Image by Michael Knox
Edwin Waller’s original design of Austin consisted of a grid with a central square (Capitol Square) and four smaller, secondary “public squares.” In 1888, the squares were named Brush, Hamilton (now First Baptist Church), Bell (now Wooldridge), and Hemphill (now Republic).
Austin’s leaders saw little value in parks and public spaces, initially. Although the original city plan set aside public land, the city quickly found other ways to use these spaces for storage, garbage dumps, or other city services. Between 1950 and the early 1970s, Republic Square functioned as a parking lot.
Returning Republic Square to its original purpose began in 1976 as part of the U.S. Bicentennial celebration. Austin chose the current name, Republic Square, in tribute to the Republic of Texas.
Through a unique public-private partnership, the Downtown Austin Alliance, Austin Parks Foundation, and the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department have partnered to renovate the park and elevate its status once again as an important gathering place in the heart of downtown Austin.