UPDATE: I have discovered that John F. Johnson (identified as J. F. Johnson) was a general contractor working in the same time period as Julius F. Johnson, and competing against him in bidding for some city contracts. I now believe that John F. Johnson built the 24th Street bridge on Shoal Creek, and the 2nd Street bridge on Waller Creek.
Around central Austin, the name of Julius F. Johnson is easy to find on curbs and sidewalks. Morrison & Fourmy’s General Directory of the City of Austin for 1897-1898 lists Julius F. Johnson as an employee of Amelius L. Hoist. Hoist was a collector of junk, bottles, rags and bones, which was actually a profession at the time. In those days, Julius was a resident in the home of Charles A. Johnson, his father. Charles is listed as a “rock contractor” living in 1889 at “n bank Colorado river w of city limits.” The 1897 directory shows his residence as the south side of West 5th Street, 2 blocks west of the International & Great Northern Railroad. (This is the railroad which now shares its right-of-way with Mo-Pac Expressway, Loop 1.) Both of these entries refer to the limestone mansion that Charles Johnson built of limestone blocks that he dug from the Colorado river bed, held together with the cement that he cooked out of the same limestone. This building has housed the Travis Post of the American Legion since 1925.
Julius was born in January of 1872, so in 1897 he would have been about 25 years old, employed by a rag man, and living with his parents. Later records indicate that he and his brother had properties near Deep Eddy pool, adjacent to Dam Boulevard (now Lake Austin Boulevard). The 1918 directory has him living at 513 Deep Eddy Avenue with his wife, Mary E. Johnson. My guess is that all these properties, originally outside the city limit, were contiguous parts of the Johnson estate. Later annexation led to platting and street names, so that “2 blks w of I. & G. N. R. R.” became Deep Eddy Avenue.
(Above, left to right: 7th Street, looking east to Guadalupe; near 32nd and Grandview; Windsor north of Enfield.)
The Austin City Council minutes of July, 1927, shows his was among the bids to build a bridge on Dam Boulevard over Johnson Creek (west of downtown). (He was underbid by a C. C. Moore of Georgetown.) In 1928, Austin issued bonds for a series of improvements to Barton Springs pool. Several contractors were involved, including C. A. Maufrais, Richard Schmidt, J. F. Johnson (John), and Julius Johnson, whose contributions were “Miscellaneous Sidewalks and Walls.”
Below, at left, is an unusual instance of Julius using initials only (unless this is John F. Johnson; see note at top)(7th Street west of Baylor). And on the right: a sidewalk adjacent to “The Speedway,” so called because it was intended to provide fast access to E. M. Shipe’s 1890’s development of Hyde Park (southwest corner of 35th and Speedway).
Another boon to Austin’s early suburban development was the 24th Street bridge over Shoal Creek, which allowed convenient access to Pemberton Heights. In 1928, the Austin Development Company contracted with J. F. Johnson to complete the concrete bridge at a price of $12,000. As soon as it was finished, they gave it to the City of Austin, who duly thanked them. (He was also contractor on the 1938 WPA expansion of the same bridge.) Johnson undoubtedly was involved in many other projects; one is of personal interest: on June 19, 1930, he won the contract to build the Waller Creek bridge on Red River at East 2nd Street. Sixty years later, the same bridge is featured in a scene from Richard Linklater‘s 1991 film Slacker. In 2014, the bridge is immediately east of the Austin Convention Center, which was built over the former 2nd Street right-of-way.
Above, left: a decaying sidewalk on the street behind Amy’s Ice Cream on Guadalupe; right: Hyde Park curb, Avenue G near 42nd.
In 1929, the city purchased land from Julius and Mary, including property around Rainey Street, and the land from which Interstate 35 crosses the Colorado River, and upon which is built the Holiday Inn where I spent my first night in Austin in November, 1983.
Julius F. Johnson was buried in Oakwood Cemetery under a small granite stone engraved with only his name and: Jan. 1872 – Sept. 1949.