When you stand in the middle of Republic Square (422 Guadalupe), you are standing on a rich piece of Austin’s history. Edwin Waller’s original design of Austin consisted of a grid with a central square (Capitol Square) and four smaller, secondary “public squares.” Republic square, previously called Hamilton square, was one of these four smaller secondary public squares, and the home of Austin’s “Auction Oaks.” In 1839, Austin’s original 306 lots were sold at auction under these historic trees. Afterwards, in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the park had strong associations with the Mexican-American community due to the concentration of Hispanic citizens that lived in the neighborhoods surrounding the square.
Later in the city’s history, Austin’s leaders saw very little use for maintaining these public squares as green spaces, and the city quickly found other ways to use these spaces for storage, garbage dumps, or other city services. Between 1950 and the early 1970s, Republic Square functioned as a parking lot.
In 1976, as a part of the U.S. Bicentennial celebration, Austin’s leaders began to focus on returning Republic Square back to its original purpose as a public green space. It was then given the name Republic Square in tribute to the Republic of Texas.
In more recent years, Republic Square has served as the first site of the city’s summer “Movies in the Park” series, and every Saturday is home to the Sustainable Food Center’s Downtown Farmers’ Market. The newly renovated square is a green space unlike any in Austin. Daily programming and featured events, modern amenities, beautiful art and a café make it a uniquely Austin experience.
Other development has begun in and around Republic Square as well. One of Austin’s best combination butcher shops & restaurants, Salt & Time, is opening a new cafe within downtown’s revamped Republic Square Park at 422 Guadalupe Street, opening sometime between late summer to early fall. The downtown outpost will serve sandwiches, salads, charcuterie, and more. There will be dedicated breakfast dishes, like bowls, sandwiches, and pastries. Drinks will include alcoholic options (a first for the park), like canned and kegged beer and wine, as well as coffee, juice, kombucha, and soda. The cafe will also feature future collaborations with vendors from the SFC Farmers Market Downtown, which takes place at the park every Saturday.
The Hotel ZaZa/Gables Republic Square tower at 401 Guadalupe Street is supposed to deliver sometime in 2019. This tower will be a mix of both a chic boutique apartment community and a renowned boutique hotel, allowing residents to experience the amenities of both, plus have easy accessibility to the entertainment and events at Republic Square. In addition to the Gables building, there is an assembly of vacant properties at the corner of Fifth and Lavaca Streets that will soon be coming down to make way for a 44-story Hanover Republic Square apartment tower, which would mean 310 more apartments, hundreds of parking spaces and possibly another new restaurant near Republic Square.
Although the square has seen many different seasons and years of history, the current revitalization and development of Republic Square means that the most promising years under Austin’s “Auction Oaks” are yet to come! Visit Republic Square for a Saturday Farmer’s Market or a Movie in the Park and take advantage of all this public square has to offer Austin residents.