OBP: Revisiting the New (Old) East Austin
Barring field trips to the Capitol building and downtown Austin's LBJ Library and Museum in school, there wasn't much of a connection to the city north of Town Lake - now Lady Bird Lake I hear - when we were coming up. Now, as a recently re-minted digital nomad with bi-coastal bases in Los Angeles and Austin, I am making the acquaintance of the Austin I never really knew.
Much like the half-grown children of field trip classmates, it all looks somewhat familiar but I still find myself pleasantly, and frequently (thank you GPS), lost with a venegence after an almost 3 decade removal. Artisanal cafes, trendy pubs, and modern condos have sprouted up in neighborhoods of established families, houses of worship, mom and pop marts, and historical sites that previously epitomized the area.
The George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center's roots in East Austin date back to the early 20th century. As a repository for information on Black settlers' history and contributions in the region, their main collection centers on Juneteenth (6/19/1865) - the date that enslaved Texans finally learned of their emancipation. An added bonus is the interpretive walk that culmanates in the commemorative sculpture garden between the parking lot and museum entrance. Standing on the small round viewing platform, I could imagine how Black men, women, and children might have experienced the day they heard that their humanity and natural freeborn state was codified by the Emancipation Proclamation.
Nestled less than one mile away, the French Legation Museum is well-maintained compact and more a garden retreat than extensive collection as the 'museum' moniker suggests. Even though the initial Franco-Texan partnership was limited to the state's 9 years as a republic and the property changed hands more than once once the French decamped, the South remembers in the hands of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas - the museum and grounds' caretakers. Subtle reminders abound with the hedge maze style, pétanque court, and Tricolore raised opposite the state flag. Even at a leisurely self-guided pace, I covered everything in about 45 minutes.
Post-legation additions incude this longhorn sculpture and two others to the right of the main house's front porch. 50s era hedge rows added.
Detached kitchen with cistern. Gift store in background right. Donated sculptures vary in size, style, and period. Legation main house. Daily docent led tours once per hour.
While I'm confident that there's still enough of the 'old' Austin to go around - especially considering the dedication of the multiple local and state level historical societies - Austin continues to grow outwards and upwards (if the skyline is any indicator). As an infrequent guest, I'm still charmed by the hybrid nature of the college town cum governmental and tech hub that it's been since the 70s. Just "Keep Austin Weird" as they say and we'll all keep coming back.
Keywords: Adrienne Isom, African-American, Austin, Black, Central, Eddie Dixon, France, French Legation, General Granger, Juneteenth, Republic of Texas, Texas, Texas, Texas history, architecture, cistern, cultural center, diplomacy, french flag, hedge rows, historical, inset map, landscape design, museum, off the beaten path, petanque court, self-guided tour, tourism, travel, travel blog, travel photography, tricolor, walk
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