You Say You Want an Evolution?

Austin, Texas, Congress Avenue, 2004Where once was the Avenue Cafe, there came Las Manitas. Owned by two sisters, it was revered for migas, conversation and community. Then came change: the Frost Bank tower loomed, corporate America set its sights on downtown Austin, and a treasured landmark was overtaken. By 2011, the wrecking ball had struck. In 2014, the final insult came: A new Marriott Hotel had overtaken half the block and some beloved Austin landmarks.

In 2004, an historic building (far left) next door to Las Manitas (center) on Congress Avenue (long billed by the city’s promoters as “Austin’s Main Street”) faced competition from newer, taller buildings in downtown Austin. But it survived to make for a vivid contrast with the more modern architecture of the newer Frost Bank building, seen against Austin’s continually blue skies.

The old mural for Joseph’s menswear (far right) is still preserved on the side of a Congress Avenue building in the same block, but in contrast, its destiny remains dark: The new Marriott Hotel’s northern flank is smacked right up against it, a dark narrow alley between them.

The Pattern of Change by Jann Alexander © 2013
The Pattern of Change: Up Goes the New Marriott  by Jann Alexander © 2013

The evolution of Austin has been swift. In 2004, the newly-erected Frost Bank tower was Austin’s tallest building, and the subject of some ridicule (and even occasional grumbling about its height). Ten years later, the Frost Bank tower is an endangered species—in danger of vanishing from view,  as the newer high-rises entomb it. 

You say you want an evolution? Or was that a revolution?

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

About 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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