Famous Architecture Walking Tour (Self Guided), Austin

A pleasant walk through the heart of downtown Austin is a good chance to delve into the city's backstory and check out some of the most iconic buildings that have stood the test of time and allow visitors to know that they are, indeed, in Austin, Texas. Follow this self-guided walk to step back and appreciate some of the longest standing landmarks that make up the Austin skyline, including the Texas State Capitol, Saint Mary's Cathedral, Paramount Theatre, Walter Tips Building and more.
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Famous Architecture Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Famous Architecture Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Austin (See other walking tours in Austin)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 14
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles
Author: christine
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Texas State Capitol
  • Goodman Building
  • First United Methodist Church
  • Central Christian Church
  • Texas Governor's Mansion
  • Lundberg Bakery
  • Cathedral of Saint Mary in Austin
  • Millett Opera House
  • Jacob Lamour Block
  • Paramount Theatre
  • Walter Tips Building
  • O. Henry Hall
  • Driskill Hotel
  • Hannig Row Building
Texas State Capitol

1) Texas State Capitol (must see)

The Texas State Capitol in Austin is the fourth local building to house Texas state government. Altogether it houses the chambers of the Texas Legislature and the office of the governor of Texas. It was originally designed in 1881 by architect Elijah E. Myers, and was constructed from 1882 to 1888 under the direction of civil engineer Reuben Lindsay Walker. A $75 million underground extension was completed in 1993. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1986. The Texas State Capitol building stands 308 ft (94 m) tall.

The capitol rotunda features portraits of every person who has served as president of the Republic of Texas or governor of the State of Texas. The south foyer features sculptures of Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin made by Elisabeth Ney. The rotunda is also a whispering gallery. The capitol has 360,000 square feet (33,000 square meters) of floor space, more than any other state capitol building, and occupies 2.25 acres of land. The building has nearly 400 rooms and more than 900 windows.

Why You Should Visit:
Once the tallest capitol building in the nation, it shows off many of the natural resources, such as limestone and the landscapes, which are so prevalent in Texas. Lots of statues, memorials, great history and fun architecture to look at.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Goodman Building

2) Goodman Building

The Goodman Building is a late Victorian style historic commerce building in downtown Austin, Texas. It was constructed as a grocery in the mid-1880s to serve Austinites northwest of the Texas State Capitol.

Today is serves as a state government adjunct office. A local bar, "The Cloak Room," occupies the basement and is a favorite for government employees. It is located at 202 W. 13th Street. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
Sight description based on wikipedia
First United Methodist Church

3) First United Methodist Church

The First United Methodist Church traces its root to 1840 when a dozen of so Methodists listened to the new preacher, the Rev. John Haynie, a 52-year-old former mercantile store owner from Knoxville, Tenn. It was the same year that Austin was designated as the capital of the Republic of Texas.

The church had two previous locations, but as the congregation grew a larger place was needed. The current church building was erected in 1923 in the Roman style, matching the State Capitol and other nearby buildings. The building was listed as a Texas Historical Site in 1979.

In the spring of 1990, the First United Methodist Church celebrated its sesquicentennial with “Jubilee 150". Today this church continues to be an integral part of the Austin community and is proud to proclaim its adherence to the motto “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.”
Central Christian Church

4) Central Christian Church

Central Christian Church is a major church in downtown Austin, Texas affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Organized in 1847, it is one of the oldest congregations in the city.

The current church building, featuring Romanesque Revival architecture, was completed in 1929. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.

In 1847, eight years after the City of Austin was platted, ten members of the Disciples of Christ Brotherhood met to organize this congregation. Although early records of the church are scarce, it is known that regular worship services were being held in a local school building by 1852. The Christian Church of Austin, as the congregation originally was known, acquired its first property at Eighth and Colorado Streets and worshiped at that site until moving to this location in 1929.

An early dispute over theological and procedural matters split the congregation in 1888. Until 1896, when the Rev. S. D. Dutcher was appointed pastor, leaders of the church were selected from among the laity. The fellowship adopted its current name during the early years of the twentieth century, after other Disciples of Christ congregations had been organized in Austin. Although much growth has occurred in the outlying sections of the city, Central Christian Church has remained a vital force in the downtown area. Its ministry has included the establishment of several other congregations. As one of the oldest churches in Austin, Central Christian has provided the city with significant service and leadership.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Texas Governor's Mansion

5) Texas Governor's Mansion

The Texas Governor's Mansion, also known simply as Governor's Mansion, is a historic home for the Governor of Texas in downtown Austin. It was built during 1854 and has been the home of every governor since 1856.

On June 8, 2008, while midway through a major renovation, the mansion was damaged badly by an arson fire started with a Molotov cocktail.

Built by Abner Cook in a Greek Revival style and completed during 1856, the building occupies the center of a block and is surrounded by trees and gardens. The original mansion was 6,000 square feet (560 m2). Remodeling during 1914 increased the size of it to 8,920 square feet (829 m2). The original mansion had 11 rooms but no bathrooms. The remodeling brought the room count to 25 rooms and 7 bathrooms. In 1931, at the recommendation of former Texas First Lady Mildred Paxton Moody, the 42nd Texas Legislature established the Board of Mansion Supervisors to oversee all interior and exterior upkeep and enhancements to the mansion.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Lundberg Bakery

6) Lundberg Bakery

The Lundberg Bakery, also known as the Old Bakery and Emporium, is a historic sight currently serving as a gift shop in downtown Austin, Texas. The building was completed in 1876. At the time the bakery began operations, bread was not sold wrapped or packaged. People would wait in line with cloth lined baskets to place the bread in after buying it.

The building served as a bakery until its owner, Swedish immigrant Charles Lundberg, died in 1895. It changed hands frequently until being bought and refurbished by the Austin Heritage Society in 1962. It was threatened with demolition in 1970, when a new building was planned for the Texas Department of Transportation, but was saved when excavations next door uncovered the foundations of the previous state capitol building. Following the discovery, the foundations were converted to a historical plaza, and the bakery was spared.

The building is constructed of limestone with a brick facade, and features a large cast-iron eagle at the peak of the gabled roof overlooking Congress Avenue. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on December 17, 1969.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Cathedral of Saint Mary in Austin

7) Cathedral of Saint Mary in Austin (must see)

Saint Mary's is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Austin. The origins of this temple date back to the 1850s, when the Catholic community in Austin built a small stone church, named St. Patrick's, on the corner of 9th and Brazos streets. In 1866 the church was renamed Saint Mary's, and the parish decided they needed a new building and could afford masonry construction. In 1872, after Austin was made the permanent capital of Texas, the parish laid the cornerstone for a new church, choosing a location one block north of the original building.

The parish had laid out a basilica-shaped foundation and begun raising the walls, which were 5 feet (1.5 m) high when the architect Nicholas J. Clayton began to design their new church.

When the new Diocese of Austin was formed in 1948, this became the cathedral of the newly formed diocese. At that time, the church was remodeled, many of its neo-Gothic decorations were removed, the neo-Gothic altars and altar rail were replaced with 20th century marble and the baldachino with its cactus and bluebonnets, evocative of central Texas.

Why You Should Visit:
If you're an architecture buff, this comfortably welcoming and beautiful classic Cathedral boasts a great deal of historic artwork to observe in detail: gorgeous stained glass windows dedicated to saints from old Europe, and woodwork.
And if you're a devoted Catholic, they do Latin Rite masses here, too.

If you attend a Sunday mass, you'll feel like you are at a prayerful and inspiring concert.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Millett Opera House

8) Millett Opera House

The Millett Opera House is a historic building in downtown Austin, Texas. Built in 1878 by local lumber seller Charles Millett on one of his lots, the house was one of the largest performance spaces in Texas upon its completion. It featured 800 removable seats, 24-inch limestone walls, and the largest enclosed space in Texas. The Opera House was designed by Frederick Ruffini, a noted architect working throughout Texas.

The Austin Public Free Schools purchased the opera house in 1940. In the 1950s, it was threatened with demolition, but preserved by a local group of concerned citizens. It housed a printing company until 1979.

The Austin Club renovated the building and continues to hold social events here today. The building has been divided into three stories, removing the performance space, but a portion of the original hand-painted ceiling is still installed in one of the meeting rooms.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Jacob Lamour Block

9) Jacob Lamour Block

The Jacob Lamour Block is a row of two-story commercial buildings designed and built by architect Jacob Lamour in 1876, who also designed other personal and administrative buildings in Austin. The facades bear Italian features, each distinctive, yet style-friendly to its neighbors. The buildings are still used as commercial spaces for stores and cafes.
Paramount Theatre

10) Paramount Theatre

The Paramount Theatre is a live theater and cinema located in downtown Austin. The Classical Revival style edifice was built in 1915. Throughout its more than a century-long history, the Paramount has played host to a wide variety of acts, ranging from vaudeville to the premieres of numerous films, both silent and "talkies," including 1966's Batman and 2005's Sin City, plus a number of music, dance, and Broadway shows.

Over the course of decades, a cast of superstars has graced the theater's stage, such as Houdini, the Marx Brothers, Helen Hayes, Orson Welles, Sarah Bernhardt, the Ziegfeld Follies, the Metropolitan Opera, Lillian Russell, and George M. Cohan. Among the modern-day favorites have been Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, Sarah Vaughan, and Mandy Patinkin.

The building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on June 23, 1976.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Walter Tips Building

11) Walter Tips Building

The Walter Tips Building is one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture to be found on Austin's Congress Avenue. Built in 1876, this three-story stone building masterfully blends Venetian Gothic and Italianate Renaissance Revival styles, and is one of several properties constructed by architect Jasper Newton Preston for the Tips Foundry & Machine Company. The eastern facade on the second and third floors bear prominent Venetian Gothic features, with a row of five richly decorated bay windows framed by fluted and banded pilasters with Corinthian and foliated capitals.

On the inside, large open spaces have been maintained by means of a cast-iron colonnade spanned by cast-iron arches running the length of the building down the center at the first level and by a similar colonnade of wood members at the second level. The construction has two skylights. The Tips Building is a City of Austin Landmark and a contributing building to the National Register-listed Congress Avenue Historic District.

Today, it is still used as a commercial space.
O. Henry Hall

12) O. Henry Hall

O. Henry Hall, also formerly known as the U.S. Post Office and Federal Building, is a historic edifice located at 601 Colorado Street in Austin.

Completed in 1881 under the supervision of architect Abner Cook, the District Court met here from then until 1936. One of its most noted trials occurred in February 1898, when William Sidney Porter - the man who later became known under the pen name of O. Henry - was tried and convicted of embezzlement here. After its acquisition by the University of Texas, the building was renamed for the author, who had previously resided nearby in what is now officially called the William Sidney Porter House, but is better known as the O. Henry House.

The facility is currently owned by the University of Texas, and serves as the administrative headquarters for the University of Texas System.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Driskill Hotel

13) Driskill Hotel (must see)

The Driskill Hotel, a Romanesque style building completed in 1886, is the oldest operating hotel in Austin, and one of the best-known hotels in Texas generally.

The Driskill was conceived and built by Col. Jesse Driskill, a cattleman who spent his fortune constructing "the finest hotel south of St. Louis". The hotel was completed at a cost of $400,000. Its four stories occupied almost half a block, with three arched entryways on the south, east, and north sides. Carved limestone busts of Driskill and his two sons, Bud and Tobe, crowned the hotel on each of these sides. Six million bricks went into the structure, along with limestone features. The hotel's 60 rooms included 12 corner rooms with attached baths, an almost unheard-of feature in any hotel of the region at that time.

The hotel included an open design to encourage airflow throughout the building and keep it cool; its primary feature was an open rotunda at the center that extended from the first to the fourth floors and culminated in a domed skylight.

Why You Should Visit:
Iconic landmark of Southern hospitality rich in historic architecture. One of the joys of visiting Austin, TX, outside its music culture, is a chance to stay at the Driskill Hotel. The historic architectural design of the structure and its interiors provide even more fuel for enthusiasm to return to Austin again and again.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Hannig Row Building

14) Hannig Row Building

The Hannig Row Building is the second most notable edifice on 6th Street, after the Driskill Hotel. It was built in 1876 to the design by Jasper Newton Preston, and predominantly reflects Renaissance Revival style which was one of the two trends prevalent in Austin throughout the 1870s. The other trend, manifested in a simple commercial storefront seen in the neighboring Jacoby-Pope Building, constructed around the same time, was being fairly typical of what was built on East 6th Street and Congress Avenue during that period.

Contrary to it, the Hannig Building is highly decorative, designed by a trained architect, and was built at a greater cost than most Austin businesses of the era. The building received acclaim by the local press as an elegant contribution to the city, comparable to the Walter Tips Building on Congress Avenue. It is still considered to be one of Austin’s finest late 19th century Victorian commercial sites.

Its original owner, Joseph W. Hannig, was a German immigrant cabinetmaker, famous for his wine parties. He was also the fifth husband of Susanna Dickinson, the “Messenger of the Alamo”, who was one of the most noted women in Austin’s history. Their former home is located nearby at 411 E. 5th St., and is currently known as the Joseph and Susanna Dickinson Hannig Museum. The Hannig Building is a City of Austin Landmark and contributes to the National Register-listed 6th Street Historic District.

Walking Tours in Austin, Texas

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