Articles on Austin History
Austin’s growth has profoundly influenced our local environment, city infrastructure, and social structure.
My saying is that: History did not begin with you. But it could end with you if you’re not careful.
That is the world we live in.
The early history of Austin’s utilities is quite colorful. It includes a street-fight between two City Council Members that resulted in a murder charge; one of the first large hydroelectric projects in the country, and a struggle against a utility monopoly accused of strangling the city’s future. Austin is not the only major city with a story to tell. However, this is where we live, and it is a compelling example with which to view both human nature and the growth of American cities in general.
In relative terms, providing electric power and natural gas to large numbers of people is a recent innovation. Read this story and you will view a different side of Austin seen through the evolution of its energy infrastructure over more than 100 years. It was a much more primitive place, when staying warm in the winter dwarfed concerns people had about air quality and asthma. It was the dawn of an age when convenience of electricity began to replace the drudgery of kerosene lamps and ice deliveries.
Before and during the second World War, Austin was largely a “government town,” with major employers being state government, the University of Texas, and (after the war began) the military at Bergstrom Air Force Base. How this laid-back college town was welded into a paragon of the Information Age over a 60-year period is incredible. Not all of it is particularly enlightened, but that’s not what history is about.
Austin is an acknowledged national and even international leader in clean energy. This began in the 1970s with natural gas shortages and a very expensive nuclear plant.