Austin, Texas
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 center.


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 Texas.

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.