The story of Steiner Ranch is as big and as colorful as its founder, the late Thomas Casper “Buck” Steiner.
From a dusty and desolate upbringing to rubbing elbows with some of the country’s highest entertainers and politicians, the rodeo showman turned leather businessman from Cedar Creek was one character, to say the least.
Born and raised in Bastrop County in 1899, Buck was a farm boy who was brought up to endure the hardships of country life, already picking cotton by the age of 6. By the ripe age of 12 he had run away and found work at nearby Wild West shows, lying about his age to book the gigs.
Even in his youth, he proved himself to be a large talent in the rodeo circuit, balancing a number of acts including roping calves, wrestling steer and his signature trick — riding a bull backwards.
Buck’s confidence and thrill-seeking even brought him to Hollywood for a job as a stuntman. It seems that this sensational zest for life was one of the keys to his success, but even success could not peg Buck down for long.
At 16 he came back to Texas, this time living and working in San Antonio at the stockyards, proving his life and his work would never be very far from his beloved cattle.
Already a big name in the touring rodeo circuit, it was time to branch out into other business ventures — this time in the saddlery business.
The next step was opening his own leather shop in downtown Austin, Capitol Saddlery, in 1930 — a building which still stands today. Just a stone’s throw from the Texas Capitol on Lavaca St. was the location of the multistory leather store, a Texas landmark in the busy hub of commerce in downtown Austin.
The shop specialized in fine leather saddles for horses and handcrafted boots for even the most discriminating Texas cowboys. In its heyday the saddlery employed over 100 people and supplied saddles to Montgomery Wards and Sears Roebuck catalogs.
The venture proved to be more than a success, leading to many more riches coming Buck Steiner’s way. Some of the proceeds from the store would later go to purchase the land that is now Steiner Ranch the neighborhood.
Many years ago, the landscape was very different from what it is today.
Hindsight is 20/20 — The Land Between the Lakes
By the 1940s, Buck had become a family man, with a wife and two children. His successful earnings from years of running Capitol Saddlery enabled him to purchase 2,700 acres of land at $25 per acre. The piece of land that Buck purchased was conveniently located between the two area lakes — Lake Travis and Lake Austin.
What would be considered a very small amount of money to pay for land today was most likely a very big deal back then. At the time, Lake Travis was a destination far away from life in the big city. It would take up to a day to get to downtown Austin by horse or wagon. And before the building of Mansfield Dam, the area was extremely difficult and dangerous to traverse.
This parcel of land would be the future home of a cattle ranch owned by the Steiner family for several generations.
It was a pivotal time in Austin’s ongoing progress and electrification. Whether Buck knew it or not, snapping up the ranch became an important stepping stone in the development of what would later become one of the area’s residential communities … and a really smart investment.
The Early Beginnings of Steiner Ranch
If you can imagine it, what is now the largest master-planned community in the Lake Travis area was a land roaming with bronco bulls and wild horses that the Steiner family had saved from elimination.
Even into the mid-80s Steiner Ranch would be a working cattle ranch, while Buck continued to run his saddle shop in town.
In the late 1980s a real estate developer by the name of Al Hughes bought and started the development of Steiner Ranch. Through the ups and downs of the real estate market, the development changed hands a couple of times.
Growth was fueled in the mid 90s as the area around Lake Travis was turning into more of a place to call home than just a place to spend a day out at the lake.
The development was acquired by Taylor Woodrow in 2000, and the demand for homes in the area created another wave of residential construction that peaked in 2006 (with the rest of the Austin real estate market).
The Future of Steiner Ranch
If you take a drive through Steiner Ranch now, you’ll discover restaurants, shopping, amenity centers, the UT Golf and Tennis Club, and over 35 different neighborhoods within this one community.
As the neighborhood continues to grow, so do the interests and organizations that seek to call Steiner Ranch home.
The final stages of residential and commercial property are being developed on the few remaining parcels of land that are located near the entrance to the neighborhood along Ranch Road 620.
Further in towards the back of the neighborhood, and closer to the shores of Lake Austin, are the newest communities in Steiner Ranch currently being developed along Selma Hughes Road.
While Austin continues to expand outwards, many businesses, individuals and families have found the Lake Travis area to have the space and attitude that speaks most to them.
The Steiner Ranch fires of 2011 and steady growth in the area has raised many concerns about the continued development and lack of plans for future road improvements. In 2012, the Steiner Ranch Neighborhood Association was formed to address issues relevant to the community.
O’Brien, Paul. “The History of Steiner Ranch – Steiner Ranch Post.” Steiner Ranch Post. Steiner Ranch Post, 25 Apr. 2011. Web. 21 May 2014.
Villalpando, Nicole. “Capitol Saddlery, First Firehouse Turns Venetian Palace in Downto.” Austin News, Sports, Weather, Longhorns. Statesman, 25 Aug. 2010. Web. 21 May 2014.
“Steiner Ranch History.” Steiner Ranch History. Steiner Ranch Steakhouse, n.d. Web. 21 May 2014.
Salazar, Stephanie. “STEINER, THOMAS CASPER [BUCK].” STEINER, THOMAS CASPER [BUCK]. Handbook of Texas Online, 15 June 2010. Web. 22 May 2014.