Austin History Facts and Timeline

(Austin, Texas - TX, USA)

Austin, the capital of Texas state, was first settled in the 1830s according to local history. Originally named Waterloo, it was renamed after Stephen F. Austin, widely considered to be the father of Texas, after he brought some 300 families to the area and successfully colonized it.

The city has experienced much growth since its inception, with the exception of a dark period during the Great Depression, and is now something of a major business center. Austin, which has long been associated with music, has attracted many talents over the years and currently boasts numerous entertainment venues offering live music and informal gigs.

Early History

Spanish explorers were the first Europeans to arrive, establishing a mission in the area in the early 18th century. However, real settlement of the area didn't take place until the early 19th century, after independence from Mexico was achieved and the Republic of Texas established.

Austin was chosen as the capital, thanks to its busy trade routes. By 1841, the city was thriving, although this same year in Austin history saw it lose its capital status temporarily. In 1845, the city regained capital status and joined the rest of Texas in becoming part of the US.

Reaching New Heights

The post-Civil War years saw the city boom. The arrival of the railway cemented the city's status as a major trading hub for the region. It was also in this period that the State Capitol building was constructed. Upon completion in 1888, it was the seventh-biggest building in the world and is still a point of pride and prominence in Austin today. Listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1986, it now houses the State Governor's office, along with portraits of every past governor of the state and a sculpture of Stephen F Austin.

Austin Becomes an Academic Center

In 1883, the University of Texas was founded. Today, it is still renowned for being an important center of academic research, with the university boasting a student body exceeding 50,000. The campus houses 17 individual libraries and seven museums, including the Blanton Museum of Art, and is a particularly pleasant place for a leisurely stroll.

The university's famous tower offers fantastic views over the city, as well as providing insight into local history. Of interest, more than 15 graduates from the University of Texas have become US senators or have served in the US House of Representatives.

Musical Talents Emerge

During the 1960s and '70s, Austin made an impact on the national music scene with the emergence of local talents such Ray Charles, BB King, Ike and Tina Turner, Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Asleep at the Wheel, amongst many others.

The city remains a hotbed for music and even calls itself the 'Live Music Capital of the World'. There are many festivals held here throughout the year, and live music can be found every night of the week in the city's many live music venues. Visitors to the city may also like to look out for the statue memorialising Austin-born Grammy winner Stevie Ray Vaughan, which overlooks Lady Bird Lake.

Texas State Cemetery Regeneration

Originally the resting place of statesman Edward Burleson, who played a role in the Texas Revolution (1835 to 1836), this burial ground expanded to become a Confederate cemetery during the Civil War. Later, many prominent Texans were laid to rest here.

By the 1990s, the cemetery had become victim to vandals and was generally considered to be too dangerous to visit, but in 1994 the governor arranged for its regeneration and the building of a visitor's center. The cemetery is now one of the city's most visited sites despite its dark phase in Austin history.

Study Reveals Bat Benefits

While the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge doesn't have much importance in Austin history, it makes claim to being home to the largest bat colony in the world. This huge colony of Mexican free-tailed bats lives beneath the road, in the gaps between the concrete.

Around 1.5 million bats spend their summer in Austin before migrating to Mexico for winter. There are actually more bats in the city than people. Hordes of tourists come to watch the bats emerge at dusk and make their flight across the lake to feed. The bats have a significant economic effect - a study calculated they bring in the region of $10 million dollars to the city each year due to tourism.