United States of America
Austin, capital city of Texas, located in the central part of the state. The seat
of Travis County, Austin lies on the Colorado River where the river emerges from
the Texas hill country and the Balcones Escarpment. Austin is the northern hub of
a major economic and population region that extends southward to include the San
Antonio metropolitan area. Austin houses major state and federal government offices
and serves as a manufacturing, commercial, recreational, educational, and convention
Austinís population increased significantly in recent decades, largely because of
the cityís economic diversification, especially into high-technology fields. In
1980 the city had a population of 345,496; by 2000 the population had grown to 656,562.
According to the 2000 census, whites constitute 65.4 percent of Austinís population;
blacks, 10 percent; Asians, 4.7 percent; Native Americans, 0.6 percent; and Native
Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, 0.1 percent. People of mixed racial heritage
or not reporting an race are 19.2 percent of inhabitants. Hispanics, who may be
of any race, make up 30.5 percent of the population.
The Austin metropolitan area includes Travis, Williamson, Hays, Caldwell, and Bastrop
counties and covers a land area of 10,945 sq km (4,226 sq mi); notable cities included
besides Austin are San Marcos and Round Rock. The metropolitan area population grew
from 585,000 in 1980 to 1,249,763 in 2000.
For much of Austinís history, the cityís economy was dominated by the state and
federal government and the University of Texas. Beginning in the 1980s, the arrival
of several computer technology corporations and research organizations helped diversify
the economy. Since 1990 additional high-tech companies have moved to the city. Austinís
other manufactured goods include food products, printed materials, furniture, and
office supplies. In the early 1970s many country-and-western musicians moved to
Austin. The city has since assumed the nickname ďThe Live Music Capital of the World,Ē
and each March it hosts the South by Southwest music festival, which serves as a
venue for new bands of various musical styles.
The city is served by several railroads, an interstate highway, and the Robert Mueller
Municipal Airport. A new facility, the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, opened
in the spring of 1999. As a state capital close to Mexico, Austin benefited from
increased international trade resulting from the North American Free Trade Agreement
(NAFTA), which eliminates most tariffs and trade barriers among the United States,
Mexico, and Canada.
Points of Interest
Among Austinís points of interest are the State Capitol Building, constructed of
Texas pink granite between 1882 and 1888, and the Governorís Mansion (1856). Several
buildings reflect Austinís early architecture, including the French Legation (1841),
the residence of the French ambassador to the Republic of Texas, which existed from
1836 until 1845; and the Driskill Hotel. Austin is home to the largest colony of
urban bats in North America. Between April and September more than 1 million Mexican
free-tailed bats congregate under the Congress Avenue Bridge in the city. Natural
landmarks in the region include Barton Springs, a spring-fed swimming hole that
maintains a constant temperature of 20į C (68į F); Mount Bonnell; and Lake Austin.
The city also has an extensive park system covering a total of about 8,500 hectares
(about 21,000 acres).
Educational and Cultural Institutions
Austin is home to the University of Texas at Austin (1883), the largest branch of
the University of Texas. Other educational institutions include Huston-Tillotson
College (1875), Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary (1902), St. Edwardís University
(1885), and Concordia University at Austin (1926). Austinís cultural institutions
include the Elisabet Ney Museum, once the home and workshop of the noted German-American
sculptor; the home of O. Henry, which is now a museum housing many of the authorís
possessions; the Texas Memorial Museum; the Laguna Gloria Art Museum; the Paramount
Theatre for Performing Arts; and the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, housing
papers and memorabilia of the 36th president of the United States.
In 1730 Franciscan missionaries established three temporary missions in the area,
at sites which for centuries had been occupied periodically by groups of Native
Americans. The site of the present city was settled in 1838 on the north bank of
the Colorado River by five families, who named the community Waterloo. In 1839 Waterloo
was chosen as the site of the permanent capital of the Republic of Texas. A one-story
frame building was erected to house government offices, town lots were sold, and
a newspaper began publication. In December 1839 the city was incorporated and its
name was changed to Austin in honor of Stephen F. Austin, who is considered the
father of Texas.
In spite of protests from the citizens of Austin, the capital was moved to Houston
in 1842 because of a threatened Mexican invasion. After being located in Houston
and in Washington-on-the-Brazos, the capital was returned to Austin in 1845, the
year Texas became a state. Austin became the permanent capital in a state election
in 1850. Despite the fact that its county voted against secession, Austin was the
site of several Confederate army facilities during the American Civil War (1861-1865),
and volunteers from the city organized a company of light infantry.
The Houston and Texas Central Railroad reached Austin in 1871, and other railroads
soon followed. The construction of a dam and power plant on the Colorado River prompted
a period of industrialization between 1880 and 1900. The dam was destroyed in a
flood in 1900 and was rebuilt in 1912. After major flooding in the 1930s, the Colorado
River Authority constructed a series of dams and reservoirs on the river. This chain
of reservoirs, known locally as the Highland Lakes, stretches for 153 km (95 mi)
inland from Austin and is a major recreation and tourist attraction for central
During World War II (1939-1945) population growth was enhanced by the establishment
of several military bases in and near the city. During the decades since the war
Austin has experienced unprecedented growth as the result of its economic diversification,
its climate, its numerous recreational and cultural opportunities, its significance
as an international city, and its allure as a haven for retired people.