Texas comes from
the word "teysha" meaning "hello friend" in the language of the
Caddo Indian tribes. Spanish explorers and settlers used this word
to refer to the friendly tribes throughout Louisiana, Oklahoma and
Prior to the
annexation of Texas as the 28th U.S. state on December 29, 1845,
Texas history records fourteen capital cities under flags of Spain, Mexico
and the Republic of Texas. In 1519, the capital of Texas was Mexico
City, Mexico. In 1721, it was Los Adaes, which is now Robeline,
Louisiana. And throughout 1836, the Republic of Texas kept moving
its seat of government to avoid the Mexican army that was seeking to
crush the revolution of Texas independence from Mexico.
The flag above
shows the indomitable spirit of Texans who value their freedom. This
flag was flown at the Alamo where the entire
siege from Mexican soldiers lasted thirteen days. No one defending
the Texan stronghold survived. The battle has become
famous for many reasons, one being the large number of illustrious
personalities among its combatants. David Crockett and James Bowie
lost their lives at the Alamo and Mexican President Antonio López de
Santa Anna fought there as well.
lost the battle at the Alamo, they won the war for Independence from Mexico
at San Jacinto weeks later. This flag was flown at San Jacinto as a reminder of the battle of the Alamo
to spur troops on.
Austin as the permanent capital of the Republic of
Texas in 1839. A series of capitol buildings served the growing
Republic until finally, the Texas Constitution - adopted February
15, 1876 - provided for the sale of public land to finance a new
state capitol building. The builders accepted as payment, three
million acres of land in ten counties of the Texas Panhandle. This land became the
famed XIT Ranch.
Located fifty miles
away, the owners of Granite Mountain offered building stone free of
charge to the state. Here you can see the distinctive Sunset Red
Texas Granite from that quarry.
The Texas Capitol
is an extraordinary example of late 19th century public architecture
and is widely recognized as one of the nation's most distinguished
state capitols. Sited on one of Austin's highest points, it commands
a sweeping view towards the Colorado River from its southern façade.
Wonderful views of the Capitol's dome from many vantage points
throughout the Austin area are protected from obscuration by state
style is Renaissance Revival, based on the architecture of
15th-century Italy. An extraordinary edifice by any measure, the
1888 Texas Capitol is the largest in gross square footage of all
state capitols and is second in total size only to the National
Capitol in Washington, D.C. At the time, the final cost was
approximately $3.7 million - close to $100 million dollars today.
walls are made from approximately 4,000 loads of this famous Red
Texas Granite and 11,000 loads of limestone. They were transported by a
specially built railroad and by teams of oxen.
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The Texas Capitol
and approximately twenty-two acres of surrounding grounds and monuments are
defined by an historical iron fence which was originally put in
place to keep wandering livestock from invading the capitol grounds.
Residents and visitors are allowed to come to these grounds for
walks and to have picnics under the shady trees. The grounds were
restored to their 1888-1915 appearance in 1995.
Here is one of
twin cannons at the south entrance of the Capitol presented to the
Republic of Texas in 1836 by Major General T. J. Chambers. They are
12 pounder light field guns
used in the Texas revolution as well as in the Civil War, where
Texas took the side of the Confederates.
of the grounds and Capitol building are available during business
hours. If you’d rather be shown around, there are free daily tours
of the Capitol, which teach you about the building, the Texas
legislature, and some Texas history. Tours last about 45 minutes;
they start in the South Foyer and end in the Capitol Extension.
Our guide was
well informed with a sense of drama when he spoke of battles and
international background of Texas is artistically immortalized here
in stone in the rotunda floor of the Capitol Building. Texas has
flown six flags during its history. France was the first and is
represented by the Fleur-de-lis for the coat of arms of the Bourbon
Kings of France. For the Kingdom
of Spain, there is a seal that depicts the lions and castles of Leon
and Castile. Mexico's seal displays the famed eagle and snake of
Mexican legend. The Seal of the Republic of Texas with its Lone
Star, forms the core of this giant pattern. The Great Seal of the
United States is shown on the left, and in the upper left is the
Seal of the Confederacy picturing an equestrian figure of George
Washington at Richmond.
Both the state
flag and the state seal have a Lone Star. The Lone Star came to be when in
1821 Governor of the Mexican Providence of Texas, Henry Smith was
reading some important papers. He signed them and then declared that
Texas needed a seal. His overcoat had large brass buttons with the
impression of a five pointed star on them. The Governor cut one of
the buttons from his overcoat, and stamped it in sealing wax on the
Voila! The Lone
Star of Texas.
Here you see the
Texas Senate Chamber located in the east wing where the thirty-one elected
members of the Texas Senate deliberate. The Lieutenant Governor
presides over the Senate and both his office and the office of the
Secretary of the Senate are behind the Senate Chamber. The original
Lieutenant Governor's walnut desk is located in front of
reproduction draperies and a portrait of Stephen Austin.
The many framed
photos on the walls of the Senate (you can see some on the second
floor here in this picture) are photos of the Senators as well as
their children or grandchildren as a reminder to all that the
decisions made in this room affect posterity.
The woodwork in
the Capitol Building is primarily of oak and pine, but cherry,
walnut, mahogany and cedar were also used.
A view from the
Capitol Building's Senate Chamber looking towards 11th Street.
You can see some
of the oldest of the seventeen monuments here from this view, as
well as another cannon that dates back to 1865.
The House of
Representatives Chamber, the largest room in the Capitol building,
is located in the west wing and is the meeting place for the one
hundred and fifty
elected members. Votes are cast electronically and appear on a small
panel on the Speaker's desk and on the two large panels on either
side. You can see the names of the Representatives listed on these panels
here in this photo. When they vote, a red or green light shows next
to their name to register their decision.
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Members of the
press have their own box to the Speaker's left, and bills are read
at the podium directly in front of him. Behind the Speaker's
rostrum is the original 1836 San Jacinto battle flag.
Extension, carved out of solid rock and sixty five feet deep into the
ground, is located on the north side of the Capitol. It is a
four-level underground structure completed in 1993 and is connected
to the Capitol by three pedestrian tunnels.
This photo shows the Seal Court with its large terrazzo rendition of
the reverse side of the Texas Seal. You can pick out the six flags
flown over Texas: The Kingdom of France, The Kingdom of Spain, The
United Mexican States, The Republic of Texas, The Confederate States
of America and The United States of America.
The upper half of
the shield depicts the Alamo. On the left stands the famous Gonzales
'Come and Take It' Cannon. On the right is 'Vince's Bridge' which
was destroyed during the Battle of San Jacinto, a strategic move
which led to victory for the Texans. And of course, the Lone
Star of Texas at the top.
Architect E. E.
Myers of Detroit designed the Goddess of Liberty statue as the
crowning element of the Texas Capitol. Molds arrived in mid-January
of 1888 by railroad, possibly from Chicago, and a foundry was set up
in the southeast basement corner of the unfinished Capitol. The
casting of the zinc statue was in eighty separate pieces that were
welded together to form four major sections: the torso, the two
arms, and the head.
the four sections to the top of the Capitol dome and assembled the
statue with large iron screws during the last week in February of
1888. Standing nearly sixteen feet tall and weighing approximately 2,000
pounds, the original goddess is in the Bob Bullock Texas State
History Museum; the one standing on top of the Capitol now is a replica.
sandblasting, primer and paint, the replica of the goddess was ready to ascend back
to her beautiful perch - not an easy project. The National Guard
Sikorsky Skycrane helicopter that had taken her down was supposed to put her
back in place - but the last phase was much more difficult than the
first. High winds extended the twenty minute operation to multiple tries
over the next three days. Austinites held their breath and the drama
saturated local news.
If you are ever
in Austin, Texas, take the time to visit the Capitol Building. It's
a fascinating piece of American history. The tours are free and we
highly recommend it.
building is open:
Monday-Friday: 7:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday: 9:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m
To make tour
reservations call 512.305.8400