The centerpiece of the Creekhaven property is an ancient bald cypress tree whose outstretched limbs and hollowed base appear to be welcoming its guests to share in the mysteries and special beauty of this land. Previous owners estimated the age of this tree at 2,000 years old while more recent estimates by theTexas forestry have reduced that estimate closer to just 1,000 years in age. Whatever the true age of this towering tree, we can be certain that it has been witness to many joys and peaceful moments along the crystal clear spring waters of the Cypress Creek.
The nomadic Tonkowa Indians camped along the banks of the creek for hundreds of years where fish and wildlife were plentiful. In their search for gold, the Spanish Conquistadors were drawn to the cool spring waters and abundant trees that provided fuel and shelter. In the mid 1800’s settlements started to appear along the creeks and rivers of Central Texas and a mill was built just downstream from Creekhaven which became the center of commerce for this valley, and a small village was formed which is now Wimberley.
Flash floods kept destroying the mill, and in 1880 John Cude decided to move the mill out of the flood way by damming the creek approximately one half mile up stream from the mill at “Blue Hole,” and digging a ditch running on higher ground that served as a mill race. The grounds at Creekhaven were known as the “Upper Gardens” and an easement for a portion of the mill race ran through its center.
In 1925 the mill closed. The mill race continued to supply water for irrigation and power to adjacent properties for another ten years, but eventually the water was diverted back to its natural stream along the creek. In the 1930’s a small fishing cabin was built just below the Old Mill Race on the property of the “Upper Gardens.” It became a weekend retreat for Sam Johnson and his two daughters. Part of the folk lore of the property is that Sam’s daughters were very beautiful and the kids from around the valley would come to swim at Blue Hole and camp along the banks of the creek of the “UpperGardens.” Members of the UT football team were reported to have hand laid the steps leading into the creek at the property.
In 1979 Sam sold the property to Jimmy and Barbara Ireland whose family had owned and operated “Gray Tools” out of Houston. They both fell in love with the property and started out by first restoring and expanding on the original cabin, and then building three more units, one of which would serve as Jimmy’s office. They had sold their company to a larger conglomerate, and spent much of their time traveling throughout Europe. The grounds of the “Upper Gardens” reminded them of the English countryside which they loved, and they made the decision to move from their Houston River Oaks home to build their new home in Wimberley. Jimmy was an engineer, and Barbara kept him busy with new ideas as he designed the new home to incorporate the four independent units into the larger main structure. Adjacent to the home, a greenhouse was built for Barbara to raise orchids. Jimmy took great care in using the natural stone and cedar found in the WimberleyValley to blend into the hillside along the creek in English Tudor style architecture. The greenhouse was designed after the one at Queen Victoria’s “KewesGardens” using oil industry steel pipes for its frame.
The house was built on top of what was the old mill race, but an open section of the race was converted into one of the property’s koi ponds just below the greenhouse. An old mill wheel was located in Geronimo,TX in an attempt to represent the Wimberley mill on the property. When that failed a small stone waterfall was created in its place. The Wimberley stained glass shop was commissioned to do various pieces throughout the home representing different stories of the family history.
Jimmy suffered a stroke and died shortly before the house was completed. Barbara decided to rent out the independent units now attached to the main house in what became Wimberley’s first Bed and Breakfast. Barbara, an accomplished musician and singer, renamed the property “Singing Cypress Gardens.” She remarried and shared her home and the beauty of her property with travelers to Wimberley for over twelve years. Barbara, an ordained minister in the Episcopalian church, consecrated a portion of the grounds along the creek where over 300 weddings took place. In 1995 her son Bob took over the property and added a building with eight rooms in the hopes of attracting long term winter travelers who were known to come to central Texas. Two major floods hit the Wimberley Valley in 1996 and 1998 and took their toll on this beautiful property.
Barbara died in 1999 and the property went into her estate. Bob, as the executor, kept things operational, but Singing Cypress Gardens was in need of a major renovation. The Appleman’s purchased the property in February of 2003. With over 22 craftsman and artisans working six days a week for five months, the property was reborn as Creekhaven Inn where it has served as one of the hill country’s premier lodging facilities.