Michael Butler (1842-1909) emigrated from Limerick, Ireland, to New York City in 1866 and worked as a bricklayer. After traveling the country pursuing the masonry trade, Butler arrived in Dallas in 1869 and established a brick plant on the Trinity River. From 1869 to 1873, Butler's plant produced handmade bricks using the sun-dried brick method.
In 1873, Butler sold the Dallas plant to his brother, Patrick Butler, and moved to Austin, establishing his first Austin brick plant at the foot of East Avenue (now IH-35) on the north bank of the Colorado River. Flooding forced him to move, and in 1876 he purchased land and moved operations to the area roughly bordered by the Colorado River (Lady Bird Lake), South First Street, present-day Barton Springs Road and Barton Creek.
These brickyards remained in place until 1958. The interior of the Texas Capitol is supported with three million bricks from this site. Between 1873 and 1900, most of Austin's brick structures were made with Butler bricks, initially utilizing a machine operated by mules to force alluvial clay into wooden molds.
Butler married Austin native Mary Jane Kelly (1854-1935) and lived in a home he built on South Lamar until 1887 when he completed his stately brick mansion at 11th and Lavaca (demolished in 1971). Butler manufactured bricks until his death
in 1909, when his sons took over the Butler Brick Company.
In honor of Michael Butler, his family deeded 91 acres of the former brickyards to the City of Austin for civic use in 1941, at a fraction of the land's value. Michael Butler Park recognizes this legacy of craftsmanship and civic pride that aided the development of Austin.