History of the Capitol Grounds
The Republic of Texas established a new capital named Austin. Edwin Waller laid out the city and designated an area on a scenic hill above the Colorado River as Capitol Square. In 1852, Texas completed a limestone Capitol on the site that was later surrounded by stone walls, trees, and flowers.
The construction of the current Capitol left the adjacent property in poor condition. Texas hired prominent civil engineer William Munro Johnson to develop a plan for the Capitol Grounds. Johnson's design highlighted the connection between the front of the Capitol and Congress Avenue by featuring curving carriage drives surrounding a Great Walk of black and white diamond-patterned pavement.
William Johnson envisioned the Capitol Grounds as a park for the citizens of Texas. The installation of iron fencing kept wandering livestock out of the park. Manufactured by Mast, Foos & Company of Oho, the fence stood on bases of granite. The iron pedestrian gates mounted at the drives and in front of Great Walk included a Buckeye seal.
Fountains made their appearance on the Grounds. Two cast-iron spraying fountains in ornamental pools stood on either side of the Great Walk. An elaborate drinking fountain with an electric light over an artesian well stood on the east and dispensed warm water. A water fountain on the west side of the Grounds flowed with cold water.
Two artificial lakes added to the natural beauty of the Grounds. A limestone cave-like structure, or grotto, to the southeast of the Capitol featured spraying fountain, exotic plants and goldfish. Another lake surrounded by canna lilies, ornamental shrubs and trees probably decorated the west portion of the Grounds.
The development of airplanes allowed for the first views of the Grounds from the air. Another change in transportation technology, the automobile, necessitated the paving of the driveways around the Capitol with asphalt. The addition of light poles and more plantings complemented the park-like feel of the Grounds.
The State Preservation Board initiated a restoration of the Grounds. The project installed new infrastructure including fire protection systems, water-conserving irrigation and handicap-accessible walkways. Workers reconstructed the historic Great Walk and Oval Walk to their original configurations and restored cast-iron light poles, fences and gates.