As the state’s political capital, a culturally rich city, and home to a major public university, Austin is a vibrant city packed with treasures of all kinds. Among its many gems are several architectural marvels built in distinct styles. Each of these is interwoven into Austin’s story and its much admired cityscape.
Following the great capitol fire of 1881, architect Elijah J. Myers designed the structure that today serves as the Texas State Capitol. After seven years of construction, the building was completed in 1888. Since then, the capitol has housed the offices and chambers of the Texas Legislature and the Office of the Governor. The Texas State Capitol was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1970. This iconic building is one of the finest examples of Italian Renaissance Revival-style architecture in the United States. Resting on just over two acres of land at the intersection of Congress and 11th, the capitol building is less than a 20 minutes’ walk from AMLI Downtown, AMLI Eastside, and AMLI on 2ND.
With more than 50,000 students and a staff of nearly 25,000, the University of Texas at Austin is visited by up to 10 percent of Austin’s population on a near-daily basis. Ask those familiar with the campus about their favorite areas, and the South Mall is likely to be included among them. In addition to being one of the most beautiful parts of UT’s campus, the South Mall is one of the most historically significant places near downtown Austin. Beautiful Battle Hall and the rest of the “six pack” of red-roofed, Spanish Renaissance-style structures sit here, as does the World War I memorial Littlefield Fountain.
The Texas Governor works in one of Austin’s most historic buildings, and lives in another. Built in 1856, the Texas Governor’s Mansion is the oldest continuously inhabited house in Texas and the fourth oldest Governor’s Mansion in the country. Designed by exceptional architect Abner Cook, the mansion was built in the Greek Revival style. While under renovation in 2008, the mansion was struck by a Molotov cocktail and severely damaged. All of its contents were in storage. Governor Greg Abbott is the 41st consecutive governor to live in the mansion, just a half-mile from AMLI Downtown.
Prior to Texas’ annexation by the United States, France’s diplomatic representative to Texas lived in the building that now houses the French Legation Museum. Built in 1841, the building is the oldest extant frame structure in downtown Austin. The French Legation Museum, which showcases collections and exhibits from the period between the Texas Revolution and Texas’s annexation, is a three-minute walk from AMLI Eastside.
Built in 1851, the Texas State Cemetery is an attractive, tree-lined cemetery where the remains of several state legislators and elected officials lie. Stone monuments honoring those killed and wounded in Vietnam and other wars, and a bucolic meditation area are highlights at the museum. Notable people buried or interred here include Steven F. Austin, John Cannally, Barbara Jordan, Tom Landry, James Michener, and Ann Richards. The Texas State Cemetery’s main entrance, at Navasota and 9th St., is less than a half-mile from AMLI Eastside. Several blocks north of the Texas State Cemetery, on Navasota at 16th St., lies Oakwood Cemetery, the oldest city-owned cemetery in Austin and another registrant into the National Register of Historic Places.
Visiting downtown Austin’s historic sites is a great way to get to know the city better. The next time you’re up for a fun and aesthetically rewarding history lesson, visit the tomb of Austin’s namesake at the Texas State Cemetery or see for yourself that some of the light fixtures on the capitol building spell out “T-E-X-A-S.” If you live in downtown Austin apartments, you’re nice and close to several of them.
What’s your favorite historically significant place in downtown Austin? Leave a comment to let us know!
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