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Austin History


When Adam West brought ‘Batman: The Movie’ to Austin

On the occasion of actor Adam West‘s death, we recalled that the world premiere of “Batman: The Movie” took place at the Paramount Theatre on Congress Avenue during the sweltering summer of 1966. Almost immediately, we found pictures and background from the Austin History Center website and other social media. “In what was perhaps the most successful movie event in Austin&rsquo...
Best Texas books to read in June 2017

Best Texas books to read in June 2017

We’ve learned more about the Nueces River, Texas birding, a standout West Texas Congressman, the King Ranch and Texas swimming holes. “The Nueces River: Rio Escondido.” Margie Crisp with artwork by William B. Montgomery. Texas A&M Press. Much admired Texas artist and naturalist Margie Crisp made quite a splash with her award-winning “River of Contrasts: The Texas Colorado...
Austin recovers one of its identities in Rosedale

Austin recovers one of its identities in Rosedale

As they had done countless times before, the friends convened one morning at the Rosedale School on West 49th Street. Forrest Preece, John Akin and Richard “Dick” Peterson’s roots plunge deep into this Austin neighborhood of cottages, shops, parks, medical offices and, increasingly, more upscale homes. Strung along two angled terraces above the Shoal Creek canyon, Rosedale is one...
A proposal for downtown Austin from the 1970s

A proposal for downtown Austin from the 1970s

Few Austinites have cultivated downtown real estate, development and urban planning contacts as meticulously as Jude Galligan, whose blog, Towers, edited by James Rambin, regularly informs us about the past, present and future of downtown Austin. It was Rambin who recently uncovered an article published in the American-Statesman in 1976 about a proposal to modify Congress Avenue. The plan was put...
Everyone in Austin has benefited from the work of Dr. Charles Pelphrey

Everyone in Austin has benefited from the work of Dr. Charles Pelphrey

Dr. Charles Pelphrey turned 100 on April 16. The physician’s centenary birthday was not much noticed here in Austin. He retired in 1981, and a few years ago, he moved to a quiet suburb of San Antonio to live with his daughter. Yet, if anyone should be remembered by Austin, it is this man — who almost singlehandedly changed health care in this city. For instance, Pelphrey introduced blood...
Take a look-see at this week’s Austin shows and parties.

Take a look-see at this week’s Austin shows and parties.

Light week for Austin shows and parties. Still, we are pleased with the slimmed-down choice, including a salute for our dear friend, Gregory Vincent, who leaves the University of Texas to become president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
Excavating the history of the former Aggie Embassy in downtown Austin

Excavating the history of the former Aggie Embassy in downtown Austin

Like an enclave of foreign sovereignty in the heart of Austin, a compound once half-joshingly called the “Aggie Embassy” rises downtown behind sturdy iron fences, half hidden by shade trees, a puzzle to many passers-by. From 1987 to 2016, however, the Hirshfeld-Moore complex housed the Austin offices of the Texas A&M University System. Located on West Ninth Street between Lavaca and Guadalupe...
Murder at the Butler Pitch and Putt

Murder at the Butler Pitch and Putt

About 3 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 22, 1951, John Douglas “Doug” Kinser was working in his clubhouse at the Butler Pitch and Putt just east of South Lamar Boulevard when he was confronted with the nose of a gun. “Five bullets from a small caliber gun pierced his body,” reported the Austin Statesman the next day. “Police said three bullets recovered were .25 caliber.”...
Mural at 12th and Chicon hit with anti-gentrification graffiti

Mural at 12th and Chicon hit with anti-gentrification graffiti

A new mural at the intersection of 12th and Chicon Streets depicting musical instruments and proclaiming Austin Live Music of the World was recently tagged with anti-gentrification graffiti. The mural, which went up this spring, replaced a 2012 mural of a pregnant African-American woman by the Mama Sana organization. On Saturday, the music mural had several messages, including “Gentrifiers out...
Video explains Austin’s heated 1970s protests against drag boat racing

Video explains Austin’s heated 1970s protests against drag boat racing

Better than almost any other archival resource on the subject, a black-and-white news documentary from 1978, now posted on the Austin Found blog, explains the controversy over drag boat racing on what was then known as Town Lake. The videomakers’ attempts at even-handedness — the old-line business community, for instance, strongly supported the divisive races as a magnet for prestige and...
The day the Comanches returned to Austin

The day the Comanches returned to Austin

We live on the the eastern edge of the Comancheria, the empire controlled by the Comanche people for hundreds of years until the late 19th century. “Many a story of early Austin involved raids in which the Indians made good their escape to the mountains west of town,” history advocate Richard Denney writes in an article for an upcoming issue of a Northwest Hills area newsletter, which...
Austin bids farewell to Brackenridge Hospital after 133 years

Austin bids farewell to Brackenridge Hospital after 133 years

Jane Dryden Louis retains more memories of the Brackenridge Hospital emergency room than she does of the house in Wilshire Woods where she grew up. That is because for decades her father, Dr. Bud Dryden, was the one of the public hospital’s most loyal physicians. “We never went anywhere without stopping at the emergency room at some point,” Louis, 65, says. “I grew up on a...
Facebook to the rescue of 1974 photo taken on Austin’s Sixth Street

Facebook to the rescue of 1974 photo taken on Austin’s Sixth Street

The power of Facebook: Within minutes, a posted street photograph taken more than 40 years ago on Austin’s Sixth Street was identified and lionized by multiple readers. We asked: Who is here? This picture came to us from Henry Williams via Debbie Russell as part of her ongoing project to recover the memory of the Old Pecan Street Festival. “Although taken on East Sixth Street, it predates...
Are you a Brack Baby? Send us your pictures and stories

Are you a Brack Baby? Send us your pictures and stories

On May 21, patients will move ceremoniously from University Medical Center Brackenridge by ambulance across East 15th Street to the state-of-the-science Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas. Meanwhile, we are gathering historical notes on Brack — first opened in 1884 — assembling a timeline, making a video, creating an interactive map and, most fun of all, putting together...
From the horrors of slavery come clues about ancestors

From the horrors of slavery come clues about ancestors

If your African-American ancestors go back more than a few generations in Texas, some of them almost assuredly passed through New Orleans. “New Orleans was the richest and busiest slave port in America,” says LaToya Devezin, community archivist at the Austin History Center and a native New Orleanian. “And it operated the biggest slave market.” In fact, that city on the Mississippi...
Stopping time on Congress Avenue in 1952

Stopping time on Congress Avenue in 1952

Lance Avery Morgan was going through an old photo album when he ran across some striking pictures of his relatives. He was particularly taken with what looked liked candid shots of his family parading down Congress Avenue. If your family grew up in midcentury Austin — in the time before malls — they likely shopped on Congress Avenue, dressed in their best attire. “(One) photo is...
A closer look at a 1919 Austin racial incident turns up the unexpected

A closer look at a 1919 Austin racial incident turns up the unexpected

One of the most notorious incidents in the history of race relations in Austin occurred in 1919, when the executive secretary of the newly founded National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was attacked by an Austin mob and then run out of town. John Shillady had traveled to Austin to work out a dispute between the state and the NAACP. He was confronted on a public street by Constable...
Where’s an Austin gondola when you need one?

Where’s an Austin gondola when you need one?

Recently, a study put the kibosh on the idea of suspended gondolas as a means of group transport in Austin. Still, the subject inspired a few of my colleagues to rummage around for remembrances of gondolas past. “Indeed, it was the aerial gondola scheme that triggered my memory of the guy who wanted Austin City Council approval in the early 2000s to open a gondola-ride concession on Town Lake...
Feeding eccentric Van Morrison at the Armadillo World Headquarters

Feeding eccentric Van Morrison at the Armadillo World Headquarters

Eddie Wilson‘s long-awaited book, “Armadillo World Headquarters,” written with Jesse Sublett, is packed with well-told stories. With their permission, we are sharing some of the choice yarns over the course of a few weeks. The Austin spot at South First Street and Barton Springs Road was known for more than music, beer and other recreational substances. Food was central to its identity...
UT’s Briscoe Center now a place of history for everyone

UT’s Briscoe Center now a place of history for everyone

“We are not a museum,” Don Carleton, director of the Briscoe Center for American History, stated bluntly during a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week for his splendidly renovated research facility on the University of Texas campus. “At the same time, we can now share some of our treasures.” Perhaps Carleton didn’t want potential visitors to confuse his UT center &mdash...
Billie Holiday is back in town, this time at Zach Theatre

Billie Holiday is back in town, this time at Zach Theatre

The photograph shows a woman in a winter coat wrapped by a fur collar. A diminutive fur hat accented with a dark bow sits tilted on her head. Clearly the star of the social gathering, she is surrounded by other smiling African-American women. It is said to be jazz great Billie Holiday when she appeared in the Kovac Room at the Victory Grill on East 11th Street. RELATED: Austin’s Victory Grill...
The Old Pecan Street Festival needs your memories and photos

The Old Pecan Street Festival needs your memories and photos

The 40th anniversary of the of the Old Pecan Street Festival is right around the corner. This large street fiesta that includes music, food, drink, arts and crafts — as well as unparalleled people-watching — returns to East Sixth Street May 6-7. In order to celebrate this community event properly, the Pecan Street Association desires your memories. They imagine your images. They ache for...
A freaky trip back to the Armadillo World Headquarters

A freaky trip back to the Armadillo World Headquarters

It has been argued that Austin in the 1970s set the stage for Austin in the 2010s. And no outfit better reflected the open, unhurried, hybrid city of the ’70s than the Armadillo World Headquarters, the big crossover music, food and drink emporium behind a skating rink at South First Street and Barton Springs Road. Thanks to its founder, Eddie Wilson, and his buddy, author and musician Jesse...
Putting the Goddess of Liberty atop the Capitol

Putting the Goddess of Liberty atop the Capitol

The discussion started when we posted a charismatic image of the the Goddess of Liberty atop the Capitol taken by Christopher V. Sherman. Almost all the subsequent chat on Facebook focused on the arrival of the replacement facsimile Goddess by helicopter in 1985 during the renovation of the Capitol, which several readers had witnessed. “The original is on view at the Bullock Texas State History...
Public learns details on remains found under historic cemetery chapel

Public learns details on remains found under historic cemetery chapel

Identifying remains, contacting their relatives and reaching out to the community for details about the dead were deemed priorities by about 50 people who attended the first public update on the burials recently discovered under the Oakwood Cemetery chapel. A chapel restoration project, which involved using 2012 bond funding to stabilize the structure and rehabilitate restrooms, doors and lighting...
Take a look at the reborn Green Pastures

Take a look at the reborn Green Pastures

Martha Koock Ward remembers the yeast rolls. “Rising, baking, baked and blanketed in a linen napkin lining a basket, revealed, ready for sweet cream butter,” says the Austinite who grew up in her mother’s childhood home, which Mary Faulk Koock turned into the hospitality legend Green Pastures. “The earthy smell of these rolls added another layer of satisfaction to a carefully...
The definitive history of Austin’s iconic Armadillo World Headquarters

The definitive history of Austin’s iconic Armadillo World Headquarters

This week in “Texas Titles,” we revisit the Armadillo World Headquarters, rediscover a Houston philanthropist, look into a Texas governor’s impeachment, dip into a historical novel and find out about a Texas progressive coalition that beat Jim Crow and Juan Crow. “Armadillo World Headquarters” by Eddie Wilson with Jesse Sublett (TSSI Publishing/UT Press) One wag called...
When Queen Elizabeth II stayed at the Four Seasons Austin Hotel

When Queen Elizabeth II stayed at the Four Seasons Austin Hotel

Do you think they’ll shoot an episode of “The Crown” in Austin? If so, they absolutely must use the Four Seasons Hotel Austin as a location. Why so? Because Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II stayed there in 1991. The staff lined up for her arrival and the women curtsied. Executive assistant Missy Kreisle remembers that when she checked in, the British equivalent of the Secret Service...
Texas treasures from the Bryan Museum now in Austin

Texas treasures from the Bryan Museum now in Austin

You won’t find the Bryan Museum in Bryan, Texas. Or in the abutting city of College Station, for that matter. In fact, this large private Texana museum is located 150 miles to the southeast of the Aggie metropolis on the island of Galveston. Housed in the old Galveston Orphans Home, the Bryan Collection — which consists of more than 70,000 Western-themed artifacts, documents and artwork...
Dozens of graves may be under Oakwood Cemetery chapel, officials say

Dozens of graves may be under Oakwood Cemetery chapel, officials say

Archaeologists working alongside contractors reconstructing the historic chapel at Austin’s Oakwood Cemetery made a grim discovery in late November: human remains buried under the building. City officials said in a news conference Tuesday that they believe there might be about 25 graves underneath the chapel, which was built in 1914 on what was then the nonwhite portion of the segregated cemetery...
Sharing stories around the Rodeo Austin campfire

Sharing stories around the Rodeo Austin campfire

The theme song for the old TV show “Rawhide” rings in my ears whenever the rodeo rides into town. No matter that the Westerns from the 1950s and ’60s dramatized cowboy life without what one might call documentary precision. To a kid from East Texas who grew up in Houston, the rodeo was plain fun. And an inextricable part of our culture, especially here in Texas, despite the rise...
The man in the picture. That is my daddy!

The man in the picture. That is my daddy!

After a photo taken in 1958 on East Sixth Street by Hans Beacham ran in newspaper on Feb. 5, we received two calls. Geneva Campbell Perius and Bill Campbell, both in their 70s, separately identified the man in a hat — turning and putting his right hand into his back pocket — as their father, the late Heber Campbell. Previously, reader Doug Dawson had quipped: “That fella looks like...
An Austin park that’s all about love

An Austin park that’s all about love

For the most part, Thelma Williams — also known as “Grandma Wisdom” — has lived in the St. John neighborhood since early childhood. She remembers when the land — a slice of which recently benefited from an Austin Parks Foundation grant — belonged to the St. John Regular Baptist Association, started in 1867 by four black Baptist ministers who met under a live oak...
Mystery of the unknown Austin football game solved?

Mystery of the unknown Austin football game solved?

One of our favorite Facebook pages is titled “Austin As It Used To Be.” Public members — who number 2,655 — post mostly old pictures of our city along with memories, questions and answers. Jolene Haney posted an image — linked to a Portal to Texas History page — described as “Photograph of football players sitting on the sidelines at an Austin football game...
World War II pilot, now 97, left for dead after plane shot down

World War II pilot, now 97, left for dead after plane shot down

On April 22, 1944, Col. Teague “Bucky” Harris was flying back from a bombing mission over Germany. While in a landing pattern about 1,000 feet over his British base, the American pilot’s outfit came under intense fire, a desperate, behind-the-lines attack by German forces that was dubbed by author Ian McLachlan “the night of the intruders.” “It was dark by this...
A bright new day ahead for Austin area child advocates?

A bright new day ahead for Austin area child advocates?

Recently while on Austin’s buoyant social circuit, we learned more about child advocates, saluted some cultural heroes, savored an opera, lingered over a humanities exhibit, mingled at a block party, toasted a nonagenarian and shared an Austin history book with the masses. CASAblanca for CASA of Travis County The takeaway from this large gala: CASA of Travis County is on track to become the...
The secrets behind two old train stations on Springdale Road

The secrets behind two old train stations on Springdale Road

Driving by the 900 block of Springdale Road, one could easily miss them: Two old train stations, set far back behind a large parking lot. One is now called Springdale Station, the other Pine Street Station. They sit on an industrial spur next to a beehive of activity in the transformed Frostex Foods plant, which now includes two breweries, a rock climbing facility and an art gallery. Moya McIntyre...
Audit: Documentation makes historic landmark process ineffective

Audit: Documentation makes historic landmark process ineffective

Austin’s Planning and Zoning Department does not effectively oversee the city’s historic preservation program, an audit found this week, largely due to lack of documentation and confusion. The department either failed to collect or failed to document 58 percent of required fees auditors sampled — making the money vulnerable to theft, the report found. Officials don’t document...
Austin, this is not our first rodeo

Austin, this is not our first rodeo

Round ‘em up. Move ‘em out. Rodeo Austin’s big show returns March 11-25 to the Travis County Expo Center. There was a time when the rodeo was as central to Austin’s social life as, say, South by Southwest or the Austin City Limits Music Festival are today. Only the University of Texas Longhorns games — and perhaps, for a while, Austin Aqua Festival — outranked this...
Zach Theatre grapples with LBJ play ‘The Great Society’

Zach Theatre grapples with LBJ play ‘The Great Society’

It is clear that no couple has made a greater impact on Central Texas over the long run than Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson. From his role in taming in the Colorado River to his scores of national triumphs and tragedies — that reverberated back home — LBJ looms large in local memory. From her environmentalism to her wide-ranging philanthropy, Lady Bird also helped shape this city and its...
What’s the next role for the historic Hirshfeld-Moore House?

What’s the next role for the historic Hirshfeld-Moore House?

A few weeks ago, Texas A&M University System workers moved out of the Hirshfeld-Moore House (1885) and Cottage (1873), a dandy Victorian compound on West Ninth Street between Lavaca and Guadalupe streets. Occupying half of an urban block, it needs work. It isn’t in danger of demolition, so don’t ring the preservation alarms. But we are talking to experts about its past, present and possible...
Six Square group working to preserve Austin’s black cultural district

Six Square group working to preserve Austin’s black cultural district

Robert B. and Mary F. Smith rest together in Bethany Cemetery, both born when Texas supported slavery. The couple shares the hallowed ground with farmers, laborers, ministers and veterans from as far back as the Civil War — African-Americans whose contributions to East Austin have since been nearly forgotten. Bethany’s uneven landscape, dotted with sinking, broken and toppled-over monuments...
Austin couple, once everywhere around town, stay busy into their 90s

Austin couple, once everywhere around town, stay busy into their 90s

They have been under the influence of each other for 80 years. Both accomplished dancers, Sam and Bertha Shanblum met in 1936 at Paschal High School in Fort Worth. They dated, although not exclusively at first. Sam went off to college, while Bertha, a bit older, entered the Depression-era workforce. “Then along came a little fracas called World War II,” recalls Sam, 96, later a stalwart...
‘Miles and Miles of Texas’ takes readers on a 100-year roadtrip with

‘Miles and Miles of Texas’ takes readers on a 100-year roadtrip with

This week in “Texas Titles,” we take a very long road trip, scan Depression-era murals at Texas post offices, seek answers to the Yogurt Shop Murders, take in — oh, yes — more football and dive into a museum’s loaned artifacts. “Miles and Miles of Texas: 100 Years of the Texas Highway Department.” Carol Dawson, with Roger Allen Polson. Texas A&M University...
How often did Austin high schools make it to state in football?

How often did Austin high schools make it to state in football?

Inspired by Lake Travis High School’s sixth UIL football championship, we recently filed images of winning Texas teams from the past, including a few choice shots of the Austin High Maroons. That was how we learned that our state’s craze for high school football includes a fascination with its distant history. Wouldn’t it be interesting, we thought, to salute all the Austin-area...
Remind me … Homer Thornberry?

Remind me … Homer Thornberry?

If you have lived in Austin, say, 30 or 40 years, you might have stumbled on the fact that a federal building downtown, originally built in 1965 as a post office, is named after Homer Thornberry. If you have lived here more than 50 years, you know exactly what part Thornberry played in our local history. You might have met the handsome, charismatic man who died in 1995. He grew up in South Austin...
Austin architect contributed modernist buildings to city’s landscape

Austin architect contributed modernist buildings to city’s landscape

Thomas “Tom” Shefelman, who helped design several of Austin’s outstanding modernist buildings, died Wednesday at 89. Seattle-born Shefelman, a graduate of the University of Texas School of Architecture and the Harvard Graduate School of Design, also illustrated children’s books and painted watercolor scenes from his travels, often in tandem with his wife, Janice Shefelman,...
Are you in this picture taken at an Austin movie theater in the 1950s?

Are you in this picture taken at an Austin movie theater in the 1950s?

Mike Miller, archivist and manager of the Austin History Center, has teamed with colleague Susan B. Rittereiser and the center’s staff to produce a lovely and useful small book, “Historic Movie Houses of Austin.” Chapters cover the earliest informal theaters, including nickelodeons; the era of movie palaces; the Dallas-based Interstate Theater Circuit, which for decades controlled...
More Austin History Stories