2013: The Year A Giant Wrecking Ball Ate Austin

Endangered Species of Austin, poster by Jann Alexander © 2009
Endangered Species of Austin poster, $25

It’s time for end-of-year portfolio assessments. The giant wrecking ball that’s tormented Austin for the last five years or so has yielded some major long-term losses, like Las Manitas, The Tiniest Bar in Texas, Little City, the Joseph’s mural, the Bitter End Bar, Fran’s Hamburgers, Capitol Saddlery, The Frisco Night Hawk, the Mean-Eyed Cat, Jaime’s Spanish Village, Katz’s Deli, Lucy’s Boatyard, Antone’s (for the sixth? seventh? time), Starlite Lounge, the original Alamo Drafthouse. (About half of Austin’s endangered species shown above are now extinct.)

A Hole in the Heart of Texas by Jann Alexander © 2012
A Hole in the Heart of Texas © 2012

But short-term losses really increased in 2013. The wrecking ball’s pace got more fevered in 2013, with the loss of:

  • South Lamar Plaza (and all the small businesses that went down with it)
  • the SoCo Food Trailer Court
  • Artz Rib House
  • Freewheeling Bicycles
  • Club de Ville
  • RunTex
  • Poodle Dog Lounge

To be sure, many of Austin’s lost landmarks just didn’t thrive in our city’s new business climate, and the giant wrecking ball wasn’t always to blame for closures. Bad business decisions and debts contributed to many once cherished and now closed spots. But our changing demographic and our changing attitudes towards upscale development have been the dominant theme in Austin for some time.

Vanishing Austin Lonely Bus by Jann Alexander ©2014
Gone Missing: One Lonely Bus by Jann Alexander ©2014

Our losses include those that have gone missing: A beaten-down old bus that had long been the unofficial mascot for Austin’s beloved Broken Spoke went missing this year. You can’t blame its disappearance on a wrecking ball, though. The manager of the Texas Top Hands finally came to reclaim its 1948 Flxible Clipper tour bus, busted windows and all.

Too Late to Look for the Spear by Jann Alexander © 2013
Missing in Action: Too Late to Look for the Spear by Jann Alexander © 2013

Another Austin icon that’s permanently MIA: The Joseph’s and Wrigley’s murals along the south-facing side of Congress Avenue’s historic building are officially still there. But they’re really missing in action, because Marriott left a small gap between its massive new north wall and the humble historic building that once housed an Austin haberdasher and advertised its wares, mural-style. Downtown rats now have the best chance of seeing the former Joseph’s Mens Store mural.

And then there’s the case of gone, but not forgotten: Blue sky and a dusty gravel parking lot once surrounded the Broken Spoke. Still, victory rises higher than the new towers that now crowd The Spoke, Austin’s legendary dance hall celebrates its 50th New Year’s Eve party tonight, regardless.

The big question is, of course, for whom will Austin’s short-term losses become long-term gains? 

BUY PRINTS: Choose from 99+ Vanishing Austin prints and a poster by Jann Alexander, starting at $25.

Endangered Species of Austin, poster by Jann Alexander © 2009
Endangered Species of Austin poster

Shop my Vanishing Austin series: While many Austin landmarks are lost, many are survivors still. Admire them all in a slideshow, HERE. Prints start at $35.

You can marvel at what’s lost and what’s survived in my Endangered Species of Austin poster, featuring 16 Austin icons, and sized at a handsomely large 24 x 36,” available for $25, HERE.

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