropical plants including palm, Lombardy poplar, and Italian cypress were interplanted with crape myrtles and roses.

In 1943 Driscoll conveyed the property to the Texas Fine Arts Commission and forty years later the Art School was constructed at Laguna Gloria. In 2000 the site was declared a project of Save America's Tresures, and in 2003 the villa was restored by Ford, Powell & Carson; landscape restoration was completed by TBG Partners. In 2008 the Art School was expanded and the historic gatehouse was restored. Five years later the museum was rebranded The Contemporary Austin and in 2014 Reed Hilderbrand was commissioned to develop a master plan and sculpture garden. Laguna Gloria was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

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