Austin in 1873
Austin had been designated the permanent capital of the state just a few months before Augustus Koch, one of the most prolific of the itinerant city-view artists, arrived in town in January 1873, and the city was experiencing a boom. The view that Koch proposed to the editor of the Daily Democratic Statesman would be a tangible expression of the city’s new-found pride as the population grew steadily and the newly arrived railroad brought the city’s merchants more business. A story and an ad soon appeared in the newspaper, announcing that the “New Map of Austin City, Mounted and Varnished, showing the whole government of city and out lots” was available for a price of $5.
Koch’s view showed the city from the southwest, clearly delineating Edwin Waller’s original design: the city fronts on the Colorado River between two of its tributaries, Shoal Creek on the west and Waller Creek on the east. Congress Avenue leads northward from the river to Capitol Hill. Waller had reserved land immediately west of the Capitol for the state university, but by 1873 it was obvious that the plot was too small, and the university land had already been relocated to College Hill north of the Capitol. Austin was a diverse community with Germans, Irish, Swedes, English, Polish, French, Italians, Chinese, and African-Americans. A Mexican-American neighborhood had been established in the early 1870s and by 1875 had perhaps 300 residents living in an area informally called “Mexico” (bounded by Shoal Creek, West Cypress, and Live Oak) near the Colorado River.
Even though residents had welcomed the arrival of a spur of the Houston and Texas Central Railway in December 1871 by calling it the “iron artery” and the “great civilizer,” Koch’s depiction of the tracks, depot, and train at Pine (5th Street) on the eastern edge of the city is a bit subdued. Perhaps he and the city fathers wanted to focus on the fact that Austin was now the permanent capital of the state.