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AUSTIN HISTORICAL TIDBITS
Lovers' Leap, Interstate System,
and Footbridge at Waller Creek

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Just read Mike Cox's story on lovers' leaps in Texas. There used to be a 5th. It was a rise just east of East Avenue in Austin, across from where the Austin police station stands at E. 6th & Interregional. This rise was maybe 30 feet high, no more, & it was topped with a sort of concrete platform with a decorative concrete railing around it. It was known locally as 'Lovers' Leap' but no one seemed to know why. It was demolished & the mound leveled in '53 or '54 when what was then East Avenue, the original east city limit of Austin, was turned into the first stretch of Interstate highway built in the country. Yes, Brown & Root got the contract.

As a sidenote, the Interstate system was the brainchild of President Eisenhower. It was patterned after the autobahnen in Germany. When Ike saw how efficiently the Germans used the autobahnen to move troops & equipment, he decided the US needed a similar highway system. The actual name of the Interstate system is the 'National Defense Highway System,' & all initial construction is financed by the Department of Defense.

When the first stretch was completed, in Austin, Brown & Root had to go back & tear out all the underpasses & lower the road. They'd cut corners & the underpasses weren't low enough to allow the largest truck-carried missiles to pass under them.

As late as the mid-60s, Austin had the only railroad grade crossing on an Interstate in the country. It used to tie up traffic every morning as a slow freight crossed the Interstate just north of where the Hancock Shopping Center is now.

The center is built on what was originally the back 9 of the old Austin Country Club. The Hancock Recreation Center at 41st & Red River was the front 9.

At the time 38 1/2 street stopped on both sides of Waller Creek and there was a footbridge at Waller Creek. There was a la llorona story about that footbridge when I was a kid living on 42nd, but we didn't call it la llorona. We had a story about a crazy woman with a lantern who used to go to the footbridge & call for her children, who supposedly drowned in Waller Creek. Austin's la llorona was 'the donkey lady' on deep East 6th. - C. F. Eckhardt, June 08, 2006

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