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A famous slogan states that everything is bigger in Texas, and if one views its capitol building, the age-old phrase rings true. Standing a stately 309 feet (94 meters) and modeled after the United States Capitol in Washington D.C., the Texas State Capitol owns the distinction of being the nation's tallest capitol building. Designed by architect Elijah E. Myers and constructed using lustrous red granite, the capitol took more than seven years to complete. It was finished in the year 1888 at a total cost of more than three million dollars, an extravagant price even by today's standards. The perfectly landscaped grounds reflect the languid pace of life under the central Texan sun, inviting passers-by for a quiet stroll or a lazy day under a tree.
This 22-acre (8.9-hectare) cemetery is the final resting place of some of Austin's most famous military and public figures, including Stephen F. Austin, Barbara Jordan and nearly 2200 veterans of the Confederate Army. It was restored in 1997 with a visitor center addition and is a very tranquil place to be. Visitors may call ahead to arrange for guided tours, or take a private tour with help from the Visitor Center's information packets. Admission is free.
Saint Mary Cathedral, designed by noted Texan architect Nicholas J. Clayton, is one of oldest Catholic churches in Austin. Its construction was completed in 1884, but exquisite French and German stained glass windows were added in much later. A beautiful piece of Gothic Revival architecture, this small cathedral now seems almost dwarfed by the high-rise buildings downtown. Apart from regular Sunday services, weekly masses are also conducted; check website for further information.
Standing 27 stories high, the University of Texas Tower (the main administrative building) is a fixture in the Austin skyline. It has been used by the school since 1882 and features stunning Victorian-Gothic architecture. Standing very close to the height of the Capitol, the observation deck provides a beautiful view of the city. A testament to school spirit, the tower shines in burnt orange, and the bells peal to hail the University sports teams' victories. This stunning architectural beauty is a must-see when visiting the campus. History and crime buffs should also take this tour, as it is the site of the notorious actions perpetrated by Charles Whitman on August 1, 1966.
Founded in 1883, The University of Texas at Austin is one of Texas' largest educational institutions. The original campus covered only 40 acres (16.18 hectares), but today the university has expanded to much more. The University of Texas at Austin has earned numerous honors for both academics and athletics and offers a wide range of fields to study. Undergraduate and graduate programs are offered from areas including Business, Education, Communication, Natural Sciences, Pharmacy, Engineering, Architecture, and Law. The Norman Hackerman Building, the Harlan J.Smith Telescope, the Battle Hall, the Lyndon B Johnson Presidential Library and the UT Architecture Library are just a few of the university's most notable buildings. Famous alumni of the university include Oscar winner Mathew McConaughey, former first lady Laura Bush and seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens.
The former home and studio of German sculptress Elisabet Ney is open to the public for exploration. This home was one of the first buildings erected in the Hyde Park neighborhood, which was developed as a suburb in 1892 by Monroe Martin Shippe. Visitors flock to this museum to view nearly 50 busts and statues of Texas heroes, as well as Europeans she sculpted as a young artist. Her tools and several personal items are also on display. Admission is free.
Ever wondered what life was like on a 17th-century farm? Jourdan-Bachman Pioneer Farms is where you can relive all of those days gone by at the carefully simulated theme areas. Whether it is an 1860s German Immigrant Farm, an 1880s Cotton Planter Farm, or an 1870s Texan Farm, all of these can be revisited thanks to the brilliant reconstruction of the architects. Check their website for more information on free admission days, site tours, exhibitions, historical reenactments and special days. The farms are partly wheelchair accessible.
Short story writer William Sydney Porter, whose pen name was O. Henry, lived in this home for three years while he spent time in Austin. It was constructed in 1891 and is filled with rare books, O. Henry's writing desk, original furniture, photographs, personal belongings and the chairs that brought The Gift of the Magi to life. Enjoy a guided tour and learn about the history of this home and its famous occupant. The house has been moved twice since from its original location at 308 East Fourth Street. It now features a gift shop with books, videotapes and more. The museum offers writing clubs for Austin children and sponsors many local events such as the Victorian Christmas celebration and the "O. Henry Pun-Off." Admission is free, but donations are welcome.
As the first neighborhood museum in the state dedicated to African American history and culture, this 1926 structure houses various forms of art. The center was once Austin's main library and received a Texas State Historical Marker in 1976. The museum is named in honor of Dr. George Washington Carver, former slave who went on to become a renowned botanist and inventor. The museum exhibits a fantastic collection, as well changing exhibits of black history and culture in Austin and Travis County.
The Governor's Mansion is one of the most significant landmarks in Austin. It was built in the mid 19th Century, giving it a historical status. The mansion is accentuated with elegant furnishings such as Sam Houston's bed, antiques, famous paintings and more. The Governor's Mansion was built using bricks and wood, thus giving a timeless touch to it. There are regular guided tours conducted here, although reservations are a must.