Statesman at 150: We found images of 13 newspaper homes
As part of the American-Statesman’s yearlong look at its 150th anniversary, we have now found images of 13 documented locations of the newspaper offices.
We employed all sorts of sources to verify these images: historical city directories, insurance maps, newspaper editions archived at Newspapers.com and images archived at the website, Portal to Texas History, plus the memories of some American-Statesman veterans.
Happily, American-Statesman Publisher Pat Dorsey added to what was known about these buildings when he recently discovered a copy of a 1956 typewritten history of the newspaper in an office closet.
What else might we find in the building at 305 S. Congress Ave. before we leave in 2021?
The historical newspapers that became the American-Statesman included the Democratic Statesman, the subject of our front-page story on July 26, the Daily Statesman, the Austin Tribune, the short-lived Austin Statesman and Tribune, the Austin American, the Austin Statesman and the Austin American-Statesman.
This always comes up: How did they move those heavy presses each time? Actually, presses for a four-page newspaper during the 19th century were not all that large, and some of them were fitted with wheels.
With that in mind, we’ll probably discover even more production locations. Note that city directories rarely bothered with numerical street addresses well into the 20th century, which makes it difficult to confirm the validity of certain images.
To give you a sense of the variety of locations — all within a few blocks of Congress Avenue or South Congress Avenue — we offer snapshots for particular years.
1871Democratic Statesman: Congress Avenue between Hickory and Ash (Eighth and Ninth) streets. By comparing a drawing of that first office with a picture of the Austin American in the snow, taken after 1915 and before 1924, I believe they are the same building at 813 Congress Ave., since demolished.
1873 DemocraticStatesman: Congress Avenue and West 10th Street. We have a tremendous shot of this lost structure next to the surviving Lundberg Bakery. The Statesman during this period was still very much an arm of the Texas Democratic Party.
1882 Daily Statesman: The newspaper next moved to the elaborately decorated Hancock Bank Building at 122 W. Sixth St., which later became the Hancock Opera House. The entrance was in the back of the building. The editorial offices were on the first floor and the bindery and composing room on the second. At one point, the address is listed through another entrance at 126 W. Sixth St.
1900 Daily Statesman (production): 110 E. Ninth St. The Statesman was printed in what was once the Millet Opera House and now is the home to the Austin Club. We know this from a surviving Sanborn Insurance map, although this spot is not included in a typewritten history of the newspaper put together in 1956.
1900 Daily Statesman (editorial offices): 905 Congress Ave. The editorial offices needed a more public front and landed in the building that later served a bank as well as the Manhattan Deli and one of the city's earliest gay bars in the 1950s. Nelson Partners’ design offices are there now. Again, not included in a typewritten history of the newspaper.
1902 Daily Statesman: 401 Congress Ave. Decidedly grander, these quarters at the old Board of Trade Building stood at the corner of East Fourth Street and Congress Avenue. The building is gone.
1907Daily Statesman: 713 Congress Ave. For the briefest of times, the Statesman was listed as occupying a small building next to the Avenue Hotel in the 700 block of Congress Avenue. The Paramount Theatre stands at that location now.
Austin Tribune (pre-1914): 400 Congress Ave. Before it was absorbed by the Statesman, the Tribune was published in a turreted building at West Fourth Street and Congress Avenue. A surface parking lot has replaced it.
1914Austin American: 813 Congress Ave. The upstart Austin American, which represented the Woodrow Wilson wing of the Democratic Party, was located at 813 Congress Ave. Visual evidence suggests that this was the building that was also the first home of the Democratic Statesman back in 1871.
1925Austin American-Statesman: Brazos and East Seventh streets. The Daily Statesman might have used this low building for some of its operations as early as 1916. The merged company that published the morning American, evening Statesman and Sunday American-Statesman definitely occupied this structure next to the Driskill Hotel.
1936Austin American-Statesman: West Seventh and Colorado streets. Longtime Austinites remember this lovely building with its art deco facade that was later demolished. Many photographs by Neal Douglass document this spot.
1953Austin American-Statesman: West Fourth and Guadalupe streets. Many former Statesman employees worked in this low-lying utilitarian building that was so unremarkable, few images of it survive. It was demolished in 1987, six years after the newspaper left the building.
1981Austin American-Statesman: 122 Riverside Drive (later the address of the same building was switched to 305 S. Congress Ave.) This massive complex has been home to the Statesman both during its period of largest expansion and during the later years when the business and the staff shrank while much of its operation has moved over to the digital world.
2021 Austin American-Statesman: The newspaper, now part of the Gannett chain, plans to move to offices at the Met Center in Southeast Austin in 2021. Currently, the hard-copy newspaper is printed in San Antonio and Houston. Meanwhile, the Cox family, which formerly owned the Statesman, plans to turn the current site on South Congress, which they retained when they sold the paper in 2018, into a mixed-use development.