Austin, Texas

From Academic Kids

Skyline from Town Lake
Skyline from Town Lake

Template:Infobox City

The City of Austin is the capital of the state of Texas, within the United States of America. As of the U.S. Census 2000, Austin has a population of 656,562 people, making it the fourth-largest city in Texas (behind Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio), and the 16th largest in the United States. Austin is the county seat of Travis County and is situated in Central Texas. The Austin metropolitan area is one of the fastest-growing in the United States and is home to more than 1.2 million people.



Austin was founded in 1835 and was first named Waterloo. In 1838, Mirabeau B. Lamar renamed the city in honor of Stephen F. Austin. Its original name is honored by local business establishments such as Waterloo Ice House and Waterloo Records. Austin is situated on the Colorado River, with three lakes within the city limits: Town Lake, Lake Austin, and Lake Walter E. Long. Additionally, the foot of Lake Travis, including Mansfield Dam, is located within the city's limits. Town Lake, Lake Austin, and Lake Travis are all on the Colorado River. The city is also situated on the Balcones Fault, which, in much of Austin, runs roughly the same route as the MoPac expressway. The eastern part of the city is flat, whereas the western part and western suburbs consist of scenic rolling hills on the edge of the Texas Hill Country. Because the hills to the west are primarily limestone rock with a thin covering of topsoil, the city is subjected to frequent flash flooding from the excessive runoff caused by thunderstorms. To help control this runoff and to generate hydroelectric power, the Lower Colorado River Authority operates a series of dams that form the Texas Highland Lakes. The lakes also provide venues for boating, swimming, and other forms of recreation within several parks located on the lake shores.

Residents of Austin are called "Austinites" and include a heady mix of educators and their students, politicians and lobbyists. It is also the self-proclaimed "live music capital of the world," with a vibrant live music scene revolving around many nightclubs on 6th Street and a yearly film/music/multimedia festival known as "South by Southwest." Austin City Limits, the longest-running concert music program on American television, is videotaped on the University of Texas campus.

Austin is home to The University of Texas at Austin, the flagship institution of The University of Texas System. Other institutions of higher learning include Austin Community College, Concordia University, Huston-Tillotson University and St. Edward's University.

Austin is served by the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.


The beginning

Before the arrival of European settlers, the area around present-day Austin was inhabited for several hundred years by a mixture of Tonkawa, Comanche, and Lipan Apache Indians, who fished and hunted along the creeks, including present-day Barton Springs.

In the late 1700s the Spanish set up temporary missions in the area, later moving to San Antonio.

The 1800s

The first Anglo settlers arrived in the area in the 1830s when Texas was still part of Mexico. They founded the village of Waterloo along the banks of the Colorado River. According to local folklore, Stephen F. Austin, the "father of Texas", negotiated a peace treaty with the local Indians at the site of the present day Treaty Oak after several settlers were killed in raids.

In 1839, Waterloo was chosen to become the capital of the new Republic of Texas, and the town was renamed Austin in honor of Stephen F. Austin.

A grid plan for the city streets was surveyed by Judge Edwin Waller (after whom Waller Creek was named). The grid survives nearly intact as the streets of present-day downtown Austin. The north-south streets of the grid were named for the rivers of Texas, following an east-west progression from Sabine Street to Rio Grande Street (Red River Street being "out of order" to the west of Sabine Street). The exception was the central thoroughfare Congress Avenue, which leads from the far south side of town over the river to the foot of the hill where the new Texas State Capitol was to be constructed. The original north-south grid was bookended by West Street and East Street (now I-35).

The east-west streets of the grid followed a progression uphill from the river and were named after trees native to the region, with Pecan Street as the main east-west thoroughfare. The east-west streets were later renamed in a numbered progression, with Pecan Street becoming Sixth Street. The original tree-named streets survive in nostalgic names, including Pecan Street, which is the name of a locally-produced beer.

In October 1839, the entire government of the Republic of Texas arrived by oxcart from Houston. By the next January, the population of the town was 839 people.

In 1842, Austin almost lost its status as capital city during the event known as the Texas Archive War. President Sam Houston had tried to relocate the seat of government from Austin to Houston, and then to Washington-on-the-Brazos. In the dead of night on December 29, 1842, a group of men was sent to take the archives of Texas from Austin to Washington-on-the-Brazos. Mrs. Angelina Eberly fired a cannon at the men, who made their escape, only to be caught by another group of men who returned the archives back to Austin.

After Texas was admitted to the Union in 1845, two statewide elections were held that attempted to move the capital elsewhere, but Austin remained the capital.

In September 1881, the city schools admitted their first classes. That same year, the first institution of higher learning, the forerunner of Huston-Tillotson College, opened as the Tillotson Collegiate and Normal Institute.

Texas State Capitol
Texas State Capitol

The Texas State Capitol was completed in 1888 on the site specified in the 1839 plan. At the time it was billed as the "Seventh largest building in the world."

In 1891, the Hyde Park neighborhood was developed north of the University as a streetcar suburb.

In 1893, the Great Granite Dam on the Colorado River was constructed, stabilizing the river's flow and providing hydroelectric power.

The 1900s to present

In 1910, the concrete Congress Avenue Bridge across the Colorado River opened, fostering development along South Congress. The Littlefield Building at 6th and Congress also opened in 1910.

In 1911, a streetcar line was extended into South Austin, allowing for the development of Travis Heights in 1913.

In the 1930s, the original dam was replaced by a series of seven dams built by the federal government which created the string of reservoirs that now define the river's course through Austin. Lyndon Baines Johnson, then a member of the House of Representatives, was instrumental in getting the funding authorized for these dams.

On August 1, 1966, Austin was terrorized by Charles Whitman, who shot and killed 16 people with a high-powered rifle from the clocktower of the Main Building on the University of Texas campus. The event is considered the most traumatic event in the city's history.

In the 1970s, Austin became a refuge for a group of Country and Western musicians and songwriters seeking to escape the corporate industry domination of Nashville. The best-known artist in this group was Willie Nelson, who became an icon for the local "alternate music industry." In the following years, Austin gained a reputation as a place where struggling musicians could come and launch their careers in informal live venues in front of receptive audiences. This ultimately led to the present situation where the city touts itself as the "live music capital of the world."

During the 1970s and 1980s, the city experienced a tremendous boom in development that temporarily halted with the Savings and Loan collapse in the late 1980s. The growth led to an ongoing series of fierce political battles that pitted preservationists against developers. In particular the preservation of Barton Springs, and by extension the Edwards Aquifer, became an issue which defined the themes of the larger battles.

In the 1990s, the boom resumed with the influx and growth of a large technology industry. Initially the technology industry was centered around larger, established companies such as IBM, but in the late 1990s, Austin gained the additional reputation of being a center of the dot-com boom and subsequent dot-com bust.

In 2000, Austin became the center of an intense media focus as the headquarters of presidential candidate and Texas Governor George W. Bush. Ironically, the headquarters of his main opponent, Al Gore, were in Nashville, thus re-creating the old Country Music rivalry between the two cities.


According to the 2000 United States Census Bureau, Austin is located at 30°18'01" North, 97°44'50" West (30.300474, -97.747247)Template:GR. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 669.3 km² (258.4 mi²). 651.4 km² (251.5 mi²) of it is land and 17.9 km² (6.9 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 2.67% water.

A popular point of prominence in Austin is Mount Bonnell. At about 780 feet above sea level, it is a natural limestone formation overlooking Lake Austin on the Colorado River approximately 200 feet below its summit.


As of the censusTemplate:GR of 2000, there are 656,562 people, 265,649 households, and 141,590 families residing in the city. The population density is 1,007.9/km² (2,610.4/mi²). There are 276,842 housing units at an average density of 425.0/km² (1,100.7/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 65.36% White, 10.05% Black or African American, 0.59% Native American, 4.72% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 16.23% from other races, and 2.99% from two or more races. 30.55% of the population are Hispanic American or Latino of any race.

There are 265,649 households out of which 26.8% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.1% are married couples living together, 10.8% have a female householder with no husband present, and 46.7% are non-families. 32.8% of all households are made up of individuals and 4.6% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.40 and the average family size is 3.14.

In the city the population is spread out with 22.5% under the age of 18, 16.6% from 18 to 24, 37.1% from 25 to 44, 17.1% from 45 to 64, and 6.7% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 30 years. For every 100 females there are 105.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 105.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $42,689, and the median income for a family is $54,091. Males have a median income of $35,545 vs. $30,046 for females. The per capita income for the city is $24,163. 14.4% of the population and 9.1% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 16.5% of those under the age of 18 and 8.7% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Famous Austin residents include cyclist Lance Armstrong, businessman Michael Dell, tennis player Andy Roddick, actors Sandra Bullock and Matthew McConaughey, musician Willie Nelson, and directors Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez. Former residents include Lyndon B. Johnson and George W. Bush. Austin was also the longtime home of the late blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn.


Austin is the center of a high-technology region known as Silicon Hills. Thousands of graduates each year from the Computer Science and Engineering programs at UT provide a steady source of young, talented, and driven employees. The metro Austin area also has much lower housing costs than, for example, Silicon Valley. As a result of the relatively high concentration of high tech companies in the region, Austin was strongly affected by the dot-com boom in the late 1990s and subsequent bust, although recovery is proceeding rapidly.

Austin's biggest employers include the State of Texas, the University of Texas, Dell, IBM, and Freescale Semiconductor (spun off from Motorola in 2004). Other high-tech companies in Austin include Apple Computer, Vignette, AMD, Intel, Cirrus Logic,Samsung and National Instruments. The proliferation of technology companies has led to the region's nickname, "the Silicon Hills," (Austin was originally "Silicon Gulch", but it seems that San Jose, Ca. already has that distinction) and has spurred rapid development that has greatly expanded the city to the north and south.

Media and entertainment

The University of Texas has an outstanding Radio, Television, and Film (RTF) department [1] ( and, partly because of this, Austin has been the location of a number of movies, including Man of the House, Secondhand Lions, Waking Life, Spy Kids, Dazed and Confused, Office Space, The Life of David Gale, "Miss Congeniality", and Slacker. Austin is home to several well-known directors, including Robert Rodriguez, Richard Linklater, and Tim McCanlies. It is also home to several other entertainers including Sandra Bullock, Willie Nelson, and Shawn Colvin. Austin hosts the annual Austin Film Festival, as well as the South by Southwest Festival, which draw films of many different types from all over the world. In 2004 the city was named #1 in Moviemaker Magazine's Annual Top 10 Cities to live and make movies.

Architectural structures

Missing image
A Moonlight Tower

The Congress Avenue Bridge houses the world's largest urban bat population. In the summer, the colony has up to 1.5 million Mexican Free-tailed Bats; in the winter they migrate to Mexico.

The iconic Pennybacker Bridge, also known as the "360 Bridge," crosses Lake Austin to connect north and south Loop 360.

At night, parts of Austin are lit with "artificial moonlight." Several "Moonlight Towers", built in the late 19th century and recognized as historic landmarks, illuminate the central part of the city. The towers were prominently featured in the film Dazed and Confused. The "Zilker Tree" is a Christmas "tree" made of large lights strung from the top of the Moonlight Tower that stands in Zilker Park. The Zilker Tree is lit in early December along with the "Trail of Lights," an Austin Christmas tradition.

Law and government

Austin is administered by a city council of seven members, each of them elected by the entire city, and by an elected mayor. Council and mayoral elections are non-partisan, with a runoff in case there is no 50% majority winner. Austin remains an anomaly among large Texas cities in that the council is not elected by districts, and there has been a strong effort to change the election system to one of single districts.


The main political actors within Austin city politics are interest groups such as the pro-environmental Save Our Springs Alliance, the Austin Police Association, Austin Toll Party and the Austin Business Council.

The political controversy that dominated the 1990s was the conflict between environmentalists, strong in the city center, and advocates of urban growth, who tend to live in the outlying areas. The city council has in the past tried to mitigate the controversy by advocating smart growth, but growth and environmental protection are still the main hot-button issues in city politics.

Austin is well known as a center for liberal politics in a generally conservative state, leading some conservatives to deride the city as the "People's Republic of Austin." Austin's suburbs, especially to the west and north, and several satellite municipalities, however, tend towards political conservativism.

As a result of the major party realignment that began in the 1970's, central Austin became a stronghold of the Democratic Party while the suburbs tend to vote Republican. One consequence of this is that the central city has been gerrymandered by the Republican-controlled state legislature into several U.S. Congressional districts to dilute its influence vis a vis the suburbs. To a limited degree the division between Democratic and Republican precincts coincides with the aforementioned divisions between supporters of environmental regulations and supporters of unfettered urban growth.

Overall, the city leans to the Democrats; in the 2004 presidential election, John Kerry defeated George W Bush by a wide margin in Austin. Of Austin's six state legislative districts, three are strongly Democratic, one strongly Republican, and two are swing districts (one presently held by a Republican and the other by a Democrat). However, two of its three congressional districts are presently held by Republicans; this is largely due to the 2003 redistricting, which left Austin with no congressional seat of its own.

The combination of economic conservatism with political liberalism has also made Austin an active area for the Libertarian Party. Although the Libertarians remain a third party, the party is very active in the Austin area, and two past Libertarian presidential candidates, Ron Paul and Michael Badnarik have come from the vicinity of Austin.

Sister cities

Professional sports

Among the professional sports teams in Austin are the Austin Ice Bats of the Central Hockey League and the Austin Wranglers of the Arena Football League. The Round Rock Express of the Pacific Coast League play Triple-A baseball in nearby Round Rock, Texas. In 2005, the National Basketball Association awarded an NBDL team to the city of Austin, which has yet to be named.

See also

External links


Flag of Texas
Regions: Arklatex | Big Bend | Central Texas | Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex | East Texas | Edwards Plateau | Houston Metropolitan Area | North Texas | Northeast Texas | Piney Woods | Rio Grande Valley | Texas Hill Country | Texas Panhandle | Llano Estacado | Southeast Texas | South Texas | West Texas
Metropolitan Areas: Abilene | Amarillo | Austin-Round Rock | Beaumont-Port Arthur | Brownsville-Harlingen | College Station-Bryan | Corpus Christi | Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington | El Paso | Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown | Killeen-Temple | Laredo | Longview-Marshall | Lubbock | McAllen-Edinburg-Mission | Midland | Odessa | San Angelo | San Antonio | Sherman-Denison | Texarkana | Tyler | Victoria | Waco | Wichita Falls
See also: List of Texas counties

Template:United States state capitalsda:Austin de:Austin (Texas) el:Ώστιν eo:Aŭstino fr:Austin (Texas) nl:Austin ja:オースティン no:Austin pl:Austin pt:Austin sv:Austin, Texas


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