Wednesday, March 19, 2014

6th Street and Congress Avenue, Austin

In one of the biggest events-that-we-hadn't-known-about of our travels, we arrived in Austin for one of the first days of the 21st annual South X Southwest Interactive Festival. This Festival is described as: "An incubator of cutting-edge technologies and digital creativity,...showcasing the best new websites, video games and startup ideas the community has to offer. ...SXSW Interactive has become the place to preview the technology of tomorrow today."

So, while we had taken the Metrorail into Austin to be tourists in the downtown blocks, the majority of visitors, identified by their badges, were attending the programs at the Convention Center and nearby hotels.

We found 6th Street empty. Access to the street was blocked and city personnel, police, and businesses were preparing for the music portion of "South By" that would be in full swing in a couple of days. So, with tour guide of the downtown architecture in hand, we headed along 6th Street.

Dos Banderas, 1881 (center, with three arches) served as a saloon and bawdy house. Condemned by the city in 1961 for "nefarious activities within its portals," the building was restored as a townhouse in 1968.

Quast Building, 1872 (right), one of the oldest stone buildings on 6th Street. Wrought ironwork and roof garden were recent additions.

Kriesle Building, 1860 (left), its stone structure is typical of nineteenth century commercial architecture on 6th Street.

Rhambo Building, c. 1870 (middle), served as a barbershop, furniture store, tailor shop, and now a bar.

St. Charles House, 1871, formerly the St. Charles Hotel and Restaurant

Platt-Simpson Building, 1871, originally served as a livery stable. In 1882, the owner added the red brick façade and limestone-trimmed, arched windows.

View along 6th Street

View along 6th Street

Webb Building, c.1880 (light-colored building on the left), originally a hardware store that also sold farm machinery.

Hannig Building, 1876 (left), one of Austin's finest late nineteenth century, Victorian commercial buildings; acclaimed by the local press as an elegant contribution to the city.

Padgett-Warmoth Building, 1885 (right), the restored cast iron cornice with fleur-de-lis cutouts and star of David cap is one of East 6th Street's most photogenic facades.

Jacoby-Pope Building, 1874 (left) is a simple commercial storefront fairly typical of what was being built here during the period. In contrast, the Hannig Building, built next door at about the same time, was an architectural extravaganza.

Littlefield Building, 1910, was one of the most opulent and modern structures in the country at the time of its completion. Originally built with eight floors, but the flamboyant Major George Washington Littlefield added another floor when the Scarbrough Building (below), a rival structure, reached eight floors. For a short while, the Littlefield Building was the tallest building between New Orleans and San Francisco.

Scarbrough Building, 1909, would become the finest department store in Texas during the early twentieth century. In 1931, the exterior was redesigned in the Art Deco style

Robinson-Rosner Building, c. 1856, is the oldest known building on Congress Avenue. Its limestone storefront was updated in the 1880s (in brick) and again in 1984, retaining the 1880s cast iron columns.

View along Congress Avenue

Southwestern Telegraph and Telephone Building, 1886, remodeled in 1898 with Romanesque Revival details of gray granite.

Koppel Building, 1888 (in the foreground)

W.B. Smith Guilding, 1884, the façade reflects the post-Civil War period in the city's history, when wooden commercial structures were gradually replaced by two- and three-story brick and stone buildings.

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