Mayfield Park and Nature Preserve is a picturesque and tranquil oasis just a short drive from downtown. This 23-acre city park sits between Lake Austin and West 35th Street, right next door to Laguna Gloria. Mayfield is a favorite destination for families, students, nature lovers, and photographers.
An Austin politician, Allison Mayfield, purchased the property in 1909. His daughter Mary and her husband, Milton Gutsch, moved into the cottage in 1922. The couple enlarged the home and made many improvements to the grounds. Mary bequeathed the property to the City of Austin when she died in 1971.
The grounds at Mayfield are quite lovely, even during the winter months. Stone walls surround the white one-story cottage and nearby gardens. Six water ponds behind the house are connected by stone walkways.
An unusual two-story stone tower sits beyond the ponds. This is a pigeon cote, a very big birdhouse typically found throughout the English countryside, but not very common in the US. I don’t know if this specific structure had housed pigeons or was just decorative.
Well-marked trails run throughout the nature preserve. The paths are not difficult to walk and eventually circle back to the cottage. I’d recommend going down to the Lake Austin shoreline to look at the nearby lake houses and boat docks.
Although it’s owned by the city, Mayfield is tended by two community organizations. The Mayfield Park / Community Project is responsible for the grounds near the house (inside the rock walls). The Friends of Mayfield Preserve are the caretakers of the nature preserve.
I’ve saved the best thing about Mayfield for last: the peacocks. About two dozen of them roam around the grounds. I’ve read that the current birds are direct descendants from peacocks that were given as gifts to the Gutschs in 1935.
The Mayfield peacocks are used to people, but they are not very friendly. Visitors are instructed not to feed them. Usually the flock is hanging out near the cottage, but sometimes I see them over at Laguna Gloria. And if the peacocks seem to be missing, just look up.
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