Texas Almanac, 1992-1993 Page: 48
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48 TEXAS ALMANAC 1992-1993
ing from Alamo Plaza to San Pedro Springs. The rail-
way later switched to electric power. By 1881, gaslights
were operating in many prosperous citizens' homes.
The first telephone exchange in the Alamo City began
operating in 1882 and soon had 200 subscribers. The first
electric street lights, also installed in 1882, sputtered
badly. Not until the first successful light plant was put
into operation in 1887 did they work well.
Ice plants were built in many towns across Central
Texas. In 1879, Austin had two plants; the resulting com-
petition led to a price war. Belton had a small ice plant
charging 10 cents a pound delivered.
In the years following the Civil War, Central Texas ex-
perienced growth in many directions: railroads, cotton
farming, continuing immigration from Europe and
Mexico, and the construction and development of ser-
vices, utilities and infrastructure in the larger towns.
This was but an introduction to the development that
was to follow.
The Century Ends
The last 20 years of the century were busy in Central
In Austin, the old capitol burned on Nov. 9, 1881. To
some it was not such a great loss. Not only had the gov-
ernment outgrown the old capitol, built in the early
1850s, but critics complained that it resembled a "large-
size corn crib with a pumpkin for a dome."
The Constitutional Convention of 1876 had reserved
3 million acres of public domain to pay for a new capi-
tol, plus 50,000 acres to cover the cost of surveying. Suc-
cessful bidder for construction of the new capitol, the
fourth in Austin, was Mattheas Schnell of Rock Island,
II. In May 1882, he transferred his interest to John V.
and Charles B. Farwell, Abner Taylor and Amos G. Bab-
cock of Taylor, Babcock & Co. of Chicago, also called
the Capitol Syndicate. The public lands exchanged for
the building of the capitol, located in all or parts of nine
Panhandle counties, were developed into the famed
Architect Elijah E. Myers of Detroit won a national
design competition with his Renaissance Revival-style
plan in the shape of a Greek cross 200 yards long and 100
yards across. The building originally was to be built of
limestone quarried by prison labor at Convict Hill near-
by. But the limestone was plagued by streaks caused by
naturally occurring iron pyrites. Owners of Granite
Mountain, 45 miles northwest near Marble Falls in Bur-
net County, could not afford to develop a quarry on
their own. They offered the state all the pink granite
needed for the capitol in exchange for development of a
quarry. The state also agreed to furnish convict labor to
cut the stone, to construct a narrow-gauge railway from
Burnet to the quarry, and to rebuild the wagon road be-
tween Burnet and Austin.
Because of the use of convict labor, the Internation-
al Association of Granite Cutters called for a boycott of
the project. The syndicate imported 62 Scottish stone-
workers, triggering a suit by the Knights of Labor
charging violation of the federal law against impor-
tation of contract labor.
Despite the boycot, more than 15,000 carloads of
stone were shipped from Granite Mountain to Burnet
on the narrow-gauge line and on to Austin on the Austin
and Northwestern railroad. The Capitol's beautifully
detailed interior used 114 cases of acid-etched glass
panels from Britain in doors and transoms and thou-
sands of square feet of carved wainscotting of Texas
ash, cedar, cherry, mahogany, oak, pine and walnut.
The dome was made in Belgium of cast iron; height to
its peak is 309 feet, seven feet higher than the capitol in
Washington, D.C. It is surmounted by the Goddess of
Liberty, a statue that some called "Old Hatchet Face"
because of the strong planes of her facial features. The
26-acre grounds are surrounded by a black wrought-
iron fence studded with stars.
The lights were turned on in the new capitol on April
20, 1888. The week-long dedication and celebration fea-
tured parades and military drill teams from all over the
state. The capitol officially opened on May 16, 1888, with
Sam Houston's youngest son, Temple Houston, as a spe-
During the 1880s, Austin's economy was boosted by
the construction of both the capitol and the University
of Texas. The long-delayed university opened in Austin
in Sept. 15, 1883, although classes were held in the tem-
porary capitol for several months until the west wing of
the main building was finished (see article, "The Uni-
versity of Texas and Texas A&M").
Tillotson Collegiate and Normal Institute, a senior
college for African-Americans, opened in Austin with
250 students in 1881. The school was named for George
Jeffrey Tillotson, who selected the site and raised
$16,000 for its construction. The institute's sponsor was
the American Missionary Association of the Congrega-
tional Church of New York. Tillotson merged in 1951
with Samuel Huston College to become Huston-Tillotson
William Sydney Porter, a native of North Carolina,
arrived in Austin in the spring of 1884. He worked as a
clerk and bookkeeper, then as a draftsman at the Gen-
eral Land Office. From 1891 to 1894, he was a teller in
the First National Bank, a job from which he resigned
to publish The Rolling Stone, a humorous weekly.
When the publication failed, he moved to Houston to
write for the Houston Post. When Austin bank officials
discovered a shortage of more than $4,000 that had
occurred while Porter was a teller, he was tried for
embezzlement and convicted. Although the charges
were technical, he refused to implicate bank officials.
While serving his five-year sentence in a federal peni-
tentiary in Ohio, he wrote many short stories, and he
continued to write after his release. Porter wrote more
than 400 short stories in all, many of them under the
pen name, "0. Henry." Forty of his stories had Texas
Recreation in Austin in mid-1880s included Ty-
rolean concerts at Scholz Garten, performances at Mild-
lett's Opera House, and moonlight boat rides on the
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This 1888 photo shows the statue of the Goddess of Liber-
ty just before it was hoisted to the top of the new state
capitol. Photo courtesy the Texas State Library.
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Kingston, Mike. Texas Almanac, 1992-1993, book, 1991; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth279642/m1/52/: accessed October 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.