Explore Austin’s History

Visitors to Austin sometimes forget that the Texas capital has a rich history. This is why history buffs will love visiting some of the city’s most famous landmarks. So hop in the car and explore Austin’s history by heading to these four destinations.

Texas State Capitol

Texas State Capitol Building - American Auto Brokers

Image via Flickr by StuSeeger

The Texas State Capitol, often described as one of the most recognizable state capitols in the nation, is located at 1100 Congress Ave. The building was designed by architect Elijah E. Myers and completed in 1888. The State Capitol, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986, contains the office of the governor and the chambers of the state legislature. Guided tours are free and available Monday through Sunday at select times. The tours last about 30 minutes and provide information on the building and the history of Texas. Special themed tours such as “Women in Texas History, ” “The Bravest of the Brave: Celebrating Texas Veterans Tour,” and “Rest in Peace” are offered at various times during the year.

French Legation Museum

The French Legation Museum is a historic building built in 1841 to host the French diplomatic representatives in the newly born Republic of Texas. Today, the historical complex, a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, has become a museum that offers tours and family-friendly events. Visitors can take part in 40-minute guided tours of the house ($5 admission fee) or enjoy the fresh air in the 2.5-acre French Legation Museum park. Every Thursday at 10 a.m., parents can bring their kids for a children’s storytime event. The museum is located at 802 San Marcos St. in Austin.

Texas Governor’s Mansion

Not far from the Capitol building sits the Texas Governor’s Mansion at 1010 Colorado St., the most historic building in the city of Austin. The designated National Historic Landmark was built in 1856 as the residence for the governor of Texas, which had recently gained independence from Mexico. In 2008, the building was set on fire. Fortunately, though, the mansion was under renovation at the time of the arson, and its furniture and contents had been temporarily moved. After four years of renovation, the Texas Governor’s Mansion finally reopened its doors. Today, free 30-minute guided tours are available every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday as well as on select Saturdays. Reservations must be made at least one week in advance. When touring, visitors have the opportunity to see a vast array of portraits and furniture, which includes Stephen F. Austin’s writing desk.

Oakwood Cemetery

Established in 1839 with the original name of City Cemetery, Oakwood Cemetery is the oldest cemetery in Austin and hosts more than 23,000 graves. The site was once built on a hill to be at an isolated location, but with the expansion of the city, Oakwood Cemetery now overlooks the center of Austin. It is located at 1601 Navasota St. Architect enthusiasts will be impressed by the memorials, mausoleums, and the chapel, whose architecture blends the influence of Greek and Roman times with the style of the 19th century. Among the graves, spread over 40 acres, you can spot names of local historical figures such as Barton, Dickinson, and Pease. An annex includes separate sections for people of Jewish, black, and Latino origins that were buried there when segregation was still quite prominent. The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. If you’re in the Austin area and want to learn more about the city’s history, you should check out these four historic landmarks that are guaranteed to please any visitor.