In 1839, the first parcels of land in the fledgling City of Austin were auctioned off beneath the boughs of centuries-old oak trees that still stand in what is now Republic Square. Since then, Austin’s story has been one of growth, change, creativity, and loss. The 21st century has witnessed a remarkable transformation of the city’s urban and architectural fabric, so much so that Austinites from just ten years ago would hardly recognize their hometown amid the gleaming luxury condos, whirring electric cars, and expensive real estate (and cocktail prices).
The goal of this tour is to highlight places and spaces that form the core of Austin’s identity: institutions such as The University of Texas and the Texas State Capitol fuel our city’s ethos of innovation and activism; landmarks like Barton Springs and Mount Bonnell provide Austinites with places to connect with nature; districts from Red River to South Congress boast distinct identities and lively music venues that incubate local talent; and longstanding locales like the Paramount Theatre and Broken Spoke reflect a deeper sense of time and history. Remove any of these places from the equation—as when the Armadillo World Headquarters was razed—and the loss will be felt acutely. By documenting these places as they are today, this tour aims to highlight their significant legacy and make the case for their preservation.
Due to the sprawling nature of this tour—which covers places from the western hills to south Austin—two core routes have been identified. The first half of this tour extends from Pease District Park to the Congress Avenue Bridge, runs five miles, and takes approximately one hour by bike or two hours on foot. The second recommended route—starting on South Congress and ending at either Barton Springs Pool or Deep Eddy Pool—runs between seven and nine miles (depending on where you choose to take a dip) and takes 75 to 90 minutes by bike. Sites further afield are best visited individually.
Narratives for this tour were researched and written by Derek Barcinski, AIA; Sadi Brewton, AIA; Bud Franck; Stephanie Guaraglia, AIA; Patricia Hunt, AIA; Nicolle Landowski, AIA; Francisco Rosales; JuanRaymon Rubio, Assoc. AIA; and Claire Townley. Additional editorial support was provided by Bud Franck; Sadi Brewton, AIA; and Courtney Mallen, Assoc. AIA. Photography was contributed by Bud Franck.