Austin History


Unhappy twist: O. Henry’s Austin honeymoon cottage went up in flames

Reader Susan Wukasch writes: “I found an old paper from October 2016 and I read your Austin Found column about houses being moved, so I decided I’d ask you about the O. Henry House.” As a child, Wukasch remembered being told that the famous author’s house had been moved from its original site to a place on Shoal Creek Boulevard, down the hill from Pemberton Heights and facing...
New life for a 1939 Austin gem of an apartment building

New life for a 1939 Austin gem of an apartment building

Reader Elayne Lansford invited us to an unusual party. “It is about an old building at 1105 Nueces St., built in 1939, one of many examples of little apartment buildings in that time, offering ‘modern’ places for people to live rather than boarding houses,” Lansford wrote us. “These apartments were once all around the center of town, but now only a tiny handful survive...
Life flourishes on both sides of Northwest Hills in Austin

Life flourishes on both sides of Northwest Hills in Austin

Picture in your mind Northwest Hills, the Austin neighborhood encompassed loosely by MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1) to the east, Loop 360 to the west, RM 2222 to the south and Spicewood Springs Road to the north. What do you see? Relatively mild suburban land with gently curved and landscaped streets leading to offices, stores, apartments, parks and schools? Or precariously high hills creased by deep canyons...
Joe Lung’s family fed Austin for three generations

Joe Lung’s family fed Austin for three generations

Joe Lung, whose family operated popular Austin eateries over the course of three generations, died of complications from a stroke at Hospice Austin’s Christopher House on Wednesday. He was 77. From 1897 to 1990, the Lung family owned Austin restaurants, cafes and diners, including Lung’s Chinese Kitchen on Red River Street. Joe Lung sold off the last of the family sandwich shops, appropriately...
After 30 years, Sister Donna Jurick leaves St. Edward’s a better place

After 30 years, Sister Donna Jurick leaves St. Edward’s a better place

During her 30 years in top leadership positions at St. Edwards’s University, Sister Donna Jurick helped usher in profound changes at the Catholic liberal arts school, founded in 1877 by the Rev. Edward Sorin from the Congregation of Holy Cross. As a vice president with different titles and duties under three presidents — “I’d much rather worry about faculty and students than...
Time travel: Let’s go back to 1973 Austin Artists Market on the Drag

Time travel: Let’s go back to 1973 Austin Artists Market on the Drag

Reader Sean Massey was going through a stack of family photos and found a series of undated black-and-white images related to his father, Austin counterculture jeweler Jerry Massey. Two possibilities for location presented themselves right away: what is now known as the Austin Renaissance Market on the Drag, or possibly the City Wide Garage Sale at the since-demolished City Coliseum. The former seemed...
Historic downtown building damaged by arson, fire officials say

Historic downtown building damaged by arson, fire officials say

A single sprinkler on the third floor of the Millett Opera House — home of the Austin Club, a plush reception venue — kept a blaze from spreading through the 140-year-old building in downtown Austin and destroying the valuable paintings and antiques inside. Austin fire investigators said an arsonist broke into the building at 110 E. Ninth St. on Monday a little after 4 a.m. and lit a hanging...
On 1911 crime: ‘That murdered deputy sheriff was my grandfather!’

On 1911 crime: ‘That murdered deputy sheriff was my grandfather!’

These days, readers provide the lion’s share of material for Austin Found. Or at least they get the ball rolling. Last month, we serialized the report of a 1911 double murder on West Monroe Street as reported in Ken Roberts’ new book, “The Cedar Choppers.” John Teague, son of a Hill Country clan, killed John Gest, owner of the Little South Austin Saloon, then attempted to kill...
Herman: The rest of the story of Walter Seaholm’s political demise

Herman: The rest of the story of Walter Seaholm’s political demise

As regular readers of my typing are aware, I take requests. Today, I’ll tackle one from Austinite Buddy Garcia, who wants to know more about Walter E. Seaholm, the former longtime city official for whom the Seaholm Power Plant was named. I told you last Sunday that the plant was named in Seaholm’s honor in 1960, five years after he was fired as city manager. Why, reader Garcia wants to...
The height of camp, ‘Valley of the Dolls,’ returns to Austin

The height of camp, ‘Valley of the Dolls,’ returns to Austin

Just 21 years ago, we wrote the following ode to one of our favorite movies, “Valley of the Dolls, “ when it appeared at the Paramount Theatre. Ten or so years later, we added commentary when a special showing for  Stephen Moser played the original  Alamo Drafthouse Cinema on Colorado Street. On June 21,...
Outfit from the 1880s reveals gold mine of Texas family history

Outfit from the 1880s reveals gold mine of Texas family history

Last year, Elizabeth Jones stumbled on a Texas fashion mystery. She could not precisely date an image from a family photo album, so she tried to interpret the 19th-century apparel and accessories depicted in a portrait of a woman taken by a professional photographer probably in Austin. “The hat, scarf and hair pulled back but with frizzy bangs suggest the 1880s,” the longtime Austinite...
We now know almost everything about that 1939 Austin baptism

We now know almost everything about that 1939 Austin baptism

Remember a few weeks ago, when we ran the photo of a group baptism at Bluff Springs? At the request of a reader — and with the help of our cadre of history advocates — we pinpointed the springs and the pictured pool to private land just west of Bluff Springs Road and just south of Onion Creek. One can easily pick out the old pool on satellite maps. RELATED: Pinpointing a baptism at Bluff...
Best Texas books: ‘The Cedar Choppers’ by Ken Roberts

Best Texas books: ‘The Cedar Choppers’ by Ken Roberts

The best Texas book I’ve read of late was “The Cedar Choppers: Life on the Edge of Nothing” by  Ken Roberts (Texas A&M Press). I doubles as one of the most instructive books about Austin’s history and culture. Roberts, a former professor at Southwestern University in Georgetown, knows something about deep research. For this story about...
Commentary: What 1984 could teach us about CodeNext

Commentary: What 1984 could teach us about CodeNext

It has been 34 years since Austin last adopted a new zoning code. That was the year the Apple Macintosh was introduced; yearly incomes averaged $20,000;, home prices averaged $100,000; the Dow Jones hit 1,200; and the cost of gas was a buck a gallon. The 1984 code had been drafted over a four-year period by a California consultant. It started with a diagnosis report that recommended abandoning the...
Austin artist paints ‘a royal gallery in an alternate universe’

Austin artist paints ‘a royal gallery in an alternate universe’

In 1958, Malcolm “Rod” Bucknall didn’t want to come to Texas. The British-bred art student, who had studied in India and would become one of Austin’s most revered painters, had read about the scourge of segregation in the South, still very much a fact during the late 1950s. Reports about anti-communist paranoia, stirred up by the House Un-American Activities Committee, filtered...
Double murder in 1911 did not merit much prison time

Double murder in 1911 did not merit much prison time

For the past two weeks, we’ve reconstructed two 1911 murders in South Austin with the help of Ken Roberts’ fine new book, “The Cedar Choppers: Life on the Edge of Nothing.” One drunken night, John Teague shot and killed John Gest, owner of a bar on West Monroe Street, shot at but missed his bartender, Max Himmelreich, then wrestled with, shot and killed sheriff’s deputy...

Webb Report: Whatever happened to Celebration Station?

You don’t forget the first place that banned you from riding the go-carts. Try as you might, it’s the kind of thing that sticks in your craw. After I drove a gas-powered go-cart a little too wildly — out of ineptitude, not recklessness — and slammed into the car in front of me at the finish line as a kid, a ride attendant told me “That’s it, you’re done&rdquo...
How Texas history became one woman’s life passion

How Texas history became one woman’s life passion

If you stop by the side of the road in Texas to check out historical markers regularly, you likely read her words. If you attend lifetime learning clubs in the Austin area, you likely hear her speak. And if you browse the Texana section of any decent-size bookstore, at some point you’ll run across the name “Myra McIlvain” on the spines of histories, historical novels and nonfiction...

Cedar chopper killed 2 on West Monroe Street

Tales of historical murder and mayhem mean a lot more when they happened on your street. We’re still reading Ken Roberts’ excellent “The Cedar Choppers: Life on the Edge of Nothing” (Texas A&M University Press), an account of the clans who lived mostly isolated lives in the Hill Country west and north of Austin. One incident of violence concerning a Teague clan member near...

Austin learns a lot from Larry Wright, Evan Smith and Amy Mills

The Library was the place to be. Not the Central Public Library. But the blue-and-red rectangular meeting room at  Hotel van Zandt. It was the location for a  Toast of the Town salon to support the  Neal Kocurek Scholarship Fund for health sciences careers, operated by the  St. David’s Foundation. Thirty...
Pinpointing a 1940s Bluff Springs baptism

Pinpointing a 1940s Bluff Springs baptism

Reader Craig Scott contacted our Austin Answered project: “I recently saw a photo of people getting baptized in the springs at Bluff Springs dated back in the 1940s,” he writes. “It had a concrete enclosure. Can you run a story on where the actual springs were or are?” The compelling image, shared on the Facebook page of the Manchaca-Onion Creek Historical Association by Joy...
Travis commissioners appoint first Palm School advisory board member

Travis commissioners appoint first Palm School advisory board member

The Travis County Commissioners Court on Tuesday nominated the first member to a three-person advisory board that will make recommendations regarding how the county’s historic Palm School property ought to be preserved and redeveloped. Commissioner Margaret Gómez nominated Anita Quintanilla, a former student of the school, and the court approved her nomination unanimously with Commissioner...
Best Austin coffee shops near Airport Boulevard

Best Austin coffee shops near Airport Boulevard

Airport Boulevard is fast changing into a cultural magnet. Austin Community College anchors a remake of Highland Mall and numerous new hot spots pop up on the boulevard. Yet some of the nearby coffee shops not far away are among Austin’s oldest and most revered. Quack’s 43rd Street Bakery. 411 E. 43rd St. 512-453-3399. quacksbakery.com. 6:30 a...
I’m from Oatmeal or Nameless or Radiance or Mud City, Texas

I’m from Oatmeal or Nameless or Radiance or Mud City, Texas

The Lone Star Library has released a second edition in paperback of “Texas Towns: From Abner to Zipperlandville,” revised by Paris Parmenter and John Bigley from the late Don Blevins’ nifty thematic guide to name origins, settlement dates and driving directions for hamlets, villages and towns all over the state. Here are some choice, out-of-the-way spots in the greater Austin area...
The Continental Club in the 1960s had a different dress code

The Continental Club in the 1960s had a different dress code

A reader asks our Austin Answered project: “Was the Continental Club a sleazy topless bar back in the early 1960s? I remember having a roommate in 1963 who danced there.” Yes. What was founded by Morin Scott in 1957 on South Congress Avenue as a swanky jazz supper club became by the early ’60s what has been variously described as a “burlesque,” “strip club&rdquo...
Family and politics linked first lady Barbara Bush to Austin

Family and politics linked first lady Barbara Bush to Austin

Although recently deceased first lady Barbara Bush never lived in Austin, she forged ties here during her husband’s two unsuccessful bids for the U.S. Senate (1964 and 1970) and during her son’s two terms as Texas governor (1995-2000). In keeping with White House tradition, Bush kept in touch with former presidents and their families, and her long-standing relationship with President Lyndon...
Phillips: Billy Harden opened doors and brought passion to the stage

Phillips: Billy Harden opened doors and brought passion to the stage

Billy Harden was an Austin treasure. Not just because he was a towering figure in the African-American community, but because Billy — who I knew for over 25 years — was a mover and shaker in Austin’s arts and education communities. Austin School Independent School trustees plan to pay tribute to Harden on April 30 for his efforts helping students succeed. The Austin native died last...
Why all those names on Austin dedication plaques?

Why all those names on Austin dedication plaques?

A reader asks our Austin Answered project: “Why do politicians and construction companies place their names on public property? These places are for people. They are not billboards.” We asked him to clarify: “Do you mean the cornerstones and dedication plaques that go onto structures honoring the folks who authorized them, or paid for them, or built them?” The reader sent a...
Grasping Manos de Cristo and Ballet Austin

Grasping Manos de Cristo and Ballet Austin

The invocation at the Manos de Cristo gala snuck up on me. My mind wandered a bit — in a good way — during a biblical reading from Luke. Then it closed with a punch: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Carlos and Sara Galindo at Manos de Cristo 30th Anniversary Gala. Michael...
Austin has more to say about the Stallion Drive Inn

Austin has more to say about the Stallion Drive Inn

Our story about the Stallion Drive Inn, a comfort food spot on North Lamar Boulevard, stirred strong memories among our readers. Steve Hamlett remembers cheap, good food — and lots of it. He describes a sign on the side of the building that read: “Flash Your Lights.” “Were diners supposed to flash their car lights to let the people inside know that more customers were arriving?&rdquo...
Briscoe Center offers a staggering look at civil rights movement

Briscoe Center offers a staggering look at civil rights movement

Look intently at the images. Think about what they mean. Then consider that these images of the civil rights movement — some of them disturbing — reflect what actually happened in this country within the lifetimes of many readers of this newspaper, including this reporter. It’s impossible to walk away without feeling that this period of intense activism that peaked roughly 50 years...
When Billy Graham preached at the Texas Capitol

When Billy Graham preached at the Texas Capitol

Reader Joan Johnson Culver writes to our Austin Answered project: “I have exhausted research looking for the visit that Billy Graham paid to Austin in the late ’40s or very early ’50s. He preached on the southwest corner of the Capitol grounds across from the governor’s mansion and what was then the old Cook Funeral Home. I was a very young teenager and attended the service...
Mixed memories of the Stallion Drive Inn eatery on North Lamar

Mixed memories of the Stallion Drive Inn eatery on North Lamar

Reader Gary Vliet asks of our Answered Answered project: “In the 1970s there was a great restaurant on North Lamar, the Stallion. Could you give a little history and when and why it closed?” The Stallion Drive Inn Restaurant was located at 5534 Dallas Highway — now North Lamar Boulevard. We know that the Stallion, which served comfort food such as chicken fried steak, veal cutlets...
Before the bombs, Austin area produced plenty of sensational crimes

Before the bombs, Austin area produced plenty of sensational crimes

For a place with a reasonably good reputation for public safety, the Austin area has produced some of the most traumatic and sensationally reported crimes in American history. Consider that Central Texas witnessed the first modern serial murders (unsolved, Austin, 1884-1885); the first serious convictions during a bloody national revival of the Ku Klux Klan (prosecutor Dan Moody, Georgetown...
Discover the Statesman’s various homes after 1900

Discover the Statesman’s various homes after 1900

Part 2 of a two-part series on the many homes of the American-Statesman. Last week, we shared a half-dozen 19th-century addresses for the Democratic Statesman and its offspring, the more plainly named Statesman, dating back to 1871. At one time, it was located above a saloon on Congress Avenue, at another point in an opera house on East Ninth Street, then later at two different offices inside the...
Austin bomb victims’ families united by one church

Austin bomb victims’ families united by one church

A single church unites the families of two victims of the recent package bombs in East Austin. Since 1929, Wesley United Methodist Church has stood like a beacon on the corner of San Bernard and Hackberry streets in the Sugar Hill district of East Austin. From the beginning, churchgoers have figured prominently in education, philanthropy and civil rights activism. Founded in 1865 during a time of...
Five Texas books we love in early 2018

Five Texas books we love in early 2018

These new Texas books — plus one minor classic — reminds us how much is worth reading about our state in early 2018. “Myself and Strangers: A Memoir of Apprenticeship.” John Graves. University of Texas Press. One can make the argument that John Graves is among the finest authors Texas ever produced. Yet few readers venture beyond his masterpiece, “Goodbye...
The Statesman has had more than a dozen homes

The Statesman has had more than a dozen homes

This is Part 1 of a two-part column on this newspaper’s many homes. Ben Sargent, political cartoonist, printer and history advocate, asks: “Has anyone ever listed all the various places from which the Statesman has been published in its nearly 150 years?” “My curiosity was prompted while looking at a 1900 Sanborn (fire insurance) map of downtown Austin, and I noticed that in...
Five things to know about the Texas Film Awards

Five things to know about the Texas Film Awards

Preposterously charming  Armie Hammer and  Timothée Chalamet — greeted by squeals of joy on the red carpet — were the big draws at the split-screen 2018  Texas Film Awards. Yet there was so much more to observe and savor before, during and after the inevitable celebrity highlights. Honorees Armie Hammer poses with presenter...
PolitiFact: These two Texas heroes had ties to slavery

PolitiFact: These two Texas heroes had ties to slavery

An Austin school board member hinted at the stain of slavery in the Old South when she warned that changing the names of schools named after Texans with Confederate roles makes it logical to change the names of even more schools. Austin school Trustee Ann Teich said at the school board’s Feb. 26 meeting that if the board was set on keeping the names of people who supported slavery from tainting...
Hobgoblin consistency helped name Austin’s ‘half’ streets

Hobgoblin consistency helped name Austin’s ‘half’ streets

Recently for our Austin Answered project, we responded to reader Sue Fawcett‘s question: “Whose idea was it to create ‘½’ streets, such as 38th ½ Street, instead of creating a different street name?” City archivist Mike Miller at the Austin History Center told us: “Nothing in old city codes. In looking at old maps and comparing to today, it looks like...
Rodeo Austin’s core remains true over time

Rodeo Austin’s core remains true over time

In its public pronouncements, Rodeo Austin casts itself as a fundamental part of Austin right now and well into the future.  Led by its ambitious CEO, Rob Golding, the venerable group plans to become even more crucial to city culture, including plans for a new arena and stadium to replace its current outdated home at the old Travis County Expo Center. But in a real sense, the rodeo will always...
Five things to know as Texas celebrates its 182nd anniversary

Five things to know as Texas celebrates its 182nd anniversary

Friday marks the 182nd anniversary of when Texas declared its independence from Mexico in 1836. Here are five things to know about the festivities: 1. Time to march: Celebrate Texas is hosting several events this weekend, including its annual Texas Independence Day parade, which starts at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Riverside Drive and Congress Avenue. Check out other events at celebratetexas.org. 2. You&rsquo...
At age 10, the Long Center opens its doors wider

At age 10, the Long Center opens its doors wider

If you lived in Austin during the 1960s and ’70s, you called the oddly shaped domed structure on the shores of Town Lake the Municipal Auditorium. Austin’s Municipal Auditorium under construction in 1958 and photographed by Rockdale Works. Contributed by Austin History Center PICA 26945 If you arrived in the 1980s, it was then known as  ...
Austin Answered: What was Dirty Sixth before it was Dirty Sixth?

Austin Answered: What was Dirty Sixth before it was Dirty Sixth?

Reader Cody Russell asks of our Austin Answered project: “What was Dirty Sixth before it was Dirty Sixth?” We’ll break down the most common answers. • The road east. Called Pecan Street for its first 50 years, East Sixth Street was the dirt road to Bastrop, hence the principal route toward the most-settled parts of Texas since the 1830s. This roadway stood generally above the...
Early Austin minority neighborhood remembered

Early Austin minority neighborhood remembered

Tucked behind a burgeoning commercial district off of West Sixth Street near Lamar Boulevard sits a little-known part of Austin history. After the Civil War, a community of formerly enslaved African-Americans settled on the northern half of Wood Street near the west bank of Shoal Creek. Over the decades, the enclave experienced a cultural shift as a 1928 city master plan began pushing African-Americans...
Historical marker honors story of formerly enslaved Austin residents

Historical marker honors story of formerly enslaved Austin residents

The Texas Historical Commission on Friday designated a historical marker for the Wood Street Settlement in downtown Austin. The designation, part of the commission’s Undertold Markers Program, aims to address historical gaps and document underrepresented people and untold stories. The Wood Street Settlement, near the west bank of Shoal Creek, was once home to a distinct enclave of African Americans...
Randy Wicker roared as UT student activist in the 1950s

Randy Wicker roared as UT student activist in the 1950s

Randy Wicker, a nationally recognized gay journalist and businessman who had been a radical student activist on the University of Texas campus during the 1950s, was having no luck in his quest to share his singular life story with current LGBT student groups in Austin. Then came a minor miracle. After a good deal of missed chances during a recent visit to Austin, he spied an electronic notice for...
In the mood for Texas ghost towns? Of course you are.

In the mood for Texas ghost towns? Of course you are.

The fine people at My SA.com have asked an important question: Aren’t you or ain’t you not afraid of no ghost (town)? In a piece called “Creepy Texas ghost towns totally worth a road trip this summer,” MySA makes the case that, well, if you are going to take a hot day trip in Texas, you might as well hit up some ghost towns. We agree 100 percent. In case you were wondering...
Behold: Marfa’s new, light-up stonehenge-type thing!

Behold: Marfa’s new, light-up stonehenge-type thing!

OK, Marfa, Texas, doesn’t take much more than a long weekend to look around and maybe eat a taco or something.  But we are always here for some good ol’ Marfa weirdness, including this story reported by the fine people at Wired about, well, “one man's mysterious vision.” Artist Haroon Mirza trucked in “nine massive chunks of quarried black marble&rdquo...
Here’s what Austin looked like in 1906, when Richard Overton was born

Here’s what Austin looked like in 1906, when Richard Overton was born

Richard Overton, the nation’s oldest living man and oldest surviving U.S. war veteran, turns 112 on Friday. He was born in Bastrop County on May 11, 1906, and currently lives in Austin. He spends many of his days perched on the front porch of his East Austin home, smoking cigars and drinking whiskey. RELATED: Richard Overton, nation’s oldest WWII vet, shows off home...
Lawrence Wright: Eight things the other 49 states need to understand about Texas

Lawrence Wright: Eight things the other 49 states need to understand about Texas

As we who live here are painfully aware, Texas can seem absolutely baffling to outsiders. In his latest book, “God Save Texas,” Lawrence Wright takes the myth and truth of the Lone Star State head-on in a series of essays that, the more one reads them, feel like a Texas 101 primer, the sort of thing to hand your relatives back east to explain How We in Texas Live Now.  Here are eight...
Classic Texas Monthly stories now available on audio

Classic Texas Monthly stories now available on audio

Now you can listen to classic stories from Texas Monthly while you are stuck on 35. Or walking the Hike and Bike trail. Or raking leaves. Penguin Random House Audio has partnered with Texas Monthly and offered more than 20 features from the magazine’s archive on audio for the first time. Stories range from true crime narratives to dramatic profiles. Each story, narrated by a native Texan...
Attention Austin hoarders: ‘American Pickers’ is coming to Texas

Attention Austin hoarders: ‘American Pickers’ is coming to Texas

     You know it, I know it, your neighbors know it: Austin is lousy with folks who just will not throw away their stuff. Austin’s garages, its sheds and its crawl spaces are filled with plenty of objects from the good old days, be those the 90s rock/tech boom, the 80s oil boom and bust, the cosmic cowboy 1970s, the ‘60s and earlier. (See also our fair city’s pawn...
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