Presented to the City of Austin “for the enjoyment of all the people of Austin,” the gazebo at Lady Bird Lake represents a four and half year commitment by the Austin Chapter of Women in Construction. The project, begun in 1967 and dedicated in 1970, was intended to serve as a “lasting tribute to the construction industry” and to spawn other beautification projects along Lady Bird Lake. Built for $6,000 with a lot of contributed labor and materials, it is sometimes compared to a spaceship. The structure was designed by Sterry Nill, Jr., to match the architecture of the nearby Municipal Auditorium and to blend with the beauty of Lady Bird Lake.
The gazebo has been renovated many times (most notably in 1985) at cost that is a whole lot more than $6,000. A bit of trivia, the gazebo is one of the few structures named after a living person when in 1985 it was named after a charter member of NAWIC–Ms. Fannie Davis (who passed away in 1997).
Town Lake Gazebo
This Gazebo is located just east of the dog park near Riverside and the South First Street bridge as it crosses the Colorado River.
One of the buildings that has defined the Austin skyline, the University of Texas main building (the Tower) is turning 77 this year. The 307-foot tall UT Austin Tower, designed by Paul Cret of Philadelphia, was completed in 1937. The tower replaced the beloved old Victorian Gothic Main Building. The old main building was razed in 1934 despite the objections of many students and staff. All that remains of the Old Main Building are its old carillon bells (called the “Burleson Bells”, which are now exhibited outside Bass Concert Hall.
While the tower usually appears illuminated in white light in the evening, it is lit in various color schemes for special occasions–warm orange light to announce honors and victories, and crowned in fireworks at spring commencement ceremonies.
Carl J. Eckhardt Jr, head of the Physical Plant in 1931, supervised construction of the building of the campus landmark. Eckhardt devised the tower lighting system to take advantage of the iconic building to announce university achievements. Eckhardt’s orange lights first flooded the tower in 1937. In 1947, he helped create guidelines for using the orange lights.
A number “1” on all sides highlighted by orange lights signals that the university won a national championship. The full Tower glowing orange alone represents a victory over Texas A&M University, Commencement and other occasions the president deems appropriate. The Tower top bathed in orange symbolizes other victories or a conference title in any intercollegiate sport.
The sounds of the tower carillon are part of the UT community’s everyday experience. Every 15 minutes, you can hear the pealing of the bells, and on the hour, you hear the largest bell across campus.
A carillon is a set of at least 23 fixed, chromatically tuned bells sounded by clappers controlled by a keyboard and foot pedals. The design of the new Main Building’s belfry allowed for thirty-nine bells, but in 1937 the university could only afford to buy 16; Lutcher Stark, a member of the Board of Regents, donated the 17th bell. However, UT still did not have a full carillon, which posed a problem for carillonneurs. Not having all the notes available limited the number of songs the carillonneurs were able to play.
In 1985, Ms. Hedwig Thusnelda Kniker bequeathed money to buy 22 more bells for the carillon as well as the console and installation. However, the C# and B bells would not fit in the elevators. As a result, The University decided to put additional bells in the upper register, acquiring 39 instead of 22. The Kniker Carillon is 56 bells, making it the largest in Texasboth in terms of tonnage and weight.
The University of Texas Guild of Carillonneurs is the student organization responsible for ringing the bells in the Main Building Tower. Did you know you can request a song to be played on the Kniker Carillon by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
45 minute tours of the Tower are available for a cost of $6 but it is best to book ahead. Reserve a ticket by either stopping by the Texas Union Hospitality Center at 24th and Guadalupe, or by calling (512) 475-6636. Group tours are available for groups up to 25 people. Make sure your check on restrictions (e.g. no bags, no pocket knives, etc.)
Mt. Bonnell Park, site of a Texas Historical Marker, (3800 Mount Bonnell Road) offers one of the best lookout points publicly accessible in Austin, 775′ above the eastern bank of the Colorado river (known as Lake Austin). The park is 1 mile past W. 35th street on the top of Mt. Bonnell Road (also accessible by 2222). There is usually ample parking at the base, but be careful about leaving valuables in the car–the parking lot does have a reputation for car break-ins.
The summit of Mt. Bonnell is 190′ about the parking lot–102 steps will take you most of the way to the top. The stairs are paved and have a nice handrail; it is an easy climb. If you don’t like steps, you can also get to the top by using a gravel pathway.
From the top you can see the city to your back (ok if you’re short you might have to hop up on the picnic table), Tom Miller Dam (near Hula Hut) on the left, and 360 bridge on the right. The park has 5 picnic tables so if you get there early you can have a nice picnic as the sun sets or just enjoy the breeze.
Dry Creek Saloon, one of Austin’s legendary bars, is close by on Mount Bonnell Road. Mayfield Park (with peacocks) and Laguna Gloria are on 35th street.
Mount Bonnell – Rising 775 feet above sea level, this limestone height was named for George W. Bonnell, who came to Texas with others to fight for Texas independence, 1836. Was commissioner of Indian Affairs in Republic of Texas under president Sam Houston. Moved in 1839 to Austin; there published the “Texas Sentinel”, 1840. Member Texan-Santa Fe expedition, 1841. Was captured but released in time to join Mier expedition, 1842. Was killed in camp on Rio Grande, Dec, 26, 1842. Frontiersman W.A.A. “Bigfoot” Wallace killed an indian he met face to face while crossing a narrow ledge 50 feet above river, 1839. He also took refuge in a Mount Bonnell cave to recover from “flux”, but was missing so long his sweetheart eloped. In the mid-1800s Mormons built a mill on the Colorado river at foot of Mount Bonnell. Mill was destroyed by flood and the Mormons moved on west. Mount Bonnell was site of picnics and outings in 1850s and 1860s. As it is today. Legend has it that an excursion to the place in the1850s inspired the popular song “Wait for the Wagon and We’ll All Take a Ride”. As a stunt in 1898, Miss Hazel Keyes slid down a cable stretched from the top of Mount Bonnell to south bank of then Lake
Krause Springs, in Spicewood Texas, is one of Texas’ most beautiful swimming holes. It is located about 30 miles west of Austin. Krause Springs has many natural sites to explore. There are 32 springs
on the property, and several feed the manmade pool and the natural pool
which flows into Lake Travis.
One of my favorite buildings in Austin is the Seaholm Power Plant on Cesar Chavez. This Art Deco building was built in 1950 and is now slated for redevelopment. Plans call for the building to contain 80,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and office space. It will also contain meeting or conference space and event space and a possible culture entertainment component. I would bet that the price of the condos looking down on Town Lake will be well above my budget.
I went to visit my friends at Anthony Barnum PR for a very productive discussion on social media today. They’re in the beautiful Frost Bank tower. Maybe all the intellectual horsepower in that room sucked my brain dry but getting in and out of the Frost Bank parking garage is tough. I couldn’t find a consistent way to go up floors, it seems like every floor offers a new and unique puzzle on how to get to the next floor. There are half floors I never did quite figure out to get to…and managed to wind all the way down to the bottom only to find out that wasn’t the visitor’s exit. Damn! Gotta turn around in a tight space and go up and up and up…to find the visitor’s exit. Did the people who designed this parking garage get fired from their jobs designing carnival mazes?
Our friends John and Allison kept having dinners where they served the most wonderful vegetables and fruits from Boggy Creek Farm. Although it is a bit of a drive for us (from far west Austin) we decided to check it out last weekend. The urban farm is tucked away on Lyons road surrounded by houses, schools, and stores. As we drove down the long driveway we could see huge fig trees and salad greens being grown. The folks at Boggy Creek also grow some of their produce (tomatoes, potatoes, squash,) at a rural farm in Milam county.
The heavy rains in Central Texas have made this year’s crops a bit sparse. Larry’s Smoke Dried Tomatoes aren’t available mail order and weren’t even available at the market. Nevertheless, we found some long string beans, fresh okra, and japanese eggplant. I wasn’t quite brave enough to try the goat milk ice cream but we did buy some fresh goat cheese.
Boggy Creek Farm is open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. It is located about a mile and a half east of downtown off East 7th Street, close to Pleasant Valley Road.
Natural Bridge Caverns, the largest known cavern in Texas, was discovered on March 27, 1960, by four spelunkers who were students at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. The name was derived from the sixty-foot natural limestone slab bridge that spanned the amphitheater setting of the cavern’s entrance. If you have never been in a cave before the formations can make you feel like you’ve stepped into a dreamworld. Their size and the lack of light make it a bit hard to get a good picture–count on buying some postcards.
You can walk through the cavern on a number of guided tours. The cavern stays at a year round 70 degrees–although the humidity will make it feel a bit warmer especially towards the end. Wear comfortable shoes with good non-slip soles. The trail can be a bit steep and is frequently wet. Because of time constraints we decided on the quick one and a half hour North Cavern Tour. Tours as long as four hours are available.
Natural Bridge Caverns is a quick trip from Austin. The cavern is located off Farm Road 1863 in the hill country of Comal County midway between New Braunfels and San Antonio