A brief history of Williamsburg and Charleston Place

Today, residents of Williamsburg/Charleston Place often cite its location, with fast and easy access to downtown Austin, as an appealing feature. But when Lucille Casner, who now lives in the center of our community, saw the rural, heavily wooded area for the first time in the mid-1950s, she thought it seemed so distant from Austin that “we might as well be in Dallas.”

Her husband, Stanley Casner, a World War II veteran and pre-med student at the University of Texas, purchased the 30-acre property in 1954, when farmland and woodland dominated both sides of Spicewood Springs Road, then just an undivided two-lane road. Balcones and Burnet were the only north-south roads in the area; the first phase of Allandale, east of Shoal Creek Boulevard, was the only nearby residential development.

A native of West Texas who had grown up on a ranch, Stanley Casner dug a well and drove a bulldozer to clear enough land to build a home for his young family to move into in 1961. He also built the Family Practice Clinic on Spicewood Springs Road; it was the first of the many medical facilities now serving the area. Today, the building houses an eye surgery clinic.

The three Casner children grew up in this rural setting, playing in the stream and though strictly forbidden to do so exploring the subterranean caves that honeycomb the area. “I learned later that my oldest son took half of Austin through those caves,” Lucille Casner says.

By 1974, as the city’s growth extended northward, the Casners sold most of the property to a developer, retaining only the 1.5-acre plot on which their house stood for Lucille Casner’s lifetime use. From that vantage point, she has seen Williamsburg and Charleston Place grow into the community it is today.

Construction began on the 40 Williamsburg homes in 1979; the first warranty deed was signed in 1981. The clapboard-sided units featured individual mailboxes and sprinkler systems, with streetlights along the roads.  

The 67 Charleston Place homes were built in two phases, starting in 1985. The brick-faced units had clustered mailboxes and no sprinkler systems. Instead of having streetlights, residents are asked to keep their garage lights on at night for security. Also in 1985, the pool and clubhouse were built for the residents of both communities.

Initially, each development had its own homeowners’ association, but the two groups merged into one in the 1980s. Article V of the CC&Rs, however, ensured that each section, and each unit within it, would have separate accounts for maintenance and individual unit accounts for each residence.

“One of the quirks of the development was that the streets were never deeded to the association,” recalls Frank Dewhurst. “Ross Schulle spent six years working on that.” It was a complex undertaking, with developers going in and out of business, and finally concluded with the city foreclosing on Charleston Place for nonpayment of back taxes on the community’s common areas.

“The association elected to buy the land for the exact amount of back taxes,” Ross Schulle explains, and did so in a classic auction on the county courthouse steps in downtown Austin. As a result, he says, “ownership of the common area property has been stable since 1995.”

Stability has been a hallmark of the community ever since, a quality its residents appreciate. “It hasn’t changed any in the 20 years we’ve been here,” says Walter Hutson. And, Frank Dewhurst adds, Williamsburg/Charleston Place is “well-maintained, with strong financials and an extremely well-managed association.”

(Many thanks to Peter Adler, Helen Baum, Lucille Casner, Frank Dewhurst, Walter Hutson, Jerry Matthews, Charles Ridings and Ross Schulle for sharing their recollections for this history.)