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.:wok .Sfir 1:0444 Austin’s Congress Avenue in 1945. The tallest building is Scarbrough’s Department store. more telling than could any chamber of commerce brochure. While the series’ focus is ostensibly on the cities’ evolving architecture, the shots of everyday people give heart to the ever-changing concrete backdrops. From a 1911 picture of L.L. “Shorty” Walker preparing to fly his homemade airplane from a then-pastoral south Houston field to smiling 1950s trophy winners in long-skirted uniforms at Dallas’ Hockaday School; from a 1900 portrait of an impeccably dressed black family gathering to celebrate Emancipation Day in Austin’s East Woods Park to a smiling John F. Kennedy minutes before his assassination in a 1963 Dallas motorcade, the books offer poignant snapshots of evolving communities and social history. Nature is dramatically featured in the series as well, seen in the 1908 flooding of the Trinity River through Dallas and a doomsday-looking tornado looming over the Austin capitol in 1922. Given today’s urban sprawl, perhaps the most jarring photos show the once wideopen bucolic wildernesses visible just past pulsating city limits. While never offering explicit opinions on development, occasionally the editors subtly insinuate their thoughts within the captions. For instance, below a shot of the Butler House in Austin, a beautiful Victorian Revival mansion built in 1887, its colorful history darkly ends, “It reflected the ebullience of the Victorian era until it was demolished in 1971 to make way for a parking lot.” With today’s increasing awareness of historic preservation, the reminders of disappeared architectural gems hint at the need for caution in the name of progress. Stayton Bonner is a freelance writer in Austin. 28 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JUNE 1, 2007