Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sixth Street, by Allen Childs, M.D.

Images of America: Sixth Street, by Allen Childs, M.D.

Sixth Street is the heart of Austin's entertainment district. While it has changed a lot in the twenty-five or so years since I first moved to town, in many ways it hasn't changed at all: the names of the bars and clubs change, but the feel of the area remains the same. With this book of annotated photographs and drawings dating back to 1840, though, it is clear the history of Sixth Street is long and varied.

When stagecoaches roamed the land Sixth Street was the main east-west thoroughfare in Austin, largely because it was the avenue that had the fewest hills while being far enough from the river to avoid flooding. As such, hotels, saloons, and storefronts occupied a lot of the real estate, lasting until the entertainment boom and revitalization of the area in the late 1970's. The Driskill Hotel remains popular today and the legacy of the saloons is obvious, but while there is still the odd retail store today, it is hard to believe Austin's first JCPenney and HEB were located on this road!

The narrative of the book isn't very fluid but the photos more than make up for this. I love picking this up and just thumbing through it, looking at the history and imagining how much things have changed over the years. If you've spent any time in Austin, this thin tome will put a smile on your face.

First Sentence (from the Introduction):
East Sixth Street, now a hub of the live music capital of the world, had its humble beginning as a dirt road, the only level path from the east.

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