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Austin History


When the Ku Klux Klan gripped Austin and the nation

Hate groups, historians remind us, have always been with us. The recent deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., might have been the largest and most brazen of such American gatherings in a decade or so. However, one of the constituent groups, the Ku Klux Klan, has emblazoned a long historical scar on Texas. At one point during the 1920s, the group was politically and socially pervasive...
Best Austin parties for late August

Best Austin parties for late August

Despite the unbearable heat, Austin throws some pretty fine parties in late August. 2016 Texas 4000 Gala Aug. 16: Brian Jones Classic Etiquette Dinner for Boys & Girls Clubs of the Austin Area. Four Seasons Hotel Austin. Aug. 18:  Opening of “Chicago.” City Theatre. Aug. 19:  Austin Originals Benefit Concert for Austin Child Guidance. ACL...
The case of the missing Pilot Knob historical marker

The case of the missing Pilot Knob historical marker

Have you seen this marker lately? Reader Jim Christianson noticed that one of most elaborate Texas Historical Markers in the area was missing from U.S 183 South near Creedmoor Road. “It has been missing for at least two years, maybe more,” he writes. “It is a geological marker for Pilot Knob. Hundreds of University of Texas students who took geology have been taken to Pilot Knob...
Thousands flocked to see Liberty Bell in Austin during World War I

Thousands flocked to see Liberty Bell in Austin during World War I

On Nov. 17, 1915, the Liberty Bell landed in Austin for 40 minutes. An estimated 18,000 people viewed it at the Missouri, Kansas & Texas freight depot at East Fourth and Brazos streets. The occasion was a national tour of the famously cracked Revolutionary War bell. Austin history advocate Bob Ward got curious about the road tour when he read “How the Liberty Bell won the Great War,” an...
East Austin’s Coach Wilson and the call of a lifetime

East Austin’s Coach Wilson and the call of a lifetime

James “Coach” Wilson settled into his head linesman position along the Colorado Buffaloes sideline that January night, straddling the 47-yard line and patrolling the scrimmage line as the CU punter asked for the snap. It was the 1991 Orange Bowl in Miami, and Wilson was about to make the officiating call of a lifetime. Notre Dame’s star, Raghib “Rocket” Ismail waited...
Hiott: Thank you, Austin, for Kelso condolences

Hiott: Thank you, Austin, for Kelso condolences

Thank you, Austin. It would be hard to imagine a more loving tribute than the ones so many of you offered up in the past week to honor our beloved longtime columnist, John Kelso. Hundreds of social media posts lamented Kelso’s death, offered condolences and shared some great memories. “My dad and I shared so many laughs over John Kelso’s column,” wrote Christie Manners on a...

Wooldridge Square once the ‘Soul of the City’

Today, there are no churches in the immediate vicinity of Wooldridge Square Park. Yet, as Ted Eubanks writes for the “Our Austin Story” series published on the Engage Downtown Austin website, at one point, it could have claimed the title “Soul of the City.” The 1839 city plan designated Block 101, just to the south of Wooldridge Square and now home to the Austin History Center...
Best Texas books to read right now

Best Texas books to read right now

Texas birds, Texas musicians, Texas media stars, Texas festivals and a guide to the Texas Capitol stack up on our state shelves this week. “Book of Texas Birds.” Gary Clark with photographs by Kathy Adams Clark. Texas A&M Press. For some of us, there are never too many Texas bird books. This one might not fit as easily into a backpack as snugly some of the more...
The Longhorn Olympian you don’t know

The Longhorn Olympian you don’t know

On May 5, Olympic swimmer Adolph Gustav Kiefer, who attended the University of Texas in 1939, died at age 98. Before coming to Austin, the backstroker won the gold medal in the 100-meter contest during the 1936 Berlin Olympics. You read that right: The Berlin games. His Olympic record stood for 20 years. There, he befriended Jesse Owens, who undermined Adolph Hitler’s goal of showcasing Aryan...
Herman: Austin pioneers resting in peace in ABIA flight path

Herman: Austin pioneers resting in peace in ABIA flight path

Welcome to the latest installment of “What Is That?” Today we’re off to a cemetery in a highway interchange. So that’s kind of different. Today’s inquiry comes from Austinite Sherry Statman who thinks she’s come across bodies buried near the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Maybe you’ve seen them, too, kind of a final resting place on final approach...
Salvaging two South Austin gems

Salvaging two South Austin gems

Two barnlike stone structures once stood abandoned in South Austin. One rested on a hill with a view of the city; the other, located farther south, spread out on lush flats near a creek and railroad tracks. Separately in the 1950s, these old buildings were transformed into residences and studios by important Austin artists who were friends — until they were not. Miraculously, both these partially...
Best loved Austin neighborhoods: Aldridge Place & Hemphill Park

Best loved Austin neighborhoods: Aldridge Place & Hemphill Park

We cherish these memories of strolling through Aldridge Place and its sibling district, Hemphill Park. Originally published Dec. 16, 2010. Terri Givens, an Associate Professor of Government at the University of Texas, was a newcomer to the neighborhood in 2010. Her family has since moved away. Julia Robertson/American-Statesman Walking through an old Austin neighborhood with a sharp...
East Austin exhibit seeks to capture history of changing neighborhood

East Austin exhibit seeks to capture history of changing neighborhood

The smell of fresh tortillas once wafted down East Third Street and lured East Austin neighbors to visit Barron Tortilla Factory, a family-run business that operated within the Barron family home in the late 1930s. Music floated over another part of East Austin in the early 1950s, when a young Manuel “Cowboy” Donley, who would later become a Tejano music legend, strummed his guitar on...
Best neighborhoods in Austin

Best neighborhoods in Austin

During the past 10 years, we’ve profiled more than 25 Austin neighborhoods in detail. Some of those stories have virtually disappeared from the Internet. So we’ll slowly collect them, republish them when necessary and link to them here at Out & About. Proud of your neighborhood? Offer to act as tour guide and invite us along at mbarnes@statesman.com. Lucinda...
Where did the flagship Whole Earth Provision go?

Where did the flagship Whole Earth Provision go?

A reader who was walking in West Campus asks: Where did the flagship Whole Earth Provision Co. go? “It had always felt to me that that particular store was a time capsule of Austin countercultural history,” he writes about the shop a block off the Drag, “…since it began not as a high-end camping store but as a sort of survivalist-hippie retail outlet of Stewart Brand&rsquo...
How Austin popularized Tex-Mex food

How Austin popularized Tex-Mex food

Now the landscape of Austin will speak for itself. The Downtown Austin Alliance in partnership with the Austin Parks and Recreation Department has embarked on a series of interpretive ventures — online for now with a street presence planned for later — about the city’s natural and man-made environments. The first in this series is devoted to downtown’s original squares and...
Rainey bar incident reminds us hate lurks, even in Austin

Rainey bar incident reminds us hate lurks, even in Austin

Hate has no place in Austin. It has no place anywhere. Yet we know it lurks and it simmers, boiling until it explodes, jolting us out of our comfort zones, letting us know in no uncertain terms again that it is there, always there. We were reminded of this again this week when reports surfaced about racially charged and sexist social media posts allegedly coming from the accounts...
When Adam West brought ‘Batman: The Movie’ to Austin

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...
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