One of the most appealing aspects of attending the University of Texas is the fact it is located in the heart of Austin. I know that I was a little nervous moving to a big city for college, but Austin is the perfect college town. Why would I say that? First of all, I say that because the UT campus is off on its own on the north end of downtown Austin, so you get that feeling of being on a centralized college campus that is rare in urban universities. Second, the entire city seems to be compromised of Longhorn fans and alums, so you’ll see that welcoming shade of burnt orange everywhere you go. The other reasons Austin is a great place to go to school are Austin’s history, opportunities, entertainment and food.
To do the city justice, I will write a post about each of these components of Austin. Today, we are going to focus on the city’s history.
The Founding of Austin
The city’s recorded history began in 1830s when Anglo-American settlers arrived. These settlers eventually founded the city (then called Waterloo) along the banks of the Colorado River. During this time period (around 1836-37), Texas had just won it’s independence and recently formed the Republic of Texas. In 1837, President Sam Houston established the Republic’s capital in Houston. It was at President Mirabeau B. Lamar’s instructions that the Texas Congress purchase all the land of Waterloo and surrounding the banks of the Colorado River to establish a permanent Texas capital. The Texas Capital named the new city Austin in honor of Stephen F. Austin, “the father of Texas,” and officially chartered the city in 1839.
The city of Austin is a city that combines the tradition of its past with the innovation of the future. When you look at the buildings that compromise downtown Austin, some date back to the founding of the city, while there are more being built almost every day. Austin’s history is a part of its identity, hence, some of its oldest attractions are amongst the city’s most popular.
Once such attraction that I personally find fascinating is the Treaty Oak. The Treaty Oak earned its name when Stephen F. Austin negotiated a boundary treaty with the local Native Americans under the branches of this majestic oak tree after a few settlers were killed in raids. The tree, located on 5th and Baylor streets, has been estimated to be have been 100 years old when Columbus first landed in North America. This tree was also pronounced the most perfect specimen of a tree in North America. Under the canopy of its branches, battles and important conferences have been planned, pacts signed, and feasts and religious ceremonies celebrated. The plaque in front of the tree reads:
“The Treaty Oak was purchased by the City of Austin in 1937 to stand as a living and fitting symbol of the mighty state it has watched develop.”
I love the fact that the history of Austin is such a huge part of its identity. I mean, where we come from is a part of who we are, isn’t it? If we don’t know where we came from, how do we know where to progress to in the future? Austin is such a unique city, partly due to the fact it has such a unique history.