Yesterday to meet today in new development
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
Tucked behind a barb-wire fence and some overgrown cactus is a portal to the past, hidden in the middle of Liberty Hill.
Fort Tumbleweed – along SH 29 – is a mystery to many who have arrived in recent years, but if the vision shared by developers and current property owner Leonard Kubiak comes into focus, the property could become the epicenter of where the past meets the future in Liberty Hill.
Kubiak has owned the 30-acre property for 40 years, and he has collected pieces of history from all over Williamson County. Not just the three-dozen plus saddles, handful of wagons and buggies and countless items that each tell a story, but old buildings as well.
Many of these buildings will form the bridge to the past when the new development takes shape.
According to Realtor Nathan Pinson, the development will include retail, entertainment venues, dining options, a 120-room hotel and more than 500 apartment units.
“The ones buying it do apartments and townhomes in Colorado and they were looking for a Georgetown or Liberty Hill project,” he said. “When they saw this, and its proximity to the high school, they just wanted to build apartments here. Then when they got down here and saw all this history they said they wanted to keep this and do a retail front and mixed use type of project. (Kubiak) already had that vision. They liked it a lot and wanted to run with it. This is attractive to tenants for things like the brewery and dance hall.”
Pinson expects the site work to begin in the summer after the sale closes, and that is expected to take six months, followed by four to eight months of construction. There is a lot of interest in being a part of the project, and part of the plan includes a saloon, brewery and dance hall.
“We have a tenant that wants to do a very high-end whiskey saloon and pour whiskey and do craft cocktails in a really cool environment,” Pinson said, pointing to one of the old structures that will be refurbished on the property. “This is the Andice Saloon, built in the 1850s in Andice. (Kubiak) had the opportunity to buy it and he moved it out here.”
The pedestrian-friendly area will include water features, an expansive wrap-around deck with chairs, tables and rockers connecting the different businesses.
Above a retail center with more dining and entertainment options will be 12 Air B&B lofts, totaling 16,000 square foot retail space, with a 12,000-foot second story for the lofts.
“(The retail portion) will have a fairground environment with craft cocktails and local beers with an arcade side to it,” Pinson said.
There is one historic marker on the property – on its southeast corner – and that’s the Bryson Home.
“This is where Liberty Hill started,” Kubiak said. “This was the stage stop in the 1850s and the church and school – the Methodist Church – started right in that clearing in a log cabin.”
The Bryson Home will be refurbished and is expected to become an outfitter shop.
“It can not be moved,” Pinson said. “It can only be restored.”
But there are a handful of other locally-significant structures that will be kept and restored and that is why the project is moving forward.
“I’m very excited about this,” Kubiak said. “We held out, trying to save the buildings. I could have sold them to individuals, but I really wanted to keep them right here. The vision they came up with is exactly what we wanted.”
There is the Dodd trading post, the first building in Cedar Park, which was later moved to its current location to preserve it.
“This was the very first building ever built in Cedar Park,” Pinson said. “There are musket holes and eye holes in the walls of the cabin. That’s how they defended their trading post.”
Then there is the Round Rock Bank building at the center of the famed shootout when outlaw Sam Bass shot and killed lawman A.W. Grimes.
“The Sam Bass gang was in Round Rock to hold this bank up,” Kubiak said. “The Texas Rangers had infiltrated his group so they were notified and all the Rangers were in town.”
At the time, all pistols were to be turned in to law enforcement while in town, and Grimes saw that Bass was carrying a pistol. When he confronted the outlaw, he was shot and killed. The incident gave birth to the reenacted shootouts once held annually in Round Rock, which Kubiak once participated in.
“Our thought is when this becomes the new development and operational that they could move the shootouts out here,” Pinson said.
The history of the buildings and their contents have been painstakingly cataloged by Kubiak.
“I sat down and put together a history of each building so that information can convey with it,” he said.
Partnering on the project, the Williamson County Museum hopes to help developers in seeking grants for restorations.
“We want to be the historical preservation part of the project,” said Nancy Hill, executive director of the museum. “We could also do events, because there is going to be food and beverage here. This will help get the museum out more in the county.”
Whether they host events or just help promote more of the county’s history through the structures, the museum hopes to expand education on local history.
“We are going to use some of the buildings where we can do a mixture of exhibits, having living history characters and be able to have education programs,” said Andrea Robisheaux, Visitor Services Coordinator for the museum. “We’ve done partnerships like this in other local areas.”