Heritage, Volume 8, Number 2, Spring 1990 Page: 11
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neighborhood at this time may have
influenced his decision. An 1887 bird'seye
view map of Austin, also by Augustus
Koch, shows the enormous growth of the
project area during this period. At least
twenty-five dwellings now stood on the
five blocks of the Convention Center area.
This abrupt increase in dwelling density
was matched by a growing change in the
houses and their occupants as well.
While most of the homes found on the
1873 map were relatively large and owneroccupied,
a number of more modest dwellings,
including the first rental houses, were
present by 1887. Some of the land owners
had begun to divide up their properties and
in some cases, more than one house was
built on a single lot.
John and Minne
Dowell, who owned
two lots on East 2nd
Street at Red River,
continued to live
on one but divided
the other, building
three small rental
Only one new
dwelling shown on
the 1887 map was
present in the
area at the time
of the initial survey.
This small board
and batten home
was an example of This fine old stone
the new trend in original location. I
housing for workers
and lower income families. In addition to
this structure, which had been heavily
modified and was in a deteriorated condition,
archaeological remains have been
uncovered from several structures dating
to this period, including the relatively
well-preserved brick pier foundations of
several of the rental houses built by the
A fragmentary fire insurance map of
the area from 1894 shows the construction
of the first known store in the neighborhood.
The introduction of this small store,
located on the corner of East 3rd and Red
River Streets, was the beginning of a trend
towards the construction of commercial
establishments in the neighborhood which
was to continue through the twentieth
century up to the present day.
Little change has been noted in the area
between 1894 and 1900 when the first
complete fire insurance maps of the
Convention Center area were compiled.
Structure density had increased from 1887
with thirty-six dwellings present in 1900,
although a few of the older structures were
gone. Most of the newer structures were
modest residential dwellings. At least two
of the five nineteenth century structures
still standing in the Convention Center
area at the beginning of the architectural
survey date to the period between 1894 and
1900. One of these structures, an excellent
example of a Queen Anne style residence
of the period, was recommended for preservation
and has been moved to a vacant lot
in Hyde Park.
Remains of several structures from this
e home with Greek Revival facade is being moved to a park
Behind the house is a separate one-room stone kitchen.
period have been discovered. One of the
more interesting features was a privy pit,
located behind a house on East 1st between
Trinity and Neches Streets, which has
been dated to the early part of the twentieth
century. Because privy pits are dug beneath
the surface they are one of the most
frequent archaeological features found in
urban areas. This is certainly the case in the
Convention Center area where more than
a half dozen privy pits have been recorded.
The artifacts recovered from privies, which
served a secondary function as trash disposal
pits, are an important source of social
information. In addition to serving as generalized
trash dumps, they may collect a larger
than expected sample of unusual items
or items to be discarded away from prying
eyes. Many of the bottles recovered from
the twentieth-century privy pit described
above were liquor or poison bottles.
The twentieth century privy pit found
in the area is interesting because of its late
date. Unlike other privies which appear to
have been abandoned around the turn of
the century, this privy was dug after 1900.
Thus although wastewater services had
been available to parts of downtown since
the 1880s, not everyone in this area was
taking advantage of such modern conveniences.
An early twentieth century survey
for the City of Austin confirms this,
estimating that less than seventy-five percent
of the houses within the reach of the
sewer system were connected to it. This
number may have been even less in the
area along Waller Creek where the author
of the study found 122 privies within six
feet of the creek
19th Street and
the Colorado River
in 1913.In the
early 1930s Waller
Creek was rechanneled
and 3rd Streets,
wiping out a number
that had stood in
that area. Fire insurance
1935 show some
in structures but
_ -. ~ :, an even more draone
block from its matic change in
land use patterns.
A number of commercial
establishments were present and
several of the older structures had been
converted to rooming houses.
Ultimately the goal of historic
archaeology, like any social science, is a
better understanding of human beings and
their culture. From the remnants of the
fine ceramics and fancy glass lamps of the
earliest inhabitants to the wine bottles of
the transients who have become the area's
main inhabitants in the last few years, each
cultural group and each era has left its characteristic
archaeological signature. While
historical archaeology cannot reconstruct
the grand events or the great lives of the
past, it can fill in a wealth of details that
would have been lost forever.
David Brown is senior archaeologist for Sandra
Hicks and Company and principal investigator for
the Austin Convention Center Project.
HERITAGE * SPRING 1990 11
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 8, Number 2, Spring 1990, periodical, Spring 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45428/m1/11/: accessed March 30, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.