Sunday, November 30, 2008

Stately Oak

This old tree is on the campus of St. Ed's. It's great to see trees preserved although I wonder if this one couldn't use a little more unpaved area around it.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Finished Spring?

With tall buildings rising all around, it is our fervent hope that the money for them will last long enough to top them out and glass them in. We know sales have been tough and contracts falling off, but projects like this one (Spring on Bowie and Fourth near Lamar) would look pretty unsightly unfinished. That much smaller one, the project idle on Lavaca (I showed you the crane here), is said to be starting up again after stalling. But we'll see. Times are tough. The last bust left us the Intel shell, a tiny eyesore compared to the potential of some of the current projects.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Home Security

I could take a hike from my downtown condo and be standing in front of this house where security is enforced by chain link and old-fashioned iron bars on the windows instead of computer-controlled fobs and concierges and security cams. You don't see many people putting bars on their windows these days (there is the small matter of getting out in an emergency). I saw something different on this visit (Sunday for E.A.S.T.) to the area in newer infills and rehabs, though. Reflective mirror windows. I'm guessing for heat transfer and privacy? Like a one-way mirror? It was daytime and they looked exactly like mirrors.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Not Christmas

It's Thanksgiving. You would have thought it was Christmas since Halloween except for the independent shops like this one on SoCo called Blackmail. They were just transforming their window on Tuesday when we walked down there to enjoy a nice cool, sunny afternoon. This is Christmas at its 'blackest.' Very elegant like all the clothing and accessories in this store.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

E.A.S.T. Artist

Every year artists in East Austin have the East Austin Studio Tour (E.A.S.T.). We went for a small stroll through a very small number of the venues Sunday. We will let the fabulous Jennifer Balkan represent the tour for the second year in a row. (See her with her work last year here.) This unfinished painting will have a collage or sewn surround, I think she said.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Old Main

St. Edward's University, a Catholic school perched on a hill off South Congress overlooking the Capital City has a main building with an architecture befitting a university back east. Built around the same time as the Capitol, the building has been through fires and tornadoes but has been rebuilt and remains the stately hub of this campus. If you turn around from where I stood to take this shot, you see the changing skyline of Austin but it was a dreary day with a little fog on the river and I don't have that great a camera so I didn't get a great picture.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cooking Thai

The way it works in Austin is you meet some people for dinner, bump into some other people and then end up getting invited to a Thai dinner on another night at someone's downtown abode. This is Sally Jackson and she and her sister have been stirring things up since returning to Texas to take care of their Mom. She was the lead cook. The food was stunning. The Jackson gals have a WEB site. They are funny and boy can they cook. Our other friends' uber-sized downtown apartment made a nice venue. The rest of us contributed wine or cocktails.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Skyscraper Heritage Again

I shot this yesterday from the Headliners Club on the 21st floor of the Chase building. When this building (The Norwood Tower on 7th between Colorado and Congress) was built in the twenties (it debuted in 1929) it was the tallest building in Austin. You saw it being dedicated as a Texas Historic Place here and you can get a closer look at the front here.

A couple of things to note about this photo. There is a new Perry's Steakhouse (a chain apparently) on the first floor below the parking structure. And part of the block across the street is vacant. During one boom time, that was going to be a very small footprint hotel. It never got built.

Hope I'm not boring everyone with skyline pictures. I'll do something different tomorrow. But we will continue to explore the skyline, both the historic and unchanging and the quickly evolving new stuff.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Skyscraper Heritage

On our way to the historic Driskill Hotel for the annual Heritage Society of Austin awards luncheon I decided to shoot the historic Littlefield building on the northeast corner of Sixth and Congress to show you. When it was built (1910) there was a rivalry with the Scarbrough building across the street for tallest Austin building. Therefore, Littlefield enclosed what was originally a pergola on the top of his eight-story building to make it the current nine stories. I found a postcard seller's blog who had actually sold a card showing the pergola. I also found online several assurances that, when it was completed, it was briefly the tallest building between New Orleans and San Francisco. This was the tallest building in Austin for 19 years until the Norwood tower was built.

Today, my condo building is the tallest building in Austin but in a few months it should be surpassed by the Austonian which will be over five times the height of the Littlefield building.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Sign Says It

This sign, on South First says it all in a word. I'm thinking the old house has been converted to a salon.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Music Capital?

I've shown you the center on South Lamar where Alamo Draft House and a bunch of local businesses abide. This is a collage of the signs for the three mostly guitar shops there.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Art, New Walk

I was delighted yesterday that, despite ongoing construction, the access to the South First pedestrian bridges is largely complete. When I walked to SoCo yesterday with a friend to eat lunch at Woodland we were able to cross the street and get right on the bridge. Hallelujah. They had these unusual arty metal fences with squares that were covered with cardboard. When we came back a guy was polishing the fences and the cardboard was off and the squares showed old photos reproduced on metal of the river flooding in the thirties and such. (This is a famous one of a house going over the spillway.) You can see the placid Lady Bird (formerly Town) Lake in the background. The river (Little Colorado or here just 'Colorado' not to be confused with the real one) is damned up multiple times from east Austin north. Longhorn Dam makes Lady Bird Lake.

FFP and I used the bridge again, late last night, and the pictures were covered with cardboard again. I don't know why. Maybe they are going to be officially 'unveiled?' Maybe they are still working on putting a finish on it all. As with anything, one wonders how long before the graffiti guys deface it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Iconic Hero

We call them subs or submarine sandwiches around here, usually. This local chain of shops, Thundercloud Subs, has been around for over three decades. While they have branched out "all the way to San Antone" they are still considered a local business in our hearts. This shot was taken on 12th near Lamar at the shop closest to our current home. This is one of several businesses that we like to joke has an employment requirement of tattoos, piercings and/or hair colors not found in nature. (The others include Whole Foods, Wheatsville Coop, the Alamo Theaters and some I've forgotten but will remember when I go there and marvel at the body decoration.) The sandwiches are really good here, by the way.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Our Neighborhood Train

When we were walking to Whole Foods today a train came along beside the construction for the Spring Condominiums. This is the same track show here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Guitars are Back

After last year's display and sell-off of giant artist-decorated guitars, giant guitars have started appearing again. This one is on the east side of Congress. I showed you another of the new breed the other day. I was considering showing you yet another reflection on the skyline (and yes maybe Frost Bank) from the strange dusk light and clouds of Friday. But I ended up putting those on my other blog.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Donn's Depot Downtown Doings

The last stop on our downtown adventure last night was Donn's Depot on West Fifth. It's one of those places we ought to go more often. Our plan was to walk to two art show openings. The first, at Austin Museum of Art kicked off at six. We visited with friends while viewing the the incredible photographs of SebastiĆ£o Salgado of workers (I think it's safe to call them laborers) from all over the world. These photos showed massive projects (ships, dams, mines) as well as intimate views of the people who make these things, often by hand. They also had a show of many artists' interpretations of 'chair' masterminded by Damian Priour. That gallery was a little crowded to take in. We may have to go over there again to see it.

The second art show didn't kick off until eight so we went to the bar at Ruth's Chris. Visited with a few friends who work there while having carpaccio, a crabtini and a little wine. Andy Roddick came in. I'm not a fan so I wasn't impressed, but in case you are a celebrity watcher, dear reader, there it is. Most importantly to the shape of our evening, one of our friends who owns part of the place scooted out before we went to our opening at Art House Jones Center and told us he was going to the thirtieth anniversary party at Donn's Depot. Whoa, we thought, we should go there.

The Art House show was fun and provocative and there were friends there to visit with. But after seeing the show and a couple of drinks we took off for Donn's. It's kind of far so we went to the Stephen F. Austin bellman stand and ask if they could find a cab. They did. After a raucous couple of hours of dancing and visiting with friends and other hangers on and listening to Donn and his band (that's him on the keyboard above) we decided it was time to walk home. But, for once, one of those pedicab drivers came along and offered up a ride. That was fun and we tipped him well. (They work for tips.) These guys are always around when I don't need them so I was thrilled to get to take a ride.
Yep, just a carless (well if you don't count the cab) downtown evening.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Going Up

From our place we can watch the Austonian rising. It's going to be more than 54 stories supposedly. Currently it's at 25. This shot is from Third Street with their 'going up' promotional sign visible. It is going to be retail and luxury condos. And, yes, one wonders how subscribed it's going to be in this downturn. The building is on Congress on the west side between Second and Third. We have chronicled the rise of this building before all the way back to 'hole in ground.'

Thursday, November 13, 2008


There are many ways to spell barbecue (barbeque, Bar-B-Q, and Bar-B-Que as here) but in Texas it means slow-cooked beef brisket (and maybe sausage, chicken or even turkey) with a tangy red sauce usually and some sides like Cole slaw and potato salad and ranch beans. The slow cooking in a pit makes it tender. Guess what this sign said before the letters fell off (speaking of spelling)?

House Park Bar-B-Q is near House Park (a football venue for local schools) on W. Twelfth St.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Nothing But Blue Skies

Actually, we had some clouds and a tiny bit of much-needed rain yesterday. But this picture was taken in October. Looking east on 17th from Guadalupe, we see an odd sign promoting a little cafe tucked on that off-the-beaten-path street and, beyond it, a crane in 17th Street which has been blocked east of Lavaca by construction of stalled condos/mixed use development for some time. We have just heard in the traditional media that the project has new investors. The project, if it gets finished, would be pitched to UT and lobbyist sorts since it's between UT and the Capitol Area.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Can You Say Colorful?

Most of the bright-colored paint in town must go to decorate Tex-Mex joints like this one on South Lamar. I haven't eaten there.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Changing Skyline

This is a view of the skyline from the Palmer Events Center reflecting pond. In a few months it will be different because some new buildings will rise into view. Our building isn't visible in this. It's a bit out of the picture to the left.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Parched Park

We haven't had much rain since I shot this last month so I suspect Wooldridge Park is still arid. The little park near the court house and jail dips down to a gazebo/band stand thing that looks of another era and is probably part of the century-old design of this park. The lawn around it is sure tinder-dry. We were walking to the court house to vote early when I took this. The park is used by a fair number of transients compared to some other parks. I don't know if the proximity of the public library, another favorite hangout, is a factor. Surely being in the shadow of the jail dosen't influence this as you would think some of these guys might want to put some distance between themselves and law enforcement. The gazebo is used for chess games with a giant board some weekends, I think.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Need Herbs?

If you are downtown and it suddenly occurs to you that you need some Mexican herbs or a pinata, a short walk down South First will bring you to Cantu's. I haven't shopped there because Our Lady of Guadalupe candles and pinatas wouldn't really go with the modern aesthetic at our new place. But if I need party decor I'm remembering this place. And I like their jaunty cactus motif.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Old and New

There is a large warehouse-type amalgam of stores on West Sixth at Baylor. It is called Whit Hanks Center, I think, and Whit Hanks is a purveyor of antiques who seems to have drifted into the real estate business by developing this and leasing areas of the building to other antique dealers. An antique door frame was established on the lawn to hold a sign near the street, but at present it has one for the big tenant in that corner, Nest, which is a store specializing in modern furniture where we got several new things for furnishing our condo. And, yes, the 1009 was added and is the address of the center (1009 W. Sixth). The other shops are mostly antiques and fun for a visit. (Follow the link above.)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Downtown History

Just east of Congress on E. Ninth (Congress delineates east and west for these streets) is this historic building, wedged between some other old buildings and a rather unfortunate '70's look parking garage. Formerly the Millet Opera House, the building has housed a private club, the Austin Club, since 1981. The private club hosts a lot of events (wedding parties and such) as well as many political sit-downs due to its proximity to the Capitol. During legislative sessions the bar is abuzz with Texas politics. Since the opera house was built in 1878, some legislative sessions were actually held there while the Capitol was under construction.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day

The photo is one I took a few months back of a flag reflected in the round windows of Avenue Lofts over on East Fifth. The flag is distorted like much of the political talk in the world. We have already voted, but a lot of people will line up on election day.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Flora Alert

Last Wednesday I walked on a part of the Hike and Bike trail around Lady Bird Lake that I haven't done before and there were a number of these signs alerting people not to wander off the trail and possibly make contact with poison ivy. I took it seriously as I've had some very itchy times with contact with this stuff when I had a yard. How nice to have someone else to warn us, but we are always wary ourselves.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Dia de Los Muertos

Yesterday was All Saint's Day but, in some cultures, today it the Day of the Dead where you celebrate the deceased in your own circle of family and friends. One thing my departed mother loved was shopping. So I think it's appropriate that we will go the The Domain today for an event. Elaborate altars are created to the ones who have moved beyond the veil. This reflection picture was taken, I believe, at a store called Turquoise Door on South Congress. I usually reserve the reflection pictures, especially those that whimsically show me and a devil skeleton merging, for my personal blog, but today I thought I'd bring one over here.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Dollar Books

Outside 12th Street Books here in Austin is a nice array of dollar books (under the word Scholarly). I've framed the display in this collage with some detail photos so when you blow it up you can see some titles. This used and rare bookstore, one of the few left that operates in a real store as well as online, is, of course on 12th Street. It's near an Austin Community College campus and North Lamar. I consider this area downtown since it's a pretty easy walk from our place.

Today is theme day. Books, you might have guessed! Click here to view thumbnails for all participants