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Austin (About this sound pronunciation (help·info)) (/ˈɒstɨn/ or /ˈɔːstɨn/) is the capital of Texas and the seat of Travis County. Located in Central Texas and the American Southwest, it is the 11th-largest city in the United States of America and the fourth-largest city in the state of Texas. It was the third-fastest-growing large city in the nation from 2000 to 2006. Austin is also the second largest state capital in the United States. Austin has a population of 842,592 (2012 estimate). The city is the cultural and economic center of the five-county Austin–Round Rock metropolitan area, which had a July 2013 estimated population of 1,883,051.
In the 1830s, pioneers began to settle the area in central Austin along the Colorado River. After Republic of Texas Vice President Mirabeau B. Lamar visited the area during a buffalo-hunting expedition between 1837 and 1838, he proposed that the republic’s capital then located in Houston, Texas, be relocated to the area situated on the north bank of the Colorado River near the present-day Congress Avenue Bridge. In 1839, the site was officially chosen as the republic’s new capital (the republic’s seventh and final location) and was incorporated under the name Waterloo. Shortly thereafter, the name was changed to Austin in honor of Stephen F. Austin, the “Father of Texas” and the republic’s first secretary of state.
The city grew throughout the 19th century and became a center for government and education with the construction of the Texas State Capitol and the University of Texas at Austin. After a lull in growth from the Great Depression, Austin resumed its development into a major city and, by the 1980s, it emerged as a center for technology and business. A number of Fortune 500 companies have headquarters or regional offices in Austin including Advanced Micro Devices, Apple Inc., eBay, Google, IBM, Intel, Texas Instruments, 3M, and Whole Foods Market. Dell’s worldwide headquarters is located in nearby Round Rock, a suburb of Austin.
Residents of Austin are known as “Austinites”. They include a diverse mix of government employees (e.g., university faculty & staff, law enforcement, political staffers); foreign and domestic college students; musicians; high-tech workers; blue-collar workers and businesspeople. The city is home to development centers for many technology corporations; it adopted the “Silicon Hills” nickname in the 1990s. However, the current official slogan promotes Austin as “The Live Music Capital of the World”, a reference to the many musicians and live music venues within the area, and the long-running PBS TV concert series Austin City Limits.
In recent years, some Austinites have also adopted the unofficial slogan “Keep Austin Weird”. This interpretation of the classic, “Texas-style” sense of independence refers to: the traditional and proudly eclectic, liberal lifestyles of many Austin residents; a desire to protect small, unique, local businesses from being overrun by large corporations; and as a reaction to the perceived rise of conservative influences within the community. In the late 1800s, Austin also became known as the City of the “Violet Crown” for the wintertime violet glow of color across the hills just after sunset. Even today, many Austin businesses use the term “violet crown” in their name. Austin is known as a “clean air city” for the city’s stringent no-smoking ordinances that apply to all public places and buildings, including restaurants and bars.
The FBI ranks Austin as the second safest major city in the U.S.
The most southerly of the capitals of the contiguous forty-eight states, Austin is located in Central Texas, along the Balcones Escarpment and Interstate 35, northwest of Houston. It is also 160 miles south of Dallas and 75 miles north of San Antonio. Its elevation varies from 425 feet (130 m) to approximately 1,000 feet (305 m) above sea level. As of 2010, the city occupies a total area of 271.8 square miles (704 km2). Approximately 6.9 square miles (18 km2) of this area is water.
Buildings that make up most of Austin’s skyline are modest in height and somewhat spread out. The latter characteristic is partly due to a restriction that preserves the view of the Texas State Capitol building from various locations around Austin (known as the Capitol View Corridor). However, many new highrise towers have been constructed and the downtown area is looking more modern and dense. The city’s tallest building, The Austonian, was topped out on September 17, 2009. Austin is currently undergoing a skyscraper boom, which includes recent construction on the now complete 360 Condominiums at 563 feet (172 m), Spring (condominiums), the Austonian at 683 feet (208 m), and several others that are mainly for residential use.
Austin has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen: Cfa), characterized by hot summers and mild winters. Austin is usually at least partially sunny, receiving nearly 2650 hours, or 60.3% of the possible total, of bright sunshine per year.
Austin summers are usually hot, with average July and August highs in the high-90s °F (34–36 °C). Highs reach 90 °F (32.2 °C) on 116 days per year, and 100 °F (37.8 °C) on 18. The highest recorded temperature was 112 °F (44 °C) occurring on September 5, 2000 and August 28, 2011.
As of the census of 2000, there were 656,562 people, 265,649 households, and 141,590 families residing in the city (roughly comparable in size to San Francisco, Leeds, UK; and Ottawa). The population density was 2,610.4 people per square mile (1,007.9/km²). There were 276,842 housing units at an average density of 1,100.7 per square mile (425.0/km²). There were 265,648 households out of which 26.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.1% were married couples living together, 10.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 46.7% were non-families. 32.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 4.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.40 and the average family size was 3.14.
In the city the population was spread out with 22.5% under the age of 18, 16.6% from 18 to 24, 37.1% from 25 to 44, 17.1% from 45 to 64, and 6.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females there were 105.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $42,689, and the median income for a family was $54,091. Males had a median income of $35,545 vs. $30,046 for females. The per capita income for the city was $24,163. About 9.1% of families and 14.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.5% of those under age 18 and 8.7% of those age 65 or over. The median house price was $185,906 in 2009, and it has increased every year since 2004.
Austin is the anchor city of the Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos MSA, which had a Gross Domestic Product of $86 billion in 2010. Austin is considered to be a major center for high tech. Thousands of graduates each year from the engineering and computer science programs at the University of Texas at Austin provide a steady source of employees that help to fuel Austin’s technology and defense industry sectors. The region’s rapid growth has led Forbes to rank the Austin metropolitan area number one among all big cities for jobs for 2012 in their annual survey and WSJ Marketwatch to rank the area number one for growing businesses. By 2013, Austin ranked No. 14 on Forbes’ list of the Best Places for Business and Careers (directly below Dallas, No. 13 on the list).
Researchers at Central Connecticut State University ranked Austin the 16th most literate city in the United States for 2008. The Austin Public Library operates the John Henry Faulk Library and various library branches. In addition, the University of Texas at Austin operates the seventh-largest academic library in the nation.
Austin was voted “America’s No.1 College Town” by the Travel Channel. Over 43 percent of Austin residents age 25 and over hold a bachelor’s degree, while 16 percent hold a graduate degree. As of 2009, greater Austin ranks eighth among metropolitan areas in the United States for bachelor’s degree attainment with nearly 39 percent of area residents over 25 holding a bachelor’s degree.
Of all the people who work in Austin, 73% drive alone, 10% carpool, 6% work from home, 5% take the bus, 2% walk, and 1% bicycle.
A 2013 study by Walk Score ranked Austin 35th most walkable of the 50 largest U.S. cities. This is considered a medium low ranking.
“Keep Austin Weird” has been a local motto for years, featured on bumper stickers and t-shirts. This motto has not only been used in promoting Austin’s eccentricity and diversity, but is also meant to bolster support of local independent businesses. According to the 2010 book, Weird City, the phrase was begun by a local Austin Community College librarian, Red Wassenich, and his wife, Karen Pavelka, who were concerned about Austin’s “rapid descent into commercialism and over-development.” The slogan has been interpreted many ways since its inception, but remains an important symbol for many Austinites who wish to voice concerns over rapid growth and irresponsible development. Austin has a long history of vocal citizen resistance to development projects perceived to degrade the environment, or to threaten the natural and cultural landscapes.
Many Austinites support the athletic programs of the University of Texas at Austin known as the Texas Longhorns. During the 2005–06 academic term, Longhorns football team was named the NCAA Division I FBS National Football Champion, and Longhorns baseball team won the College World Series. The Texas Longhorns play home games in the state’s second-largest sports stadium, Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, seating over 101,000 fans. Baseball games are played at UFCU Disch–Falk Field.