Monday, July 08, 2013

Lost Austin by John H. Slate (2012)

I may be a little biased since acclaimed author and archivist for the City of Dallas, John Slate, is a close personal friend, but I'm pretty sure his book, Lost Austin (2012) is one of the best collections of historic photographs ever compiled.

The aim of this book is to document the buildings, businesses, and institutions that have been replaced, destroyed, faded away, or superseded in Austin's move from a small settlement on the Colorado river to the 11th biggest metropolitan area in the country.

John was helped out by the fabulous historic photograph collections at the Austin History Center and other local repositories, along with his own memories as a native Austinite. The real strength of this collection is in its sense of balance -- we see old old 19th century Austin buildings along with local hot spots from the 1970s and 1980s that lost the fight to development. We get a good mix of the important Hispanic and African American Austin heritage that has influenced our city in countless (sometimes ignored) ways. And we see both architectural and design marvels and the people who used to live with those buildings every day.

If you've lived in Austin for any amount of time, a common refrain is how great things used to be if you had been here X years ago (five, ten, twenty, fifty -- it was always better before than it is now). If you've ever gotten trapped by the blanket of Austin nostalgia, this book can help you catch up on what you've been missing, even if it hasn't been around since the 1920s!

[If you'd like to check out some cool archival pictures, take a look at the Austin History Centers online photographic collections here. You can keep track of John's book signings here. And if you are in Austin, run, don't walk, to your nearest bookstore to pick up your own copy of Lost Austin. Or order it here!]

No comments: