About

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    Image by Michael Knox

The Story

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, Hemphill (now First Baptist Church), Bell (now Wooldridge), and Hamilton (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.

The History

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https://tslarc.tsl.texas.gov/maps/map00926d.jpg

Austin's Birthplace

Austin's Birthplace

In May 1839 Judge Edwin Waller laid out a plan for the new capital city. The "Waller Plan" encompassed a square mile, 14 city blocks by 14 city blocks, between Waller Creek on the east and Shoal Creek on the west. Waller’s original design of Austin consisted of a grid with a central square (Capitol Square) and four smaller, secondary “public squares.” The first 306 lots of the city of Austin were sold at auction in 1839 under the Auction Oaks. In 1888, the squares were named Brush, Hamilton (now Republic), Bell (now Wooldridge), and Hemphill (no longer a public square).

1976: The Bicentennial

1976: The Bicentennial

As part of the U.S. Bicentennial celebration in 1976, Austin sought to return the square to its original purpose. The city chose the current name, Republic Square, as a tribute to the Republic of Texas. In 2017, the Downtown Austin Alliance, Austin Parks Foundation, and Austin Parks and Recreation Department partnered to complete a major renovation of the square. The civic space that you experience today is a reflection of the spirit and intent of Waller's original inspiration.
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Image by Unknown

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Douglass, Neal. [Walker's Austex Chili Company], photograph, 1948; (accessed March 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Austin History Center, Austin Public Library.

Roots of TexMex Cuisine

Roots of TexMex Cuisine

Mexican culture is the soul of Republic Square and a critical component of that culture is food. Austin's Mexican food began in the kitchens of Mexicans and Tejanos who lived around the square. Families in the neighborhood made tamales and Mexican candies to sell along Congress Avenue. These kitchens were the beginnings of the industry that helped shape the Mexican cuisine that still thrives in Austin. In the early years, vendors would sell tamales and candies in the square. Walker’s Austex Chile Company, located near the square, employed many people from the local neighborhoods. The food tradition continues today with the Sustainable Food Center’s Downtown Farmers’ Market, held each Saturday morning at the square.

Guadalupe Park

Guadalupe Park

Austin's original Mexican and Tejano community once enveloped Republic Square. This neighborhood known as "Mexico" stretched from Congress Avenue to Shoal Creek and from West 1st Street to West 7th Street. By 1905, the neighborhood around Republic Square largely identified with Austin’s Mexican population. Three churches were established near the square, including Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. Locals at that time would call it “Guadalupe Park.” The square often hosted concerts and dances, church fundraisers, and the annual celebration of Mexico’s independence, Diez y Seis de Septiembre.
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Image # AR.2009.047(012). Jesse Herrera Photography Collection