Facts About Austin That Are Actually Straight-up Lies
If you’ve been telling people popular facts about Austin, then you’d better hope you’re wearing flame retardant pants, because a whole bunch of those facts are LIES. Check ‘em out below, and see if you’ve been accidentally spouting porkies.
The Texas flag is the only flag that can fly as high as the American flag
Everyone in Austin loves this fact. It's even relayed during tours at the Capitol building. Right after they explain the origins of the name “Six Flags,” you’ll hear how Texas is afforded this right because we were an independent nation prior to admission into the United States. The problem is it isn’t true. The Texas flag is allowed to fly as high as the US flag, but so is every other state flag in the country.
The UT Tower looks like an owl because it was designed by a Rice University graduate
This was the second thing you’ll get told on your first day in Austin is the tale of the owl building. According to seemingly every Austinite, a scorned Rice University (in Houston) grad later became an architect and constructed the university's tower as a homage to Rice’s mascot (an owl) and as humiliation to Austin. The problem is UT’s tower was designed by Paul Cret, who was born in Lyon, France and graduated from the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
The Frost Bank building looks like an owl because it was designed by a Rice University graduate
If you don’t hear the UT tower was built by a Rice grad, you’ll hear the same story applied to the Frost Bank Tower in Downtown. Look at the eyes! The Frost Bank tower was designed by Duda/Paine Architects, LLP and HKS, Inc., neither with Rice affiliations or agenda. Can we please put both of these to rest?
Picking bluebonnets is illegal
The state flower of Texas, the bluebonnet, is a sight to see out in the hill country. Inevitably someone wants to stop to strike the perfect “pooping on bluebonnets” Instagram pose. One over enthusiastic friend will chime in with the fact it is illegal to pick them. Well, it’s not. There is no Texas law that forbids the picking of bluebonnets.
The Texas Capitol faces south to honor the Texas Revolution
This one also has two common sayings. The first is that Texas built the Capitol facing south as a snub to the Union. The other is that it faces south towards Goliad or the Alamo as a nod to remember both the Texas Revolution battle sites. Remember the Alamo! The fact is it’s built on high ground and to face the river.
Texas has the right to secede back to the Republic of Texas
Blame Rick Perry for this one. In a 2009 interview Perry let out, “When we came into the Union in 1845, one of the issues was that we’d be able to leave if we decided to do that.” Our former gov was sadly mistaken, as Texas has no right to secede, no matter what our Lone Star cans say. We could try, but as we saw in 1861, it doesn’t turn out too well.
The moon light towers were put up to find a serial killer
Back in the day there was a serial killer known as the “Servant Girl Annihilator.” Rumor has it Austin put up moon light towers to help find the man responsible. Unfortunately, this isn’t true, as the towers weren’t erected until 10 years after the murders took place.
A UT student had his kidneys stolen
Have you ever had one of those crazy nights where you meet an attractive girl, follow her to some strange party, drink a bunch of drinks, do a lot of drugs, then wake up in a bathtub with no kidneys? Right. Neither has any UT student. This fact became so widespread, the university’s newspaper had to put out an article to tell everyone they never put out an article on it.
Austin has the most bars per capita
Every alcoholic town loves to tote this “fact”. You hear it in Brooklyn, or Portland, or residents of any town that wants to prove how cool they are. The fact is Pittsburg has the most bars per capita at 11.8 bars per 10,000 people. Austin isn’t even in the top 10.
110 people move here per day
This is another fact everyone loves reciting. Whether it is realtors, Uber drivers, bartenders, nobody can get enough Austin growth chats. The most common number (although we’ve heard up to 300 per day) is that 110 people move here every single day. There is no basis for this number, and an in depth inquiry into various state departments by Politfact puts the number in Austin itself closer to 50 per day. Austin is growing, but not quite that fast.
Bevo got his name because of an A&M prank
Bevo, the beloved mascot of the Longhorns, is often said to have gotten his name in a rather embarrassing way. Legend has it that after a 13-0 lost to A&M, some students branded the score into poor old Bevo. Embarrassed, UT students altered the branding to read "Bevo" by changing the "13" to a "B," the "-" to an "E," and inserting a "V" between the dash and the "0." This is not true. While Bevo was actually branded, his name was acquired prior to the infamous prank.
Austin is weird
Throwing “just keeping it weird” after any of your questionable actions doesn’t make Austin weird. “Weird” is also not an excuse for common problems with the city (when will they ever get around to all these potholes). The town, when compared to many other in this country (we’re looking at you New Orleans), is fairly normal. Particularly recently with the influx of investment and growth, Austin’s “motto” is a lie.
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Brent Underwood is the founder of HK Austin, a co-living and co-working space in the heart of Austin.