Over the next forty-two years, the Smoot family homestead grew from a four-room home with an outdoor kitchen, into a fourteen room, four hall, and four porch estate. Flower Hill flourished as a favorite place for relatives, artists, students, professors, and religious leaders, to live, study, and work. Central to the Smoot identity was a love of the arts, civic engagement, honesty, and hard work, and the family impressed these values upon their neighbors.
The house was grandiose, but far from decadent, hardly was anything done away with without first being repurposed, and so behind Flower Hill’s cypress trunk column façade there fostered a resilient and creative spirit which helped shape the Austin culture we know and love today. O. Henry married in the parlor. A Nicola Amati violin was played on the front porch. Asher grew up to co-found the Austin American newspaper, and Lawrence worked for the Texas Supreme Court for 66 years, becoming the longest serving civil servant in Texas history. While, in the library, their father formed the Austin School of Theology, which since grew into Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
Preserved here at Flower Hill is not only a rare single-family historic home in the heart of Austin, but a genuine snapshot of the past. A certified Texas wildscape, the grounds boast dozens of native flora species, such that stepping onto the homestead demonstrates how early Austin first related to the natural world. The grounds feature an American Indian signal tree, tying this piece of land to Austin's original inhabitants.
On the 1.38-acre grounds are 6 historic outbuildings—including a lumber-room, chicken coop, carriage garage, barn, rose arbor, and animal stables—as well as original F. Weigl ironwork, a late 19th century carriage drive, and walkways created from the paving stones of the original Congress Avenue. Bearing most of the Smoots' original homesteading and landscaping features, Flower Hill also evidences how one of modern Austin's original families used and cultivated the land following traditional agricultural and horticultural practices which bolstered the health and longevity of the natural property. These practices are supported today through initiatives to maintain summer and winter gardens, develop an edible food forest, and cultivate wildlife habitats.
Jane Smoot, the last of the Smoot line, was born on December 13, 1919. By then the nation had come through both a civil and Great war, Austin had grown nearly seven times in size, and the Great Depression was but a decade away. Jane, a precocious child, grew up drawing on the finger-dimpled bricks from Barton Springs, raising chickens, playing amongst the grounds’ wild gardens and springs, and reading fastidiously.
As an adult, Miss Smoot became a lifelong educator, teaching English for the Austin Independent School District for 40 and a half years. During summer breaks from school, she traveled the world. She also gave her entire life to the preservation of her family homestead and its memories. The Flower Hill Foundation aims to carry on her life’s work.