I absolutely love love love South Congress! Who doesn't? With its array of eclectic music and art venues, restaurants and small shops, it has a ton to offer. Especially for someone like me, who is somewhat relatively new to Austin and is constantly trying to explore it.
South Congress Avenue leads directly into downtown Austin. It's located very close to two historic neighborhoods in South Austin - Travis Hights and Bouldin Creek. One of the most notable features of the area is the view of the downtown, and, specifically, Texas Capitol. Needless to say, visiting this iconic area is a must on any traveller's list.
I love history in general, and, particularly, getting to know the history of the city I live in. I did some research and although I definitely don't want to bore you people to death with historic facts, there are some really interesting things that happened that I think would be interesting to anyone!
Not surprisingly for South Austin (which is an older part of town), the avenue dates back to 1850s when the land south of the Colorado River was donated to the city. Prior to the mid 1800s, the land was mostly undeveloped. It's definitely understandable why - transportation across the river was way more complicated than just driving over a completely safe bridge. The first bridge built over the Colorado river was a pantoon bridge, and it only lasted 11 months. Next came a bridge that was although concrete, not very sturdy - it flooded.
However, it wasn't until the early 1920's that a streetcar service was extended into South Austin which triggered its immediate growth since there now was a reliable means of transportation across the river. Streetcar service became possible after the Congress bridge was finally built in 1910. South Congress was a popular tourist attraction until 1940s, when I-35 was built and the majority of the businesses moved to the newer area. Rent fell, which in turn attracted artists and makers to move to the newly abandoned neighborhood and subsequently, turn it into the trendy/ hipster-ish/ amazing place that we all know and love today.
During 1960s and 1970s, South Congress was the place to be if you were an artist or a musician. By then, the Austin Motel and Hotel San Jose, both opened in the late 1930s, were very popular. The place was filled with small businesses, boutiques, restaurants, galleries and music venues.
The area features a number of restaurants that have been around for several decades such as Guero's Taco Bar, opened in 1995. I've never eaten there but it's definitely on my to do list in the near future.
First Thursday is a community art/ food event held the first Thursday of every month and is held between Elizabeth Street and Barton Springs Road.
I have to say, I was pretty surprised to stumble upon this cute little Victorian home right off of SoCo avenue!