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
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!