About Us – How Old Are We?

By Brian Schenk, AHS Archivist*

Stephen F. Austin High School is the “oldest, continuing, tax-supported, locally controlled, public high school in Texas” making it one of the oldest in Texas but not the oldest west of the Mississippi! Sixty-six students, 39 girls and 27 boys attended our first day on September 12, 1881. “High School” was 9th and 10th grade until 1899. We went to school at the West Austin School, later called the Pease School. Our two classrooms were on the third floor of the building – one for boys and one for girls. The building, located between 11th and 12th Street on the west side of Rio Grande Avenue, burned in 1902 and was completely rebuilt.

The 1880s were a wonderful time in Austin. A new capitol building was built after the old Capitol burned in 1881. A horsecar line was created to run on unpaved Congress Avenue. The University of Texas was opened two years after Austin High. St Edwards University opened in 1886. The new Capitol Building opened in 1888. The first real bridge was built over the Colorado River in 1884, connecting “North Congress and South Congress” avenues. All after WE started!

From 1881 to 1895 – we think – Austin High was the only public high school in town. In 1895 – we think – 9th and 10 grades were added to the Robertson Hill School, allowing African American students – then segregated from white students – to get a high school education. For more than 50 years there were only these two high schools. Then in 1953 Travis and McCallum High Schools were built, and a new building was constructed for Anderson High – the African American school. In time, other high schools opened, including Lanier (1961), Johnston (1961), Reagan (1965) Crockett (1967), Anderson (1973), Bowie (1987), Garza (1997) and Akins (2001) were added. Westlake opened their high school in 1969. Before 1969, most Westlake kids were “transfer students’ who went to Austin High by choice.

*Mr. Brian Schenk, was a teacher at Austin High School from 1975 to 1998, and started the Austin High School Archives (a treasure trove of local history) in 1981. He was the volunteer archivist until his recent retirement from those duties.

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