Red River Cultural District Placemaking

Public City was contracted by the City of Austin Economic Development Department Redevelopment Services to implement placemaking projects in the Red River Cultural District, a merchant in the Souly Austin Program.  The projects commissioned for the RRMA focused on the District Beautification, Identity and Connectedness. Through the addition of three place-based murals and a (pending) neon installation throughout the District focused on the cultural history of the district, its music legacy and the District’s welcoming ethos, these projects improve the aesthetic through visual interest as well as tell its story as a cultural destination for all.  

Full Text from the Elysium Mural (705 Red River Street, Austin) by Michael Corcoran and Tim Kerr:

This building was originally a mule barn, used by the U.S. Army during WWI, once had a bordello upstairs, housed various secondhand stores, and then live music venues since the mid-80s when the Cave Club introduced industrial music to Texas. Red River Street was the eastern edge of Austin when the street plan was laid out by Edwin Waller in 1839. From the ‘40s ‘til the ‘80s, the strip was dominated by used furniture stores and junk shops with names like Williams Do-Rite Swap Shop, Fairyland Antiques, Dutch Meyer’s Trading Post, Red River Rats and Hurt’s Hunting Grounds. During the era of segregration, black-owned businesses were next door to white-owned ones on Red River from Sixth to 15th Streets. This was as close to the East Side, both spiritually and physically, as you could get in downtown Austin. Simon Sidle, a son of freed slaves, helped establish Red River as “antique row” when he opened his first shop in 1917 at 807 Red River. His daughters Theresa Mays and Ilesta Alexander also went into the family business on Red River, but their shops were torn down in the early ‘70s as part of the Brackenridge Urban Renewal Project. Since many of the displaced businesses were black-owned, detractors called the leveling of several Red River blocks “urban removal.” Also torn down was where Sam Lung,  opened Austin’s first Chinese restaurant in 1946. Lung’s Chinese Kitchen gave birth to Austin’s ethnic/exotic food scene. Before the Vulcan and the Armadillo opened. Red River became the spawning grounds of psychedelic rock in 1966, when the 13th Floor Elevators debuted their first single “You’re Gonna Miss Me” at the New Orleans Club. Janis Joplin sang just steps away at the 11th Door that same year. Those clubs were where Symphony Square is today. Red River began to be known as Austin’s live music district in the ‘90s, with Emo’s and Stubb’s leading the way for the Mohawk, Beerland, Club DeVille and others, but that all started with the One Knite at the corner of 8th and Red River. Opening in 1970, the notorious dive, with a coffin-shaped front door, hosted the hosted the Vaughan brothers and other blues savants years before Clifford Antone opened his first club on Sixth Street. In 1971, Pink Floyd had just played a show at the Municipal Auditorium and wanted to unwind with a jam session at the One Knite. When they said they didn’t know any Freddie King, they were turned away from the stage and sulked in the dark side of the room. The anything goes spirit of Red River was alive in the 90s when the BYOB Cavity Club installed a half-pipe for skateboarders. Miss Laura of the Blue Flamingo turned her drag bar into a punk club that was just scary enough to keep the trendy "alternative nation" away. At 900 Red River, Chances was that rare lesbian bar that booked indie rock bands, a wild hybrid that brought different cultures together. That open clientele policy continues at Cheer Up Charlies in the same former car lot office location. This building,  was once the home of the Snooper’s Paradise secondhand store. When Doug Sahm saw that sign in the late ‘60s, he started writing “Groover’s Paradise,” an Austin anthem for the ages. History never gets old. Time is time was NOW.