Did you know that Texas’ most famous Mission, the Mission San Antonio de Valero–the Alamo–is only one of a chain of missions strung along the San Antonio River? There are four other San Antonio River missions–Concepción, San José, San Juan, and Espada (going from North to South. Established between 1718 and 1731, these missions were built only to spread the Catholic faith, and also to serve multiple foreign policy objectives for the Spanish government. Today, all four mission churches still have active Catholic parishes that hold regular services.
Mission San Jose
The missions and surrounding land, make up San Antonio Missions National Historical Park which opened in 1983. The park’s visitor’s Center is in Mission San José (6701 San Jose Dr., San Antonio, TX 78214), where you can view a quick movie, Gente de Razon, which tells the story of life in the missions during the 1700s. If you love architecture, history, and nature the Mission Trail is well worth a visit. You can walk, bike or use your car to go up the trail. Count on spending between two to four hours to visit all the missions. Admission and guided tours are free but donations are welcome. Continue reading →
The Capitol Complex is in the heart of downtown Austin and one of the most visited attractions in the state. The Capitol building dominates the Austin skyline and is visible for miles, especially approaching from the south. Free tours, which last about 45 minutes, begin in the South Foyer every 45 minutes and are available seven days a week, excluding major holidays.
Texas Capitol Facts
The Capitol :
Was built in 1886 in the Italian Renaissance Revival style with pink granite mined about 50 miles from the Capitol
Is the largest state Capitol in the U.S. in square footage. Standing at 308 ft tall the Texas State Capitol is 19 feet taller than the United States Captiol which is only 289 ft tall.
Is the fourth building to house the state government of Texas.
Is surrounded by 22 acres of grounds and monuments
Beautifully carved wooden doors are hinged with custom bronze hinges. The eight inch by eight inch hinges are inscribed with the words “Texas Capitol” and weigh over seven pounds each.
Texas Capitol Visitor’s Center
As you enter the Capital grounds, the Visitor’s Center is the large castle-like building to the right. The Visitor’s Center is located in the restored General Land Office Building. Built in 1856-57, it is the oldest state office building in Texas. The building opened in 1994 as the Capitol Visitors Center with the goal of educating visitors about the history of Texas. There are several exhibits, as well as travel counselors from the State Department of Transportation to help you plan the rest of your visit.
Austin became the capital of Texas Jan. 19, 1840, and this hill was platted as Capitol Square. A modest statehouse built here in the 1850s soon developed structural flaws. The Constitutional Convention of 1876 set aside about 3,000,000 acres of public land to finance another building. This was authorized after the 1850s Capitol burned on Nov. 9, 1881.
Architect E.E. Myers of Detroit won a national competition with his plans for this Capitol. The contractor was Mattheas Schnell of Rock Island, Ill. Basement excavation began early in 1882. Railroads built especially for this project hauled limestone from the Oatmanville quarries in Travis County as well as stone donated by the owners of the Granite Mountain in Burnet County. The 900 workmen on the project included 86 granite cutters brought from Scotland. Charles B. and John V. Farwell, Chicago bankers, funded the construction and were repaid in land in ten panhandle counties, on which they founded the famous XIT Ranch. At dedication ceremonies on May 18, 1888, the Capitol was accepted on behalf of the People by State Senator Temple Houston, son of Texas hero Sam Houston. He called it “a Structure that shall stand as a Sentinel of Eternity”. (1976)
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