In his original 1839 plan for the capital city, Edwin Waller, signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence and Austin's first Mayor, designed Congress Avenue as Austin's most prominent street. Known for many years as "The Avenue", the street has been the scene of many important social, political, patriotic, religious, and military events.
Early structures along Congress Avenue included government buildings, hotels, saloons, retail stores, and restaurants. By the late 1840s it was a well established business district. The mid-1870s saw the introduction of gaslight illumination and mule-drawn streetcars, as well as construction of a new Travis County Courthouse at Eleventh Street. The present Capitol was built in 1993-88. Bricks replaced the original dirt street in 1910, and trolley cars operated on the avenue until 1940.
Economic progress and modernization altered the avenue's appearance over the years, but it remains the city's most historic and identifiable street. In recognition of its architectural and historical significance, Congress Avenue from First Street to the Capitol was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.