In the 1950s, several research laboratories and think tanks were founded in Austin, attracting high-tech companies and innovative thinkers to the region. The Austin economy flourished, attracting even more modern amenities to the area. Several movie theaters opened, as well as public swimming pools, a branch library system, and a professional baseball team.
Austin’s rapid growth was primarily attributed to its traditional strengths — education and government. Austin’s ethnic relations also began to change during the 1950s. The first step was a sustained attack on segregation. Local black leaders and political action groups desegregated schools and services in the city. The University of Texas became the first major southern university to admit black students in 1956.
During the 1950s, Austin’s population grew, and lifestyle changes created a higher electricity demand: washing machines, dishwashers, and televisions became more prevalent, and air conditioning became more common. Austin built the Seaholm Power Plant in 1948, referred to as Power Plant No. 2 at the time, to meet the post-World War II electrical demand. In 1950 and 1955, two phases of the power plant were built on the north shore of Lady Bird Lake, just west of the city’s steam plant. The three buildings on site – the Turbine Generator Building, Water Intake Structure, and Oil Heating Plant – were constructed with solid concrete and decorated in the Art Deco style.
These fascinating vintage photos will take you back to 1950s Austin.
The Swedish Central Methodist Church (State purchased and demolished in the 1950s, as state administration grew and government complex spread). In the center of photograph note steeple of Gethsemane Lutheran Church (15th and Congress; above the TEC building), to the left St. Austin's Catholic Church steeple (20th and Guadalupe) and the Goodall Wooten Dormitory to the right. The University campus on the top right.