The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 92, July 1988 - April, 1989 Page: 248
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
The Republic of Texas declared its independence at Washington-
on-the-Brazos in 1836 but established no "permanent capital" until
nearly three years later, when a special commission located the "City of
Austin" on the north bank of the Colorado River between Waller and
Shoal creeks.' The area on the city plat reserved as "Capitol Square"
occupied the center and highest part of a horseshoe-shaped promi-
nence in the north part of town, facing south down the city's main
street, appropriately named "Congress Avenue." No doubt chosen be-
cause of its prominent location, the site for the future Capitol shows the
practicality of the commissioners in choosing a spot safe from flooding
and one cooled in summer by prevailing breezes from the southwest
across the Colorado River.6
The struggling Republic of Texas did not need and could not afford
immediately to build a grand Capitol in 1839, so the government did as
most settlers had done at first and erected a temporary wooden struc-
ture to house the Congress. The first Capitol stood southwest of Capi-
tol Square, and several log buildings nearby served as offices for the
president and other departments of the government. Fears resulting
from the Mexican invasion of San Antonio in 1842 encouraged Presi-
dent Sam Houston to move the government back to the town of Hous-
ton, but Texas officials returned to Austin in late 1845, and the govern-
ment continued to use the primitive structures built in 1839 after Texas
became a state in 1846.' In 1846 a description of the 1839 Capitol ap-
peared in a New England newspaper, possibly contributed by a Mexi-
can War soldier:
The Texas "State House" or "Capitol" is a one story wooden building, made
somewhat roughly inside and out, over ioo feet long, and 50 wide.... So far
as comfort is concerned, no one suffers; and the Texians have no idea of LAV-
ISHING money upon things to look at, just yet.'
Not only did Texas have no desire to "lavish" money on a Capitol in
1846, but by the end of the Mexican War two years later the state had a
5Map of "City of Austin and Vicinity," by W. H Sandusky, draughtsman, 1839; Ernest
William Winkler, "The Seat of Government of Texas," Quarterly of the Texas State Hzstorcal Asso-
catzon, X (Jan., 1907), 185-245 See especially, "Report of the Commissioners Named to Select
a Permanent Capital for the Repubhlic of Texas, City of Houston, April 13th A.D. 1839," Seat of
Government Papers (Archives Division, Texas State Library, Austin), in Winkler, "Seat of Gov-
6"Plan of the City of Austin," drawn by L. I. Pilic (1st and 2nd quotations) (New Orleans:
Greene, Lithographer to the Republic of Texas, 1839).
70. M. Roberts, "The Capitals of Texas," Quarterly of the Texas State Hstorncal Assoczatzon, II
(Oct., 1898), 119-12o; Alex. W. Terrell, "The City of Austin from 1839 to 1865," ibid., XIV
(Oct., g191io), 116-119.
SHerald (Newburyport, Mass.), Oct. 29, 1846.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 92, July 1988 - April, 1989, periodical, 1989; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101212/m1/286/: accessed December 13, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.