Austin, Texas, a city steeped in history and charm, offers a captivating journey through time with its rich tapestry of historic buildings and sites. As the capital of Texas, Austin boasts a heritage that mirrors the state’s diverse past.
At the heart of this vibrant city stands the magnificent Texas State Capitol, an architectural masterpiece and symbol of Texan pride. The nearby Texas Governor’s Mansion is a testament to the state’s political history.
Exploring Austin’s historic streets, you’ll encounter treasures like the Southgate–Lewis House, the French Legation, and the William Sydney Porter House (O. Henry Museum), each with its unique stories to tell.
Join us on a journey through Austin’s iconic historic sites, delving into their captivating stories, from the University of Texas at Austin Main Building to the Driskill Hotel and beyond. We have other articles about the historical churches of Austin, and the museums you should visit.
A brief history of Austin
Austin, the vibrant capital of Texas, boasts a rich and diverse history that dates back over 11,000 years. The area’s earliest known inhabitants, associated with the Clovis culture, settled here around 9200 BC during the late Pleistocene.
When European settlers arrived, they encountered the Tonkawa tribe and occasional visits from the Comanches and Lipan Apaches. Spanish colonists explored the region in the 18th century, and in 1730, a Catholic mission briefly stood where Zilker Park now lies.
Pioneers began to settle the area in the 1830s, and by 1836, Texas had won its independence from Mexico. In 1839, the new Republic of Texas sought a location for its capital. Mirabeau B. Lamar, then Vice President of Texas, recommended a site on the north bank of the Colorado River, where Austin now stands.
The city was initially incorporated as “Waterloo” but was soon renamed Austin in honor of Stephen F. Austin, the “Father of Texas.”
Throughout the 19th century, Austin grew into a center for government and education. The Texas State Capitol and the University of Texas at Austin were constructed, shaping the city’s future.
In the late 1800s, Austin’s prominence was cemented with the completion of the state capitol building and significant transportation developments like the Houston and Texas Central Railway.
During the 20th century, Austin saw further growth and became known for its music scene. Local artists like Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughan, along with iconic venues, contributed to Austin’s status as the “Live Music Capital of the World.”
Today, Austin continues to evolve as a high-tech center, a hub for culture and creativity, and a place where history and innovation seamlessly coexist, making it a unique and dynamic city with a story that keeps unfolding.
The Texas State Capitol
The Texas State Capitol, designed by architect Elijah E. Myers and constructed from 1882 to 1888, is located in downtown Austin and serves as the epicenter of Texas government. Rising to a height of 302.64 feet, it ranks among the tallest state capitol buildings in the United States.
The Texas State Capitol is the third building to fulfill its role, following a wooden structure that served as the national capitol of the Texas Republic and a second capitol built in 1853. The second capitol was destroyed by fire in 1881, leading to the construction of the current edifice.
The Capitol’s construction was funded through the sale of public lands, resulting in one of history’s most significant barter transactions. The Capitol Syndicate, led by John V. Farwell and Charles B. Farwell, received over three million acres of public land in the Texas Panhandle as payment, which later became the world’s largest cattle ranch, the XIT Ranch.
Built with the labor of convicts and migrant workers, the Capitol’s construction cost approximately $3.7 million.
The Capitol exhibits Italian Renaissance Revival-style architecture and is sheathed in stunning sunset red (pink) granite donated by George W. Lacy, Nimrod L. Norton, and William H. Westfall, owners of Granite Mountain near Marble Falls. The building contains 360,000 square feet of floor space.
The central rotunda beneath the dome features portraits of past presidents of the Republic of Texas and governors of the State of Texas.
The south foyer boasts remarkable artwork, including a large portrait of David Crockett, sculptures of Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin by Elisabet Ney, and a painting depicting the surrender of General Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto.
The Capitol is home to public art, including the Whispering Gallery in the rotunda, and museums like the Texas Confederate Museum.
The Capitol’s 22-acre grounds are adorned with statues and monuments, honoring Texas history. The Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument, dedicated in 2014, is a more recent addition.
The Texas Governor’s Mansion
The Texas Governor’s Mansion, nestled in the heart of downtown Austin, stands as a historical treasure with a legacy dating back to 1854. Designed by the esteemed architect Abner Cook, this iconic mansion has served as the residence for every Texas governor since 1856.
Its historical significance is unparalleled; it’s not only the oldest continuously inhabited house in Texas but also the fourth oldest governor’s mansion in the United States to have been continuously occupied by a chief executive.
In recognition of its historical importance, the mansion was designated as a Texas historic landmark in 1962 and subsequently listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1970. In 1974, it achieved the prestigious status of a U.S. National Historic Landmark.
Originally crafted in the Greek Revival style by Abner Cook, the mansion exudes timeless elegance. Over the years, it has undergone transformations, with a 1914 remodeling expanding it to its present 8,920 square feet and adding modern conveniences, including seven bathrooms.
The mansion’s rich history took a dramatic turn in 2008 when it was partially destroyed by arson, sparking a meticulous $22 million restoration effort, completed in 2012. Today, the Texas Governor’s Mansion continues to stand proudly as a symbol of Texas history and a testament to the resilience and dedication of those who cherish it.
The Southgate–Lewis House
The Southgate–Lewis House, located just one mile east of the Texas State Capitol in Austin, at 1501 East 12th Street, has a rich history and cultural significance.
Built in 1888, it has transformed into an African-American historical landmark and a repository for African-American history and culture in the region of East Austin, now recognized as “Austin’s Black Cultural District” by the City of Austin.
The house was constructed by builder Robert C. Lambie as the residence for John Southgate, a bookbinder and publisher with a business on Congress Avenue. Notable for its late Victorian house style, the Southgate–Lewis House is unique among the simple vernacular buildings in the area.
Ownership of the house passed to the Charles M. Lewis family in 1913. Following Marguerite Mae Dee Lewis’s death in 1970, the house was abandoned and fell into disrepair. It faced demolition but was saved one week before its scheduled destruction and subsequently restored.
Today, the Southgate–Lewis House is a city, state, and national historic landmark. In 1986, it was gifted to the W. H. Passon Historical Society, an organization dedicated to preserving materials and artifacts related to Black culture in Austin and Travis County.
The house’s restoration revealed many treasures, including a beautifully elaborate staircase balustrade, hardwood paneling, patterned brass hardware, and wood floors from old-growth heartwood longleaf pine. The interior walls, unusual for the time, were reinforced with diagonal shiplap boards.
Ada Marie DeBlanc Simond, a resident of the neighborhood and a friend of the Lewis family, played a significant role in advocating for the historic preservation of the Southgate–Lewis House. She authored a series of children’s books based on the Lewis family’s life, contributing to the understanding of Black history in early 1900s Austin.
The French Legation
The French Legation, nestled in the eastern heart of Austin, stands as a historical treasure, representing France’s recognition of the newly independent Republic of Texas in 1836. This iconic structure, built in 1841, serves as a testament to early Texas history.
As one of Austin’s oldest surviving frame buildings, the French Legation and its surroundings earned a rightful place on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969. Additionally, it boasts recognition as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, a City of Austin Historic Landmark, and a Texas State Antiquities Landmark.
The building’s history is rich and diverse, embodying the diplomatic ties between Texas and France during its early years of independence. Jean Pierre Isidore Alphonse Dubois, representing King Louis Philippe, was dispatched to serve as the new chargé d’affaires in the Republic of Texas, overseeing the French Legation’s construction.
This historic residence played host to both diplomacy and controversy, including the infamous “Pig War” of 1841.
Over the years, the mansion transitioned from diplomatic quarters to a private residence, housing prominent figures like Bishop John Mary Odin and Moseley Baker. Eventually, the state of Texas purchased the property in 1945, entrusting its care to the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT). The DRT established the French Legation Museum in 1949 and meticulously restored the building and its surroundings.
Today, the French Legation continues to offer a captivating glimpse into the past, standing as a living monument to Texas history and its early international connections. Visitors can explore this remarkable site and its historical significance while also enjoying a unique view of the Texas State Capitol from its front porch, a sight protected by local and state laws since 1983.
The William Sydney Porter House (O. Henry Museum)
The William Sydney Porter House, often referred to as the O. Henry House, stands as a treasured historical landmark in Downtown Austin, Texas.
The famous author, William Sydney Porter, renowned by his pen name O. Henry, called this house his home from 1893 to 1895. This quaint cottage, designed in a simplified version of the Eastlake Style of architecture, was constructed in 1886.
O. Henry lived here with his wife, Athol, and daughter, Margaret, before pursuing a full-time writing career at the Houston Post. Despite being associated with North Carolina, he set 42 of his stories in Texas.
In 1973, the Porter House was added to the National Register of Historic Places and is now the O. Henry Museum, curated by Melissa Parr.
In 1930, the house faced demolition plans for a warehouse. Women’s organizations, including the Colonial Dames, Daughters of the American Revolution, Daughters of 1812, Daughters of the Republic of Texas, and Daughters of the Confederacy, intervened.
They proposed relocating and restoring the house as a “shrine,” which Austin accepted. In 1934, the house moved to its present location at Brush Square, 409 East 5th Street, and was meticulously restored.
Today, it serves as the backdrop for the annual O. Henry Pun-Off, a pun competition held in May, preserving O. Henry’s legacy and captivating visitors with its history and charm.
The Paramount Theatre
The Paramount Theatre, a cultural gem nestled in downtown Austin, stands as a testament to history and entertainment. Its classical revival style, built in 1915, exudes timeless charm and architectural grandeur, earning it a place on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.
Over its century-long existence, the Paramount Theatre has been a stage for diverse performances, from vaudeville to musicals, legitimate theater, and cinematic premieres, including the iconic 1966 film “Batman.”
Designed by architect John Eberson at the behest of Ernest Nalle, the theater originally opened as “The Majestic” in 1915.
Later, it underwent a transformation when Karl Hoblitzelle acquired it in 1930, renaming it the “Paramount Theatre” and introducing lavish enhancements like carpeting, plush seating, and a spectacular lighted blade sign that became an iconic part of Austin’s skyline.
Through the decades, the Paramount faced ups and downs, but in the 1970s, its future looked uncertain as television and suburban cinemas began to overshadow traditional theaters.
A group of dedicated individuals formed a nonprofit in 1975 to restore the fading glory of the theater. With a generous donation from Roberta Crenshaw and federal restoration funds, the theater was rejuvenated, and renovations commenced in 1977.
In 2015, a significant milestone was reached when the theater successfully recreated its signature blade sign, which had been missing since 1963.
The Neill–Cochran House Museum
The Neill–Cochran House Museum, nestled in north-central Austin, is a historical gem with a rich and intriguing past. This two-story Greek Revival masterpiece was meticulously designed and constructed in 1855 by the skilled hands of master builder Abner Cook.
Its grandeur is characterized by imposing Doric columns and the distinctive “sheaf of wheat” balusters, a signature of Mr. Cook’s craftsmanship.
Originally built on a vast 17.5-acre estate for Washington and Mary Hill, the house took a unique turn in its history. In 1856, it found itself leased to the Texas Institute for the Blind, offering shelter and purpose until Cook completed the blind school’s campus elsewhere.
The house has seen various occupants, including Lt. Governor Fletcher Stockdale and, it’s believed, former Provisional Governor Andrew J. Hamilton.
During the Civil War’s aftermath, Federal troops converted the house into a hospital, and even General George Armstrong Custer spent time in Austin, possibly visiting the Neill–Cochran House.
In 1876, Colonel Andrew Neill, a Confederate veteran, became the proud owner. His wife, Jennie Chapman Neill, continued to reside there after his passing and later rented the house to Judge Thomas Beauford Cochran in 1893.
In 1958, the property changed hands to The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in The State of Texas, who diligently preserve and operate it as a historic house museum.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and recognized as a Texas Historical Commission landmark, the Neill–Cochran House Museum stands as a captivating testament to Austin’s past.
The General Land Office Building
The General Land Office Building, completed in 1857, is an iconic Austin landmark designed by architect Christoph Conrad Stremme. This historic structure is known for its unique architectural style, featuring rounded arches, Norman-style parapets, and an exterior façade made of meticulously stuccoed limestone rubble.
Situated on the southeast corner of the Texas State Capitol grounds, this building has a rich history. It once housed the office of William Sidney Porter, known as O. Henry, a renowned author whose literary works were inspired by this very building.
Over the years, the General Land Office Building underwent various transformations, including a period when it hosted museums run by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. In the late 20th century, it underwent a meticulous restoration to preserve its 19th-century charm.
Today, the building serves as the Capitol Visitors Center, offering engaging exhibits and tours about the Texas State Capitol. Additionally, it houses a Texas Department of Transportation Travel Center, providing resources for exploring the state’s diverse landscapes and destinations.
Designated as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1962 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970, the General Land Office Building stands as a testament to Texas’s enduring history and architectural significance.
The Lundberg Bakery
The Lundberg Bakery, known today as the Old Bakery and Emporium, is a historic gem nestled in the heart of downtown Austin, at 1006 Congress Avenue, just a stone’s throw from the Texas State Capitol grounds. Its significance is underscored by its inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places on December 17, 1969.
Constructed from limestone with an inviting brick facade, the building boasts a remarkable cast-iron eagle perched majestically atop its gabled roof, gazing over Congress Avenue.
Dating back to 1876, this edifice originally served as a bustling bakery. During this era, bread was vended without packaging, prompting patrons to queue with cloth-lined baskets to cradle their freshly purchased loaves.
Notably, renowned short story writer William Sydney Porter, better known as O. Henry, was a frequent visitor to the bakery as he traversed the path to and from work at the nearby General Land Office Building.
Although the bakery operated until 1936, it later assumed various roles. Thankfully, the Austin Heritage Society stepped in to rescue this historic structure in 1962, saving it from impending demolition in 1970.
The discovery of the foundations of the previous state capitol building during nearby excavations prompted its preservation. In 1980, the State of Texas passed ownership to the City of Austin.
Today, the Old Bakery and Emporium is a haven for history enthusiasts and art aficionados alike. It houses the Lundberg-Maerki Historical Collection and features a revolving exhibition of local artists’ works on its third-floor art gallery.
Serving as a consignment store, it spotlights handcrafted gifts and fine art by local artisans, making it an ideal stop for visitors seeking both cultural enrichment and a taste of Austin’s vibrant art scene.
The Contemporary Austin – Laguna Gloria
The Contemporary Austin – Laguna Gloria, a jewel nestled on the serene shores of Lake Austin, carries a rich history intertwined with art, culture, and the legacy of its founders. This Italianate-style villa, completed in 1916, was once the cherished residence of Clara Driscoll and Henry H. Sevier.
The site’s historical significance extends further as it was originally owned by Stephen F. Austin, the namesake of the city, who once contemplated building a home here. Clara and Henry, inspired by their honeymoon in Lake Como, Italy, turned their dream into reality when they constructed this magnificent villa.
Clara, renowned for her love of gardening, meticulously cultivated the surrounding landscape, crafting enchanting terraced gardens that continue to captivate visitors today.
In 1943, Clara Driscoll generously donated the property, paving the way for its transformation into a city museum. In 1961, it was reborn as the Laguna Gloria Art Museum, quickly becoming an integral part of Austin’s burgeoning art scene. The museum’s art classes flourished, leading to the construction of a dedicated art school facility in 1983.
Although it later became the Austin Museum of Art, Laguna Gloria retained its role as The Art School, and in 2003, the Driscoll Villa underwent a renovation to once again serve as an exhibition space, focusing on local and regional artists.
Today, The Contemporary Austin – Laguna Gloria stands as one of two sites of The Contemporary Austin, offering a vibrant cultural haven steeped in history and artistry. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, it continues to enrich the artistic tapestry of Austin and beckon visitors to explore its storied past and inspiring present.
The A. J. Jernigan House
The A. J. Jernigan House, also known as Las Ventanas, is a distinguished historic residence nestled in the heart of west-central Austin, at 602 Harthan Street.
This magnificent home, built in 1875 for Mr. A. J. Jernigan, who served as the Travis County treasurer, stands as a testament to the city’s rich architectural heritage. Renowned master builder Abner Cook lent his expertise to the creation of this splendid structure.
Throughout its storied existence, the house underwent expansions in the late 1880s and 1912, evolving while retaining its timeless charm. In the latter part of the 20th century, it transitioned into commercial office space but experienced a renaissance at the turn of the 21st century when it was lovingly restored to its former glory as a single-family residence.
This architectural gem was rightfully added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. The home’s architecture, with its generously proportioned rooms and Victorian elements, reflects the evolving character of the era.
The A. J. Jernigan House is a remarkable embodiment of the transition from Greek Revival to Italianate architectural styles in Austin’s residential landscape. The building’s exterior boasts a Greek Revival influence, while its interiors reveal the exquisite work of a master craftsman.
Scholz Garten, also known as Scholz Beer Garden, is a cherished institution in downtown Austin, and holds the distinction of being the oldest continuously operating business in the state.
Established in 1866 by German immigrant August Scholz in the wake of the American Civil War, it quickly became a focal point for German immigrants and their cultural heritage in the capital city.
In 1914, the Austin Saengerrunde, a German singing club, assumed ownership of Scholz Garten, a role they still maintain today. This historic establishment has maintained its popularity as a gathering place for political discussions and fervent supporters of University of Texas sports.
Scholz Garten holds significant historical recognition, having been designated a Texas Historic Landmark in 1967 and earning a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. In 1986, the business lease was acquired by Eddie Wilson, Phil Vitek, and Michael Osborne, who embarked on a successful restoration project in 1987.
Throughout its storied history, Scholz Garten has played host to various events, from celebrating the University of Texas football team’s first undefeated season in 1893 to being officially honored by the Texas legislature in 1966.
This esteemed recognition acknowledged Scholz Garten as a place where Texans of diverse backgrounds can come together to appreciate German heritage, share a meal, and raise a glass in camaraderie, making it a timeless and beloved destination in Austin.
The University of Texas at Austin Main Building
The Main Building, also known as “The Tower,” stands at the heart of the University of Texas at Austin campus in downtown Austin. With its iconic 307-foot (94-meter) tower and 27 floors, it has become one of the most iconic symbols of both the university and the city.
The history of the Main Building is marked by significant events. In the early 20th century, discussions arose about the need for new library space, leading to the demolition of the old Victorian-Gothic Main Building in 1934.
The remnants of this structure live on through its chime bells, known as the Burleson Bells, displayed outside the university’s Bass Concert Hall.
The modern-day Main Building and Tower, designed by Texas architect Samuel E. Gideon, were constructed in place of the old structure. Originally intended as a library, it now houses administrative offices, a life sciences library, and the Miriam Lutcher Stark Library, featuring early editions of English Romanticist works.
The Tower boasts an impressive carillon of 56 bells at its pinnacle, the largest in Texas, which is played daily. It also witnessed a dark moment in 1966 when a tragic event unfolded, as a student barricaded himself in the observation deck, resulting in casualties. The observation deck was subsequently closed and reopened over the years.
The Tower’s lighting system, designed by Carl J. Eckhardt Jr., has been used to signify university achievements and special occasions since its inception in 1937. Today, it remains a symbol of pride and a central landmark on the university campus, offering breathtaking views of Austin and serving as a beacon of academic excellence and tradition.
The Driskill Hotel
The Driskill Hotel, an enduring icon in the heart of Austin, boasts a rich history and timeless elegance. Established in 1886 by Colonel Jesse Driskill, a cattleman with a vision, it stands as Austin’s oldest operating hotel and a cherished landmark in Texas.
Colonel Driskill’s grand aspiration was to construct “the finest hotel south of St. Louis,” and he did just that. Designed by local architect Jasper N. Preston, the original four-story Romanesque Revival building, built in 1886, was adorned with over six million pressed bricks and white limestone accents.
Notable features included Richardsonian-style arches, limestone busts of Driskill and his sons, and a distinctive entrance for both men and women, allowing female guests to avoid the cigar smoke and rough talk of the lobby.
Over the years, The Driskill underwent transformations and expansions. In 1930, a 13-story annex designed by Trost & Trost was added, enhancing the hotel’s allure. Notably, the bungalow penthouse atop the annex served luminaries like Jack Dempsey, Bob Hope, and President Lyndon Johnson.
The hotel has witnessed significant historical events and hosted notable figures. It held Governor Sul Ross’s inaugural ball in 1887, beginning a tradition for Texas governors. President Lyndon Johnson frequented the Driskill during his political career, while President Bill Clinton and others have graced its elegant halls.
Throughout its storied existence, The Driskill has experienced periods of decline and rejuvenation. After an extensive renovation in 1999, it reemerged in its original splendor.
Today, under the management of Hyatt Hotels Corporation, The Driskill continues to be a beacon of luxury, history, and hospitality, drawing guests from around the world to experience its timeless charm.
The Henry H. and Bertha Sterzing Ziller House
The Henry H. and Bertha Sterzing Ziller House, a cherished piece of Austin’s history, stands as a testament to the city’s rich architectural heritage.
Constructed around 1877 and subsequently purchased by the Zillers in 1881, this historic residence found its place on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998, cementing its significance.
Throughout its storied existence, the Ziller House has undergone notable transformations. In 1891, a renovation imbued the house with distinctive Eastlake features, adding character and charm.
This renovation extended the northeast and northwest rooms, introduced two charming balconies, and graced the house with a welcoming porch on its eastern side, which was later extended around a portion of the south side.
The porch is a masterpiece of craftsmanship, featuring a wooden balustrade and turned wooden posts adorned with panel appliques. Elaborate decorative woodwork, including sunburst brackets crowning each post, adds to its allure.
The solid panels, embellished with cross-shaped perforations above the brackets, contribute to the porch’s intricate design. A frieze of three semicircular perforations, nestled between the roofline and the horizontal beams bracing the posts, completes the aesthetic.
Supported by sturdy brick footings and infilled with stuccoed screens, the Ziller House porch showcases the blend of history, artistry, and architectural finesse that defines Austin’s cultural heritage.
The West Sixth Street Bridge
The West Sixth Street Bridge stands as a testament to Austin’s rich architectural and engineering history. This historic stone arch bridge, dating back to 1887, is a cherished relic of the past, offering a glimpse into the city’s evolution. It is among Texas’s oldest masonry arch bridges and serves as a vital link between the western and central parts of the old city.
The story of this bridge begins with the construction of Austin’s first bridge in 1865, a narrow iron footbridge across Shoal Creek. As the city expanded, the need for a more robust crossing grew apparent.
In 1887, the Austin City Council allocated funds for a new, wider bridge, designed to accommodate wagons, automobiles, and streetcars. This double-arch stone bridge, constructed at a cost of $6,126.20, later expanded to feature three arches.
Today, the bridge carries West Sixth Street across Shoal Creek, serving as a vital transportation artery. With a span of 90 feet in length and 80 feet in width, it is a prime example of nineteenth-century urban planning in Austin.
Built of local limestone, it boasts a sturdy and enduring design that has withstood the test of time, despite periodic flooding and the passage of decades.
Recognized for its historical and engineering significance, the West Sixth Street Bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014. It remains an iconic landmark, reflecting the city’s heritage and enduring charm.
The McKinney Homestead
The McKinney Homestead, a limestone gem harkening back to the mid-19th century, stands as a testament to Texas’s rich history. Built between 1850 and 1852 by Thomas F. McKinney, who owned the sprawling surrounding land, this two-story residence was a cornerstone of the region’s heritage.
Constructed with locally quarried limestone from Onion Creek, the home was a marvel of its time. Cypress and cedar, abundant on McKinney’s land, framed the structure and provided materials for doors, window frames, and roof shakes.
With dimensions of approximately twenty by forty feet, it featured three rooms on each floor and boasted charming covered porches both upstairs and downstairs.
For over nine decades, the McKinney Homestead was a bustling hub of daily life until its unfortunate demise in a fire during the 1940s. However, its legacy lives on through archaeological investigations and preservation efforts.
In 1974, a significant portion of McKinney’s land, including the historic homestead, was entrusted to the state of Texas. McKinney Falls State Park was born in 1976, preserving this remarkable piece of Texas history. Designated as a National Historic Place in 1974, the homestead has been carefully stabilized to halt further deterioration, allowing visitors to explore its intriguing ruins along the park’s designated “Homestead Trail.”
St. Edward’s University Main Building
St. Edward’s University Main Building, completed in 1888 and rebuilt after a 1903 fire, holds a significant place on the National Register of Historic Places since 1973. Designed by architect Nicholas J. Clayton, it showcases Gothic Revival architecture with its tall stature and pointed-arch windows.
Main Building has been the university’s administrative hub since its founding, with prior service to St. Edward’s College and St. Edward’s High School from 1921 to 1967.
The structure has undergone renovations and repairs, most notably after a 1922 tornado and substantial updates in 1986. Recent efforts in 2014 focused on preserving its timeless exterior charm.
Collegiate Gothic architecture graces the Main Building, characterized by its pointed-arch windows, turreted buttresses, and ornate detailing. The main entrance, framed by a Gothic arch with a pointed gable, beckons visitors with a grand staircase leading to red double doors.
The East and West wings, adorned with cylindrical turrets and conical spires, flank the central section, creating a harmonious ensemble that showcases the hall’s architectural magnificence. The rear of the building boasts a stunning tower with a freestanding octagonal upper section, crowned by a cross-shaped finial.
Holy Cross Hall, built alongside Main Building after the 1903 fire, echoes its larger counterpart’s design, albeit on a smaller scale. Brick-clad and modest in stature, Holy Cross Hall shares the same architectural charm and timeless elegance, making it a fitting companion to this historic treasure.
St. Edward’s University Main Building and Holy Cross Hall stand not only as architectural marvels but also as guardians of the institution’s rich legacy, preserving the spirit of education and enlightenment for generations to come.
The James Earl Rudder State Office Building
The James Earl Rudder State Office Building, located at 1019 Brazos Street in Austin , is a historical structure constructed in 1917.
Designed by renowned architect Atlee Bernard Ayres, this steel-frame and concrete building served various state agencies, including the General Land Office, the Agricultural Department, the Texas Highway Department, and the Fire Rating Department. Notably, it was primarily designed to house the General Land Office, necessitating a fireproof design.
The exterior of the building exhibits Classical Revival style, featuring brick, limestone, and cast iron elements on the north and west elevations. The ground floor boasts arched ashlar openings with decorative keystones, leading to double metal pocket doors framed by cast iron arches. Each floor above is characterized by steel sash windows, some with foliated finials and decorative cast iron spandrels.
Internally, the lobby showcases a square groin vault ceiling adorned with terra cotta reliefs in Adam-style, while the marble floors and staircase add to the grandeur. Originally, each floor was a large open space with skylights for lighting and ventilation. Over time, offices were added, and some skylights have been uncovered.
Though some modifications have occurred over the years, the James Earl Rudder State Office Building still retains much of its historical and architectural integrity. It was added to the US National Register of Historic Places in 1998 and currently houses the offices of the Secretary of State.
Green Pastures, nestled in the Bouldin Creek neighborhood of south Austin, Texas, is a historic Victorian home that has been transformed into a renowned restaurant.
Built in 1895 by local minister E.W. Herndon, this charming house originally occupied 23 acres of lush land bordering a wooded area to the south. Over the years, it became a beloved residence for several families.
In 1946, the house found a new purpose when it became the Green Pastures restaurant. This establishment, founded by Mary Faulk Koock and her husband Chester Koock, quickly gained recognition for its comfort food and its commitment to desegregation, serving customers of all races 18 years before it was legally required in Austin.
Located at 811 West Live Oak Avenue, Green Pastures was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Its picturesque grounds have long been known for the presence of beautiful peafowl.
The legacy of Green Pastures extends beyond its culinary offerings. It served as a filming location for the 1988 movie “Heartbreak Hotel” and was the childhood residence of activist, author, and radio show host John Henry Faulk.
Mary Faulk Koock, co-founder of the restaurant, also left her mark by writing “The Texas Cookbook,” a historical collection of recipes, with the assistance of renowned author James Beard.
Austin State Hospital
Austin State Hospital (ASH), established in 1856, is a historic mental health institution in Austin. It is the oldest psychiatric facility in Texas and the oldest continuously operating one west of the Mississippi River.
ASH, overseen by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, provides psychiatric services for individuals of all ages facing mental health challenges and developmental or intellectual disabilities.
The hospital’s mission focuses on acute, short-term care, with an emphasis on crisis stabilization and successful patient reintegration into society and long-term outpatient care.
ASH’s history includes its role in desegregation during the late 1950s and 1960s, opening admissions and services to all genders and races. Over time, the patient population fluctuated, peaking at around 3,313 in 1968 and decreasing to 518 by 1990.
An enduring piece of ASH’s history is the Old Main Building, preserved as a Texas Historic Landmark. Today, the renovated facility spans 375,000 square feet and houses 240 private patient bedrooms, furthering its commitment to mental health care in Texas.
Buford Tower, formerly the Austin Fire Drill Tower, is a historic landmark situated on Lady Bird Lake’s north shore in downtown Austin. Built in 1930 for the Austin Fire Department’s training purposes, it was later repurposed as a bell tower.
Named after Captain James L. Buford, a firefighter who tragically lost his life in the line of duty, the tower was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2016.
Originally constructed for firefighter training and equipment testing, the tower’s significance waned as firefighting technology advanced and Austin’s skyline grew taller. By 1974, it became clear that a new training facility was needed.
In 1978, Effie Kitchens and the Austin chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction spearheaded a successful fundraising campaign, amassing $45,000 for the tower’s restoration.
The endeavor included cleaning the brick exterior, roof repairs, window glazing to deter wildlife, and the addition of iron grillwork. An electronic carillon bell system was installed, transforming the tower into the Buford Tower.
Today, Buford Tower’s bells chime the hours and play Christmas carols during the holiday season. It also serves as the location for the Austin Firefighters’ Association’s annual memorial service for first responders who perished during the 9/11 attacks.
A six-story concrete structure with Italianate campanile design, Buford Tower features Romanesque Revival doors and windows with round-arched details.
Designed by architect J. Roy White and constructed by builder Rex D. Kitchens, the tower boasts a distinctive exterior with semicircular brick arches over its windows and a stone cornice crowned by a red tile hipped roof.
Inside, the tower’s concrete floors and exposed brick walls contribute to its historical ambiance. Steel staircases connect the levels, leading to the top floor, which houses the electronic carillon loudspeakers and controls, concealed by a wooden plank ceiling.
The Texas State Cemetery
The Texas State Cemetery (TSC), situated on approximately 22 acres just east of downtown Austin, holds a unique place in the heart of the state. Initially established as the resting place for Edward Burleson, a Texas Revolutionary general and vice-president of the Republic of Texas, it underwent expansions and transformations over the years.
The cemetery is divided into two sections, each with its distinct significance. The smaller section hosts around 900 graves of prominent Texans, while the larger is the final resting place for over 2,000 marked graves of Confederate veterans and their widows.
With space for 7,500 interments, the cemetery is approximately half full, including plots reserved for eligible individuals.
The criteria for burial at TSC, established in 1953 and governed by Texas state law, encompass former members of the legislature, elected and appointed state officials, those designated by the governor, their spouses, and certain dependent children.
The graves tell the stories of influential figures in Texas history, including Stephen F. Austin, Barbara Jordan, Ann Richards, and many others.
In recent years, efforts have been made to maintain and preserve this historic site, ensuring that it remains a cherished landmark and a testament to the rich history of Texas.
The Littlefield House
The Littlefield House, nestled on the University of Texas at Austin campus, stands as a historic testament to the generosity and influence of its original owner, Civil War veteran George Littlefield.
Constructed in 1893, this magnificent home was designed in the popular Victorian style, embodying an architectural marvel with a construction cost of $50,000.
Major George Littlefield and his wife Alice played a pivotal role in shaping the university’s landscape, contributing significantly to its growth and development. Their philanthropic endeavors included funding the iconic Littlefield Fountain, the Main Building, and the Littlefield Dormitory.
Moreover, they were instrumental in the establishment of the Littlefield Building in downtown Austin, completed in 1912.
Following Alice Littlefield’s passing in 1935, she bequeathed the house to the university. Today, the ground floor has been meticulously restored and serves as a venue for various university functions, while the upstairs provides office space for the Office of University Events.
Nestled at the intersection of 24th and Whitis streets, the Littlefield House received recognition for its historical significance when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.
The property also boasts a captivating “Deodar Cedar,” sourced from the Himalayas, thoughtfully planted by George Littlefield. This remarkable 57-foot tree, located on the southwest side of the house, features distinctive horizontal layers and ranks as the #2 State Champion deodar cedar according to the Texas A&M Forest Service’s Lists Big Tree Registry.
The Goodall Wooten House
The Goodall Wooten House, an architectural gem in Austin, stands as a testament to the city’s rich history. Built between 1898 and 1900, this magnificent home was the brainchild of local doctor and philanthropist, Goodall H. Wooten, and his wife, Ella.
Noted for its Classical Revival architecture and surrounded by lush gardens, the house has witnessed a diverse range of uses throughout the years.
Dr. Wooten and Ella embarked on their home’s construction journey in 1897, the same year they tied the knot. They purchased the land for their dream home from Dr. Thomas D. Wooten, Goodall’s father, on July 20, 1898. During construction, they resided with Dr. Thomas D. Wooten, where their daughter Lucie was born.
This three-story house with a basement was originally designed with servant sleeping quarters, a game room, and storage in the basement. The first floor boasted impressive spaces like the entry foyer, sitting room, music room, dining room, and kitchen.
Upstairs featured four bedrooms, a sitting room, a bathroom, and a dedicated room for Goodall’s extensive gun collection.
In 1910, the house underwent a significant transformation, evolving from a large house into a true mansion. A westward expansion, the addition of a library, and redecoration by the prestigious Neiman-Marcus marked this period of change.
Throughout its history, the house has transitioned from a family home to a student residence hall, a chemical dependency treatment center, and, most recently, a boutique hotel named “Hotel Ella.” Its enduring charm and historical significance earned it a place on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.