East Austin History Walk & Talk

Today I went on a walk-n-talk tour put on by Mid Tex Mod that taught us a bit about East Austin. East Austin is an interesting part of town. When I moved here in 2004, people considered it the ghetto. I was admonished not to walk by myself anywhere east of I-35, and I when I lived on East Oltorf, a co-worker once refused to park her car out on my street — even though she lived on East Riverside when she was a UT student. As a 6’4″ white dude I never felt particularly in danger in East Austin. But I understand that is not everyone’s experience.

I think this cultural attitude is prevalent among middle-to-upper-class white folks like myself. But to this day I don’t know much about East Austin itself or where this attitude came from. I have heard various stories about blacks & Mexican being forcibly relocated east of I-35 sometime in the 50’s. But I never dug into it. And now that East Austin (or at least East 6th & 7th) is gaining a new reputation, one for fun dive bars and loft buildings and appreciating real estate, I think it’s the beginning of a new chapter in this part of town.

So a friend who works at UT told me about this talk, I signed up to go. It was informative, for sure. Many of the attendees were from the Urban Planning department at UT, and there were a few people there from the Travis County Historical Commission. Dr. Eliot Tretter kicked things off with a lecture on the role geography and institutionalized racism shaped East Austin (well, Austin as a whole, really) and Dr. Fred McGhee lectured intelligently on the history of public housing projects in the city, particularly Santa Rita Courts and Chalmers Courts. I don’t think I could repeat much of the information I heard. But I am interested in learning more, I met some new friends, and I got a few pictures. And we ate at a really good Colombian restaurant.

I think a guy walking around East Austin with a $2500 camera setup counts as gentrifying, don’t you?

Dr. Eliot M Tretter, who led the tour. He is a fountain of information about East Austin, particularly from a geographical point of view.

Dr. Eliot M Tretter

Dr. Eliot M Tretter

Stopping to Smell the Flowers

Overgrown Mailbox

Content Frog

Checking the Map

Political Signage

Doggett is Welcome Here

Storm’s a-Brewin’

Dr. Fred L McGhee, a guest lecturer on public housing projects in Austin

Taking Notes



Unwelcome in East Austin

Our Gang


  1. Some great shots there Ryan. If you don’t mind me asking, I’d be interested to know what camera you use and where you bought it? These pics are really good. Also, I don’t mean to make you jealous, though the second half of the tour was a lot of fun. The sites were closer together and we had a great discussion. Maybe I’ll see you at some other upcoming Austin events!

  2. Hey Isaac, yeah I was really tired that day and had plans later in the evening, so I needed to bail at 2. Glad you guys had a good time though 🙂 I look forward to doing more such tours.

    My camera is a Canon 60D. I bought is from Precision Camera here in town. The lens I used was the Canon 70-200 f/4 IS USM. It’s great for shooting people when they are not aware you’re there 😉

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