Republic Square

Edwin Waller’s original design of Austin consisted of a grid with a central square (Capitol Square) and four smaller, secondary “public squares.” In 1888, the squares were named Brush, Hamilton (now Republic), Bell (now Wooldridge), and Hemphill (no longer a public square).

By 1905, the neighborhood to the west and south of Republic Square largely identified with Austin’s Mexican population. Three “Mexican” churches were established within a block or two of the square, including Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. For many years, locals would call this square "Guadalupe Square."

Celebrations such as Diez y Seis de Septiembre were held...Read more

Edwin Waller’s original design of Austin consisted of a grid with a central square (Capitol Square) and four smaller, secondary “public squares.” In 1888, the squares were named Brush, Hamilton (now Republic), Bell (now Wooldridge), and Hemphill (no longer a public square).

By 1905, the neighborhood to the west and south of Republic Square largely identified with Austin’s Mexican population. Three “Mexican” churches were established within a block or two of the square, including Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. For many years, locals would call this square "Guadalupe Square."

Celebrations such as Diez y Seis de Septiembre were held in Guadalupe Square in those early years. These festivals continued until the late 1920s when Latinos and their celebrations were forced to East Austin as a result of the segregation compelled by the City Plan of 1928.

Food has always been the lifeblood of Republic Square. In early years, local residents would make tamales and Mexican candies to sell along Congress. Walker's Austex Chile Company, located near the square, employed many from the local neighborhoods. The food tradition continues today with the Sustainable Food Center's farmer's market, held each Saturday morning at the square.

Austin’s founders apparently saw little value in parks and public spaces. Although the original city plan set aside public land, in 1950 and 1960 Republic Square was used as a parking lot. Returning Republic Square to its original purpose began in 1976 as part of the U.S. Bicentennial celebration. The current name, Republic Square, was chosen in tribute to the Republic of Texas.

Most recently, the Downtown Austin Alliance, the Austin Parks Foundation, and the Austin Parks and Recreation Department have joined to give Republic Square a dramatic makeover. The civic space that you experience today is a reflection of the spirit and intent of Edwin Waller’s original inspiration.

Please share your stories and memories of Republic (or Guadalupe) Square with us. No story is too insignificant. We want to hear them all!

Discussions: All (4) Open (4)
  • Auction oaks 2

    On January 24, 1839, the Republic of Texas directed President Mirabeau Lamar to select a site for a capital. Lamar chose the small settlement of Waterloo, on the north bank of the Colorado River, as the site for what would become Austin.

    Judge Edwin Waller arrived in May 1839 to lay out a plan for the new capital city. The “Waller Plan” encompassed one square mile, 14 city blocks by 14 city blocks, between Waller Creek on the east and Shoal Creek on the west.

    On August 1, 1839, Waller held the first auction of...Read more

    On January 24, 1839, the Republic of Texas directed President Mirabeau Lamar to select a site for a capital. Lamar chose the small settlement of Waterloo, on the north bank of the Colorado River, as the site for what would become Austin.

    Judge Edwin Waller arrived in May 1839 to lay out a plan for the new capital city. The “Waller Plan” encompassed one square mile, 14 city blocks by 14 city blocks, between Waller Creek on the east and Shoal Creek on the west.

    On August 1, 1839, Waller held the first auction of city lots under these oaks in what we now call Republic Square. Funds from this sale were used to begin the construction of government buildings in the new capital.

    Please share your stories about Austin’s Birthplace!

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  • Txwalkersaustexchileco1936

    The soul of Guadalupe Park (now Republic Square) is food, and that food is TexMex. The term “TexMex” (with no hyphen) originally began as an abbreviation for the Texas and Mexican Railroad, chartered in 1875. In 1883, a bridge was built across the Rio Grande to Nuevo Laredo, making the TexMex the first Mexican-American rail connection. By the 1920s, some people were using “Tex-Mex” (with hyphen added) to describe people of Mexican descent living in Texas—more accurately called Tejanos—and eventually the label would be applied to the Mexican-style food typical of the region. 

    San...Read more

    The soul of Guadalupe Park (now Republic Square) is food, and that food is TexMex. The term “TexMex” (with no hyphen) originally began as an abbreviation for the Texas and Mexican Railroad, chartered in 1875. In 1883, a bridge was built across the Rio Grande to Nuevo Laredo, making the TexMex the first Mexican-American rail connection. By the 1920s, some people were using “Tex-Mex” (with hyphen added) to describe people of Mexican descent living in Texas—more accurately called Tejanos—and eventually the label would be applied to the Mexican-style food typical of the region. 

    San Antonio is often credited with creating (or popularizing) this cuisine. But, Austin had an equally critical role in its ascendancy. TexMex, certainly Austin's variety, began in the cocinas of Tejano women who lived around Guadalupe Square. Families in the neighborhood would would make tamales and Mexican candies to sell along Congress. These kitchens were the beginnings of the TexMex industry that helped shape American cuisine, and that thrives in Austin still.

    Walker's Austex Chile Company, established in 1910, distributed its Mexene chili powder throughout the nation. Many of the local residents worked at the factory that bordered Guadalupe (also known as "Mexican" or "Chili") Park. Their kids would play in the square as their parents worked in the factory canning tamales and other foods for the national market.

    The food tradition continues today with the Sustainable Food Center's farmers’ market, held each Saturday morning at the square. 

    Please share with us your stories and memories of the foods of Guadalupe Square. AusTex Chile Company continued to operate in Austin into the 1960s, so there are many people still living here with parents who worked at the factory during that time. No story is insignificant! We want to hear them all!

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  • Our lady of guadalupe

    Austin's original Latino community once enveloped Republic Square. This downtown "barrio", known as "West Side" or simply as "Mexico", stretched from Congress Avenue to Shoal Creek, and from West 1st Street to West 7th Street. Republic Square served as the physical and social hub for this neighborhood.

    As Mexicans and Mexican-Americans (largely Tejanos) moved into the neighborhoods, they quickly adopted the square for their own uses.  By the 1880's, the park was so popular among Mexicans living nearby that newspapers and Anglos dubbed it “Mexican Park,” though most Latinos called it “Guadalupe Park.”

    Republic Square in those days resembled a...Read more

    Austin's original Latino community once enveloped Republic Square. This downtown "barrio", known as "West Side" or simply as "Mexico", stretched from Congress Avenue to Shoal Creek, and from West 1st Street to West 7th Street. Republic Square served as the physical and social hub for this neighborhood.

    As Mexicans and Mexican-Americans (largely Tejanos) moved into the neighborhoods, they quickly adopted the square for their own uses.  By the 1880's, the park was so popular among Mexicans living nearby that newspapers and Anglos dubbed it “Mexican Park,” though most Latinos called it “Guadalupe Park.”

    Republic Square in those days resembled a Mexican zocolo, with street vendors selling tamales and candies, and families taking advantage of the shade under the live oaks for Sunday gatherings. Although the park remained undeveloped, the space often hosted concerts and dances, church fundraisers, and the annual celebration of Mexico’s independence (Diez y Seis de Septiembre). 

    Catholics from the Mexico neighborhood walked to St. Mary’s Cathedral to attend church. At St. Mary's, Latino parishioners were forced to sit on back rows, separate from white members of the church. In order to address this segregation, in 1907 the diocese built a "sister church" and parochial school at the corner of West 5th Street and Guadalupe. The square would thereafter be known as "Guadalupe Park" among local residents. Other "Mexico" churches included First Mexican Baptist (402 San Antonio Street), Methodist Episcopal (512 W. Fourth Street) and Mexican Methodist Church (400 block W. San Antonio at 502 W. Fourth Street).

    Walker’s Austex Chile Company had its office at 310 San Antonio and its plant at 500-502 West 5th Street from the 1920's to the 1960's. The factory became one of Austin’s largest industries in the first half of the 20th century. In 1911, Walker’s possessed the only "automatic tamale-making machine in the world, forming 38,000 tamales per hour."  At its peak, Walker’s employed "15% of Austin’s Mexican population." 

    The City Plan of 1928 began the process of forcing people of color (primarily African-Americans and Latinos) east of East Avenue (now I-35). Although the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Buchanan v. Warley (1917) barred cities from deliberately creating segregated neighborhoods, the City Plan of 1928 found ways around this decision by only providing city services such as schools within a "Negro District." Other restrictions soon followed such as redlining and the use of restrictive covenants.

    By the Great Depression, the residents of "Mexico" had moved east, along with their stores, churches, foods, and fiestas. The effects of those segregationist policies remain with us today.  Austin’s African-American and Hispanic populations largely remain east of I-35.

    The people of "Mexico", however, persevered. Churches relocated, business rebuilt, and neighborhoods were resurrected. Many from Austin's current Latino population, now residing east of I-35, can trace their lineage to Guadalupe Park and the "Mexico" neighborhood.

    We would love to hear your stories about this rich Latino heritage. Please share what you or your family remembers about "Mexico" and the neighborhoods that surrounded Guadalupe Park. Remember; no story is too small for you to share. We want to hear them all!
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  • Did we miss something? Share your idea for a new storyline for Republic Square here.

    Did we miss something? Share your idea for a new storyline for Republic Square here.

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