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1890 Bird’s-eye view of Austin, Texas & Hyde Park

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56.     [BIRD’S-EYE VIEW]. [KOCH, Augustus (attributed)]. Partial View of Austin, Texas. The most beautiful and wealthiest city of its size in the United States. The coming great manufacturing center of the South! For its Schools, Churches, and other public institutions, it is already famous. The Capitol is pronounced, by competent judges, one of the finest Government Buildings in the world. For particulars about this Great Cotton Center, Address the Austin Rapid Transit R’y Co., the Board of Trade, of __________ [verso] Map of Hyde Park and Hyde Park Addition, Austin, Texas. The Austin dam, when completed, will be the greatest artificial water power in the United States. The beautiful lake formed by the dam will be thirty-five miles long, and of varying width, bounded on either bank by scenery equal to the grandest views along the Hudson. Hyde Park, lying in the northern part of the city, is one of Austin’s greatest attractions. Nature and the Rapid Transit Railway co. have combined to make it a popular pleasure resort, as well as the bon ton residence portion of the city. For information regarding water power, address the The [sic] Board of Trade. For particulars about Austin, address The Austin Rapid Transit R’y Co., or __________ [small view to left of title, Lake Austin by moonlight]; [view at lower left] The City Dam and Lake, Austin, Tex. [lower right] Inter-State Pub. Co. K.C. Mo. Kansas City, Missouri: Inter-State Publishing Company, [1890]. Lithograph, overall sheet size: 73.5 x 107.5 cm; recto: bird’s-eye view of the city, image area 68 x 97.5 cm; verso: illustrated plat of Hyde Park and view of Austin Dam, image area 96.5 x 61 cm. Light age-toning (more obvious at some folds), minor marginal chipping (well away from image), creased as folded, a few small holes splits at folds (one tiny loss), two contemporary pencil notes in blank margin, but overall an extraordinarily fine copy of a rare survival, printed on news print. Very rare: Austin History Center (Austin Public Library) and Texas State Library.

     Reps (Views and Viewmakers of Urban America 3948) lists a similar print which he dates around 1895. However, Reps does not mention the Hyde Park plan on verso. This promotional view is a reworking of Koch’s 1887 view of Austin (Reps 3947), with the addition of Hyde Park in the bird’s-eye view and the plat and print of the dam on verso. In the Austin view Koch’s original key numbers have been preserved but the key itself, printed at the bottom of the 1887 view, has here been omitted. Ron Tyler in his unpublished manuscript remarks: “Printed in an edition of 10,000 by the Austin Rapid Transit Company, with a map of Hyde Park on the back. See Austin Daily Statesman, September 25, 1890, p. 4.” See also See Humphrey, Austin, An Illustrated History, pp. 132-146.

     This view reflects Austin at a time when the city fathers and the populace were determined to secure Austin’s future and promote its growth as a progressive city. Chief among those schemes was the construction of a dam across the Colorado River, which was supposed to provide electrical power needed for this expansion. Thus, the main view of Austin shows a sprawling metropolis with the newly proposed Hyde Park subdivision visible in the distance. On the other side, however, Hyde Park, the brainchild of developer Monroe Shipe, is shown in its entirety, including a park, a lake, and a street car line terminus. More importantly, the dam is shown already completed, although at this point it was merely a fantasy, not being completed until 1893.

     Although Hyde Park was a successful development and is still a prominent, beloved Austin neighborhood, the dam was a bust. In 1900 it was overwashed by high water, collapsed, flooded downtown Austin, and had to be torn down. In the view, however, all the prosperity and hope the dam was supposed to bring—and which it did for a short while—is on full display. A powerhouse being serviced by a train is shown, as are piers and pleasure boats cruising the lake, which is touted as holding thirty billion gallons and producing fifteen thousand horsepower. Carriages and electric trolleys crisscross the area. The bird’s-eye view of Austin on recto is extremely detailed, showing most of the buildings, businesses (some of which are named), streets, public buildings, such as the state capitol and the University of Texas (still unfinished at the time of this view), and in the far distance a grandiose State Insane Asylum, which never looked anything near like its depiction here.


Sold. Hammer: $11,000.00; Price Realized: $13,200.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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