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The Presbyterian Church has had a presence in the area since 1839, two and a half months prior to the chartership of Austin. Years later, divisions within the church over the issue of the Civil War caused the church to split. It was from this schism that the pro-northern Central Presbyterian Church was formed, though it was then called Southern Presbyterian Church. The title of the church has changed numerous times over the years, but they have been at their present downtown location since 1871. It was finally named the Central Presbyterian Church in 1983, when all conflicts were resolved.
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.
The historic St. David's Episcopal Church was built in 1854. Located in Downtown Austin, the beautiful Gothic structure is one of the oldest buildings in the city and therefore, a part of the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). St. David's Episcopal Church is considered one of the most important places of worship in the city and is often sought for events such as baptisms and weddings.
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.
Less than a century ago this bridge served as the gateway to Austin. Originally this was a wooden pedestrian bridge, on which travelers used to pay a toll of a nickel to cross the Colorado River — and an extra nickel for their horse! In 1902, the bridge was washed away in a flood and replaced with a new bridge designed to handle automobile traffic. Since that time, the bridge has maintained its status as a substantial through way for the people of Austin. One of the most amazing sights in Austin takes place every dusk from March to early November, when 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from their roosts under the bridge.
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.
In 1994, Austin decided to erect a statue honoring the late musician, Stevie Ray Vaughan and denizens overwhelmingly chose Auditorium Shores as the perfect spot. Vaughn's lyrical and guitar work has charmed many ears and hearts in this music-oriented city and beyond. More than ten years after his death, a steady progression of locals and visitors still leave mementos to this great performer. Stop by and pay your respects to a beloved Austin music legend.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, an old Hispanic parish in Austin, was originally located on Fifth and Guadalupe. Built in 1907, the church was forced to move to its present location in east Austin in the 1920s due to a city-enforced master plan of cultural segregation. This second church was not large enough to accommodate the growing members, and the current church was set up in the 1950s. This congregation is especially known for its widespread celebration of the Feast of Guadalupe on December 12th, the patron saint not only of their church but for Latinos everywhere.
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.
All Saints' Episcopal Church was built by Bishop George Herbert Kinsolving, who is buried in a crypt underneath the altar. Originally established as a chapel, this church served the members of Grace Hall, then a women's dormitory for the University of Texas. The chapel was given the designation of a church in 1909. Despite its close proximity to the UT campus, All Saints' attracts a varied congregation of singles and families alike, some driving from as far away as Buda to enjoy the warm atmosphere.
A reservoir of the undulating Colorado River, Lady Bird Lake lies nestled in startling contrast with the cosmopolitan buildings that fringe it. Originally known as 'Town Lake', this reservoir was created in 1960, with the construction of the Longhorn Dam. For a decade, this lake was left in a derelict state, until it was transformed into a beautiful recreation zone in the 1970s. In 2007, the lake was given the name Lady Bird Lake, honoring the memory of the former First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson. Its glassy waters a wonderland for recreation, the lake is skirted by lush, emerald droves, winding trails, the sprawling Zilker Park and the rejuvenating Barton Springs. The lake enables an array of exhilarating activities like kayaking, canoeing, rowing, paddleboarding and recreational fishing. Lady Bird Lake has been host to a string of sporting events, while its bank is popular for musical performances.
Austin's Pennybacker Bridge, which carries the Capital of Texas Highway across the Colorado River, is considered to be part of one of the most scenic urban drives in the state. Named for its designer, Percy Pennybacker, the bridge opened to traffic in 1982. The bridge, which cost USD10 million to build and complete, is also known as the "360 Bridge" and is crossed by roughly 48,000 vehicles daily.