It was Las Manitas on Congress Avenue that vanished in a truly public way, and marked the first time Austin’s sleepy citizens roused themselves to fight a corporate invasion that threatened our city’s long-time small-town feel. Though the fight was lost before it began, the very public dismay over its demise inspired me to keep photographing the Austin gems I found charming, eccentric, invaluable.
Tall towers are everywhere downtown now, with more in the pipeline, and it doesn’t take a visionary to imagine which small businesses will vanish as developers’ cranes move in. So I’ve been photographing what I’d hate to see vanish, and with over 90 images now, Vanishing Austin is as much an unnerving record of our growth as it is a nostalgic collection of old favorites. Either way, the series has its admirers.
Our iconic businesses aren’t always shut out by development. Some lose their leases, or relocate for cheaper rents, some lose a long-time customer base, or gentrification overtakes their neighborhoods; in some cases, owners are just plain tired and cash out while the market is white hot.
There are about 30 Austin landmarks in my photography series that live on only in memories, and in print. (That’s an amazing one third of the entire collection.) In What’s Vanished Since 2004 I showed you about half of those. Here are the rest from my collection:
Austin remains a funky, creative, all-embracing, vibrant, imaginative, come-one-come-all style city with good looks and charm—even as its neighborhoods lose the threads of community with the new urbanism encroaching. And it’s still hard to take, each time another little piece of old Austin’s creative soul vanishes.
How much of this goes on elsewhere? I watched this process unfold a few decades ago in my former neighborhood, in North Arlington, Virgina, as the underground Metro system arrived and changed everything. It’s a thriving area now, as it was then, but expensive condos, apartments and the big chains have moved in alongside some of the new, hipper businesses. Some of the most creative long-timers survived, through sheer willpower and supportive zoning.
Are you witnessing this in your city or elsewhere? How do you feel about these lost landmarks and their newer replacements?
BUY THE POSTER of some 16 of Austin’s then-revered icons, created in 2006 and somewhat fliply called the Endangered Species of Austin, which has become prophetic when half of them actually did vanish.
- What’s Vanished Since 2004? (vanishingaustin.me)
- Strangling the City: How ‘Sustainable’ is Boxing in Freedom (intellihub.com)
- It’s Official: Austin’s Been Vanishing Over the Last 30 Years (vanishingaustin.me)
- 34 Things to Know Before Moving to Austin, Texas (estately.com)