Heritage, Volume 04, Number 03, Winter 1986

into private ownership. The early owners
were Harrell, Lots 1 and 2; Asa Brigham,
Lots 4 and 6; Moses Johnson, Lot 5; and
Harrell's son, Anderson Harrell, Lot 3.
The elder Harrell, Brigham, and Johnson
all were to serve terms as Austin mayor.
Moreover, Asa Brighan, a signer of the
Texas Declaration of Independence, and
Moses Johnson, one of Austin's early doctors,
both served as treasurers of the Republic
of Texas.
The possibility of locating remains
from the Harrell homestead and the
prominenece of the block's early owners
was more than enough for the Landmark
Commission to request further investigation
into the background of the usage of
the block and archaeological monitoring
of both the razing process and the subsequent
excavations for the foundations of
the new building which would occupy the
area. Lincoln Property Company at once
agreed and commissioned the Texas Archaeological
Research Laboratory of the
University of Texas to accomplish the
project.
Archival research established the locations
of the residences of the original lot
owners during their stays in the city. Only
Jacob Harrell actually lived on the block.
Research also revealed that still another
Austin mayor, Thomas B. Wheeler, acquired
ownership of Lots 1, 2, and 3 and
in 1876 and had, in conjunction with
some partners, constructed a flour mill of
Lot 1.

S
D
0
6
8

The Austin Brick Company dated and decorated
bricks for the buildings in the 100 Congress
block. This artifact depicts the star/circle pattern.
The construction of the mill involved
the setting of a stone foundation, the instllation
of a steam boiler, the running of
an underground water line to the boiler;
and it probably resulted in the obliteration
of the last traces of the Harrell cabin.
That cabin, occupied by Harrell until
1848, was sold along with the property to
his son, who in turn sold all three lots to
speculators by 1850. The new owners,
three Army officers, did not remain in
Austin, and it is doubtful that the cabin
remained intact more than a few months
after it was abandoned. If the Harrells
didn't salvage parts of it to use in other

locations, someone else would have. The
elder Harrell may have taken much of its
materials to the new settlement of Round
Rock, where he is known to have erected
a cabin on Brushy Creek in 1848. In any
case, precious little would have remained
ot it twenty-eight years later when the
mill was built.
The historical usage of all six lots was
traced owner to owner and, where possible,
tenant/business to tenant/business.
After Anderson Harrell disposed of Lots
1, 2, and 3 to the land speculators, the
same fate befell Lots 4, 5, and 6. Moses
Johnson, having acquired Lots 4 and 6 to
go with his original purchase of Lot 5,
traded all three to a speculator for other
property in the city. The block, held by its
new owners in expectation of appreciation
in value, passed the decade before
the Civil War, the war years, and the entire
Reconstruction era without the construction
of a single building.
Mayor Thomas Wheeler's 1876 mill was
known as the Capitol City Flour Mill during
the short period it operated. Its construction
commenced commerical use of
the block. By the early twentieth century
the block had seen several other construction
episodes, which filled its Congress
Avenue frontage corner to corer
with brickfronted commercial buildings
one and a half stories tall. Many of these,
with numerous alterations and extensions,
survived until they were torn down
in 1985.
As the automobile came into common
use, the need for filling stations arose and
the corner of Congress Avenue and First
Street became a desirable location for
such a facility. In the 1920s a station was
opened at that location, the southeast
corer of Lot 1. At that corner a filling
station remained, operating under several
names affiliated with a nunmber of oil
companies, for three decades. When the
last filling station operation went out of
business in the 1950s, the station office
was used first as a lock and key shop, then
as the office for a used-car lot, and finally
stood vacant. Then in 1962, another
Moses arrived on the block and occupied
the corer. Moses Vasquez began to operate
the Tamale House, which was to be
an Austin landmark for more than twenty
years. The Tamale House contnued to
serve customers until just before the demolition
of the block. Among its last
customers were political workers campaigning
in 1984 for Ronald Reagan and

George Bush from Republican headquarters
next door at 104 Congress. Moses
Vasquez accepted considerably more than
three dollars an acre for his corer, realizing
$1.6 million when he finally sold.

z
o
0

Austin Brick Company bluebell brick.
The political campaign headquarters
provided a scene of marked contrast during
the razing process. The remains of
black pipe plumbing side by side with recently
installed PVC pipe, the hardware
from open-wire electrification next to
modern multipair cable, the supports
from a narrow tread, high-riser staircase
next to an elevator, dovetailed wood
joinery behind pneumatic nailer-fastened
paneling, and so forth.
As demolition proceeded, recovered
bricks assumed center stage. Three were
found which bore specific dates in 1908.
It is seldom that such pinpoint dating is
available for a site. Since the dates were
incised in the bricks before they were
fired, they represent the date of manufacture,
not the date they were used, but
we may assume use followed production
closely. The dated bricks were found in
a sequence matching the chronological
order of their dates, one in each of the
first few courses of successive buildings, as
razing progressed up the block.
Other bricks of an unusual nature began
to show up scattered among the thousands
of plain "Austin commons" recovered.
These were the distinctively
decorated products of the Austin Brick
Company. They bear raised imprints of
flowers, fruits, and stars as well as the
more conventional company name and
logo. More than 20 varieties of these
bricks are known, a circumstance all the
more remarkable because the company
was in operation only ten years (19021912).
Why the company chose to decorate
the brick, a choice requiring a separate
mold plate for each variety, is still a
mystery. The bricks are never found laid
so that the decoration shows and are
mixed in with their plain counterparts.
Eleven decorated varieties were found
during the razing, showing that at least a
dozen different mold plates were in use by
the time these buildings were erected
only five years after the company began
33

Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 04, Number 03, Winter 1986. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45440/. Accessed October 2, 2014.