Austin, Texas

January 20th, 2012 | Posted by Steve in Buildings | Texas

This will be the first of at least two more posts of my visit to Austin, Texas.  This visit was on Saturday January 14, 2012.

I got to Jonathan & Rebecca’s place early.  Rebecca’s sister lives in Austin and their mother was driving down from Dallas later on so we had plans to get together in the afternoon.  Meanwhile it was still mid morning so the 3 of us decided to do some sightseeing on our own.  We drove the few minutes from their condo into town.  From 1st St. along the river made a left onto Congress Ave.  Through the car windshield I got this first shot below.  It is cropped a bit to avoid glare and window tinting.

We parked on Colorado St. next to the Capitol Building grounds on the west side.  It was a beautiful clear morning without a cloud in the sky.  Pretty quickly I got this profile of the Capitol Building.

It is quite a structure.  The main building was completed in 1888.  It is build on land that is one of the high points in Austin.  The capitol dome reaches over 310 feet above the ground, some 15 feet taller than the national capitol building.  The dome is quite prominent in the Austin skyline.  The building was designed in a Renaissance Revival style that was quite popular in the latter part of the 19th century.

The exterior is finished in pink granite from Marble Falls, Texas.   At the time of its construction the granite was known as “Sunset Red”.  Some of the more recent state buildings nearby are finished in pink granite also.

The grounds of the Capitol are well kept with lots of statues and memorials.  One of the first we came upon was a memorial to Veterans of the Spanish-American War.

I was particularly interested in this.  While I was growing up during the 1950’s and 1960’s Independence Day fireworks were often sold to the public by churches and service groups.  I clearly remember riding my bike up along two of these firework stands.  Next to each other was a stand operated by veterans of WWI, while the other was operated by Spanish-American War vets.

The Spanish-American War had occurred while President McKinley was in office.  These men had seen the jungles of Cuba, Puerto Rico, or the Philippines.  Some them may have been born around the nation’s centennial, some of them may have lived to see the nation’s bicentennial.  They lived during a profoundly transitional time.  They saw transit by rail, street car, & horse drawn wagon change to transit by personal automobile & jet airplane.  The America they grew up in was mostly rural considering itself isolated from the rest of the world.  They lived through the roaring 20’s & prohibition, they lived through the great depression of the 30’s, and they lived through WWII.  They saw as the United States became the foremost power on the planet, then saw that power challenged.

I happened to bicycle by in the summer of 1962.  The 50’s were dying off and the rock ‘n roll 60’s had not quite taken hold.  Vietnam was still a brush fire war that wouldn’t explode for a few more years.  The Spanish-American War vets I saw would have been in their mid or late eighties or even older.  The last veterans of the Spanish-American War died in 1992 & 1993.

The photo of the Spanish-American War Veterans is coincidentally the 5000th shot from my camera.  Not far from that memorial is this one.

It is a memorial to Cowboys placed by Governor Neff in 1925.

At this point on the grounds south of the building I took the lead off photo.  I had my lens set to its maximum of 105mm, which got the dome from the columns up, but was not enough to get this kind of close up.  In Photoshop I cropped most of the picture out giving it the look of a 300 or 400 mm lens.

This is the original photo shot a bit off of center.  I made minor changes to the color to make it show well on the web.  Otherwise it has no editing.  The statue at top is named “The Goddess of Liberty”.  She is holding a lone star.

Nearby are two more memorials.  First is the memorial to the 8th Texas Cavalry, also known as “Terry’s Texas Rangers”.  The cavalry operated as part of the Confederate Army from 1861-1865.  The memorial was erected in 1907 by “surviving comrades”.

The other memorial is to the Alamo.  Etched in the square granite columns are the defender’s names.

From near this spot and backing off of the zoom you get this view of the front façade of the building.  We headed there to go inside.

On the steps of the capitol is this gun used in the Texas Revolution and later in the Civil War.  For years it was on display in Washington, D.C. before being returned to Texas in 1910.

It was now time to go inside of the building.  Once inside there is a security checkpoint that is very much like passing through airline security.  We had to put all our things including anything metal into trays to be passed through a scanner while we walked through another scanner.  I think I got to keep my shoes on.  These days with all the heightened security I am particularly happy I no longer use film camera.  Security screeners used to fog film, but they seem to have no effect I can discern on digital files.

Once inside security you are in a large entryway leading to the Rotunda.  There are large oil paintings on either wall.  The first is a famous oil of David Crockett, the second is an oil of the Surrender of Santa Anna to Sam Houston after the battle of San Jacinto.

The surrender oil was painted or begun the immediate day after the event.  If so the scene would be fresh in the artist’s eye.  It certainly follows known historical fact.  Santa Anna was captured hiding in the uniform of a plain Mexican foot soldier.  He was brought before Houston who was resting, wounded from the battle.  ’Deaf’ Smith and other legends from Texas history are depicted as witnessing the scene.

From this point we walked onto the Rotunda floor, but those photos will be shown a little later.  After that we went into the Senate Chamber which is on the east side of the building.  On the back wall is an oil painting of the Battle of San Jacinto.

The west side of the building houses the Texas House Chamber.

Throughout the capitol building are ornate carved lintels around doorways and etched glass panels in the doors.  Getting a close up of the glass was a challenge, it offered no contrast for the auto focus.  Manual focus allowed this shot.  The lintel is from a different door.

Now the Rotunda, and what a magnificent space it is.  First a shot from the center of the Rotunda floor looking up.  Then a shot from the 4th floor, and frankly it is a better photo.

Finally a shot from the 4th floor looking down at the rotunda floor.  If I recall correctly all of the 1st floor is in multi colored terrazzo.  The terrazzo on the Rotunda floor depicts crests or coats of arma of the 6 powers or 6 flags that have flown above Texas:  Spain, France, Mexico, Texas Republic, Confederate States of America, and the United States of America.  The front façade of the Capitol Building shown earlier has the same 6 crests above the entry.

By now it was time to leave the building.  Our meter was running low and our meeting time with the rest of Rebecca’s family was getting closer.  A proper visit to the Capitol Building should include lots of time and a guided tour.  Our time was certainly too short to catch all the details I might have otherwise gotten.

From the Capitol Building we drove over to the Driskill Hotel, one of Austin’s finest and possibly its oldest.  The Driskill is both a Texas Historical Landmark and in the National Register of Historical Places.  This is the exterior of the Hotel on Brazos St. showing 6th St. in the distance which goes east & west.  The black box growing out of the roof is a large building a few blocks away.

When you walk into the Driskill it is very dark and subdued, but this artificially lit overhead light is very prominent.  I lightened the areas around the light to give a better idea of the space.

Walking upstairs into the bar reveals this six gun and bullet display, pearl handled grips and all, hiding away along a wall.

This is the Grand Ballroom.  Fran will be pleased to see it has more than enough room overhead for some small balloon arches and columns.

The last photo I shot just for me.  Tucked away I found this Harper’s Newspaper center spread of an army paymaster escort.  It was drawn by R.F. Zogbaum in 1887.  Despite the recent addition of color (originals are in black & white only) I always like finding framed newspaper art from the 19th century.  Any of you who know me well have seen pieces of my collection of newspaper art hanging on my office and home walls.  Back in the late 1970′s and early 1980′s these could be bought for a dollar apiece, sometimes a dollar for the complete newspaper.  Today single pages and center spreads hover around $100 retail or more and only if you can find them.  My collection is still only 25 pieces or so, but features many western type prints from Harper’s, Frank Leslie’s, and other publications.

That is all for this post.  The next post will continue to be Austin showing a street fair, food trailers, Lucy in Disguise, the Cathedral of Junk, and a sunset at Zilker Park.

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