Situated in Zilker Metropolitan Park amidst pecans, willows, and cottonwoods on rolling terrain, the use of these artesian springs on Barton Creek dates to pre-Spanish settlement with evidence of Native American occupation. The site is named for William Barton, who built a house near one of the springs circa 1838 and encouraged visitors to swim and fish on his property. The land was eventually purchased in 1901 by Andrew Zilker who built an amphitheater there in 1903. Recreational uses continued, accompanied by ice harvesting and water-powered mills, until Zilker deeded the property to the City in 1917 for public enjoyment. In 1921 an automobile tourist camp was located at the springs, and by 1931 improvements included the construction of retaining walls, a playground, and a dam that created the 100 x 1000 foot pool. Architect Charles Page prepared a master plan for the site in 1933, which included the construction of a bandstand, entrance road, and the Zilker Ponds rock garden. This work was mainly carried out by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Flooding in 1935 prompted new construction and in 1938 architect Delmar Groos designed the Sunken Garden, a series of landscaped terraced steps facing a flagstone stage overlooking the springs. In 1947 Dan Driscoll designed the masonry “streamline moderne” bathhouse, housing a ticket booth and open air dressing rooms. The 1950s witnessed the construction of a large stage, a bandshell, and playfields as well as improvements to the pool. In 1985 the Barton Springs Archaeological and Historical District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, now encompassed in the Zilker Park Historic District designated in 1997.