At CityView at Soco Austin apartments, we think we have the most idyllic location in town. We take pride in the fact that you can walk half a block to find a food truck most days. We don’t mess around when it comes to authentic Austin experiences, which is why this week’s blog will be about Austin as it used to be. Before Dirty 6th was the late night destination that it is today, it was a bustling commercial avenue filled with some of the first minority-owned businesses in Texas.
Next time you’re on Dirty 6th, take a good hard look at some of the buildings. If you’re perceptive, you’ll start to notice how many historical markers dot this street that’s otherwise known for having the most bars of any zip code in America. 6th Street actually has a rich history that dates back to the 1800s, when most of these buildings were built.
As mentioned, 6th Street was the commercial hub of Austin’s minority business community. Many 6th Street buildings were owned by Chinese, African-American, Lebanese and Jewish businessmen. Below, we point out some of the more notable buildings and their amazing history. We hope you enjoy this week’s blog from CityView at SoCo apartments in South Austin.
Now: Buckshot Bar
Then: Risher-Nicholas Building
This building once housed an African-American newspaper called the Austin Watchman. The building was owned by Benjamin Risher who was a road builder for the Republic of Texas, back when that was a thing. The building was erected in 1873, and published the newspaper in the early 1900s until the building was taken over by a different family in 1929.
Now: Maggie Mae’s
Then: Smith-Hage Building
This building was built in 1873— the same year as the Risher-Nicholas Building. However, in 1922, the property was purchased by a 24 year Lebanese immigrant named M.K. Hage. He was born in Lebanon, then emigrated to Texas and subsequently purchased this 6th Street general store.
Now: The Jackalope
Then: Maroney-Isaacs Building
Whether it was a tavern, a billiards room, a boarding house or a drug store, this building was owned by black businessmen from 1911 to 1965. African-American building ownership was a rarity in those days, but not on Austin’s 6th street.
Now: Chupacabra Cantina
Then: Kreisle Building
This building used to be owned by Mathias Kreisle, an Austin furniture-maker and undertaker. We imagine he did the undertaking job by night and the furniture making by day. It only makes sense that way. Built in 1875, his building housed various businesses owned by Chinese, African-American, Jewish and Lebanese businessmen.
Now: Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar
Then: Paggi Carriage Shop
Michael Paggi is the hero you’ve never heard of. He emigrated to Austin from France, and in the process brought Texas its first ice machine. As you can imagine, the locals were extremely grateful to Mr. Paggi for the ice, and bought plenty of his carriages and buggies. If you look on the edges of 6th Street, you’ll notice the brick roads that those carriages would have been driven on back in the early 1900’s.
Then: Morley Brothers Drug Store
In this building’s case, “then” wasn’t that long ago. The Morley Brothers Drug Store was in business at this location for 80 years, from 1906 to 1986. They provided Austinites with a variety of questionable medicines like “German Sarsaparilla,” “Marvelous Mexican Medicines,” and “Lemon Chili Cure.” The building was known as the “drug manufacturing capital of Texas.”
Thanks for reading through our history lesson! We hope you have a better appreciation of 6th Street that you’re on next time you hit the town. Be sure to follow us on social media for more updates from our pet-friendly South Austin apartments.