Friday, March 18, 2011

Austin, Texas Capitol & Downtown

Wed, March 16th & Thur, March 17th

The Austin Capitol is huge, 14 and a half feet taller than the U.S. Capitol, the 7th largest building in the world at the time of it's completion. When it was built Texas had no money, so they traded 3 million acres of land in ten counties in the Texas Panhandle to the Capitol Freehold Land & Investment Company (Farwell brothers) in exchange for their promise to pay for the building of the Capitol estimated at $1.5 million. The land became known as the XIT Ranch, the largest fenced-in ranch in the world. The Capitol was built from 4,000 loads of Sunset Red Texas Granite and 11,000 loads of limestone transported by a specially built railroad and teams of oxen from 47 miles away at Marble Falls with an eventual cost of $3.7 million and completed in 6 years (1888). That is equal to $87.2 million in 2009. The Farwell brothers had planned to sell the land in parcels to farmers and small ranchers. However, land values had fallen dramatically, so they decided to raise cattle. To fence in their ranch they had 240 boxcars of barb wire shipped in to the nearest depot at Ft. Dodge, Ks. plus one boxcar full of staples to fasten the wire to the 100,000 posts that had to be brought in from federal land in N.M. The fence began in the northwest corner of Texas and ran 150 miles without a turn. They ran 150,000 cattle with 100 cowboys on staff. The price
of cattle began to decline just as they were getting started. The Farwell brothers never turned a profit and sold their last cow in 1912. Their descendants were eventually able to sell the land to farmers and small ranchers and the land is now a major producer of many different kinds of crops.
In the center of the rotunda is the Texas star. If you stand exactly in the center of it, you can hear a very loud echo of what you say and no one else can hear it.

The Texas star is everywhere you look, in the dome, on the floors, walls, doors, parking garages, and many homes, yards and businesses. There is a specially made fence around the entire 2.25 acre courtyard just like this front gate just covered with stars.

All the interior doors have these 14 inch engraved hinges with several stars in them. There is just no end to the portraits, sculptures and monuments to their heroes. In the above picture of the rotunda, you can see they have portraits of all their governors and presidents all the way back to the beginning on the first four stories of the building. Each time they have a new one, they rotate them all one to the left to make room for the new one.

There are two star-shaped chandeliers in the House of Representatives. The light bulbs in each point of the star spell out T-E-X-A-S.

This one is the Heroes of the Alamo. On each of the four columns are listed the names of all those that died under each of the leaders, Travis, Crockett, Bowie, and Bonham. There are lots of others, for the firemen, veterans of all the wars, cowboys, pioneers, children, you name, they got it.

We found the caption on this one quite interesting. Died for State Rights Guaranteed Under the Constitution. The people of the South, animated by the Spirit of 1776, to preserve their rights, withdrew from the Federal compact of 1861. The North resorted to coercion; the South against overwhelming numbers, fought until exhausted. During the War, there were 2,257 engagements: in 1,882 of these, at least one regiment took part. Number of men enlisted: Confederate Armies - 600,000, Federal Armies - 2,859,132. Losses from all causes: Confederate - 437,000, Federal - 485,216. On each side it listed the individual confederate states and their stats.

This is one of their newer monuments and lists all the peace officers killed in the line of duty.

There are several cannons on the grounds and the kids were having great fun climbing all over them.
It was like a big park with people sitting on benches having lunch or reading a book or just strolling around enjoying the afternoon.

They have many very old, majestic live oak trees on the grounds. There is some kind of disease going around that gets into their root system and kills them.

Just a few blocks away is the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. He was George W. Bush's lieutenant governor. The museum is very good with the Star of Destiny film in the Texas Spirit Theater and The Story of Texas in the Imax.

I took a picture of the UT Tower, but it didn't turn out. That is where the guy shot a whole bunch of students from the tower a number of years ago. I believe there was a movie made of it, maybe called The Deadly Tower. It was closed for a number of years, but is open to the public again. It was closed this week due to spring break and the huge SXSW Conference in town. This turtle pond was right across the street with red-eared sliders and Texas river cooters, both of which are common in central Texas.

I haven't figured this one out yet. This was also on campus. There must have been at least 50 trees here with hand knit sweaters sewn onto their trunks. The local knitting club having a bit of fun or perhaps an art project or just for fun for Easter?

It was in the 80s as we were walking around downtown. I was getting very warm and felt sorry for the guys and gals hauling people around in their pedi-cabs.

But they were definitely interesting to watch.

I even enjoyed the view when they were at rest.

This is a view of the porta potties and the crowd lining up for a concert about to begin in the park next to Ladybird Lake, named for Ladybird Johnson.

Another sunset view of the Austin skyline. We are heading eastward on Sunday. We have enjoyed our visit here very much. Thank you Connie and Daryl.
Trivia: The Texas State Fair has the largest ferris wheel in North America and claims to have invented corn dogs. 81% of Texans believe in heaven; 98% believe they are already there.

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