Thursday, April 21, 2011

State Capitol, Austin Texas, 1941 and 2010

State Capitol at Night, Austin, Texas

At night the State Capitol dome is brilliantly illuminated, and is the finest thing noticed by visitors approaching the city from any direction.  Austin lies in a valley, and the Capitol at night appears as the center facet of an immense diamond, surrounded by the many tower lights which are a unique Austin institution.

unused from 1941

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Construction of the Italian Renaissance Revival capitol was funded through an article in the state constitution, adopted February 15, 1876, which authorized the sale of public lands for the purpose. In one of the largest barter transactions in recorded history, the builders of the capitol were paid with over three-million acres (12,000 km²) of public land in the Texas Panhandle; this tract later became the largest cattle ranch in the world, the XIT Ranch. The value of the land, combined with out-of-pocket expenses, added to a total cost of $3.7 million for the original building. It was largely constructed by convicts or migrant workers, up to a thousand at a time. 

The cornerstone for the building was laid on March 2, 1885, Texas Independence Day, and the completed building was opened to the public on April 21, 1888. The building was originally planned to be constructed entirely of limestone from Oatmanville (present-day Oak Hill), about ten miles (16 km) to the southwest. However, the limestone was found to have a high iron content after it began to discolor. Hearing of the problem, the owners of Granite Mountain near Marble Falls offered to donate to the state, free of charge, the necessary amount of pink granite as an alternative. While the building is mostly built of the Oak Hill limestone, most of it is hidden behind the walls and on the foundations. Pink granite was subsequently used in many state government buildings in the Austin area.

Here is a postcard from 2010

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