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Find Out What's Buried Inside Austin's City Hall Time Capsule

Joy Diaz/KUT News

Buried under the Austin City Hall building is a time capsule.

Today, that capsule is ten years old. The box is scheduled to be opened in 2105.

Since it’s very likely you and I won’t be alive 90 years from now, KUT asked the people who filled up the box to reveal some of the things that are in it.

It's hard to imagine the Austin of 2105, when the capsule is supposed to be opened.

If you just consider that we double our population every 20 years, you can picture how crowded Austin is likely to become.

And "that growth means change," said Toby Futrell, who was Austin's city manager from 2002 to 2008.

Futrell said by the time the capsule is opened nothing will be "familiar."

Back in 2005, when Futrell was corralling the mayor and city council members to come up with unique and meaningful things they could pack up for the Austinites of the future to discover, Austin was just gaining the international notoriety it now enjoys.

At that time, Will Wynn was the city's mayor, and city hall was under construction.


Wynn remembers everything around city hall was ugly, "half abandoned surface parking lots, boarded up buildings, razor wire." He even calls it "the worst looking real estate in all of downtown." That's why, he says, city hall was built in the middle of it, "to inspire what has happened." The city's new condos, little boutiques, and the walkable streets of the Second Street District came after city hall. It's only been ten years, but the city is unrecognizable. Wynn calls the changes "pretty remarkable."

And so, to honor city hall as sort of the corner stone of all the new development, Futrell put in the time capsule a little sketch by Antoine Predock, the architect who would ultimately design city hall.

Futrell remembers how the unique look of the building came about. Back when public hearings were held about the new building, there wasn't a unified vision. The meetings were long and contentious.

One day, Futrell took Predock for a walk along Bull Creek. The architect's eyes immediately focused on the white, copper, and mossy green limestone along the creek.

"And he sketched," says Futrell, "and [he] finally took those sketches and built the design of the new city hall."

Along with that sketch, the time capsule also has coins from 2005, an Austinopoly board game (Austin's version of Monopoly), a poster from the Armadillo World Headquarters, and a "Keep Austin Weird" sticker.

Raul Alvarez was the only Hispanic council member at the time.

He chose things that would highlight the contributions of Hispanics such as poet laureate Raul Salinas.

"I included a book of his in the capsule called East of the Freeway, a book of poems about what it was like for him to grow up on the East side."

Salinas also founded the Resistencia bookstores. He died in 2008, but his revolutionary legacy lives on.

Another thing that lives on is Austin's musical culture.

The council of 2005 tried to honor that culture too.

At first Mayor Wynn thought about packing some CDs, but then he called Dell CEO Kevin Rollins and asked him about the latest technology to showcase a bunch of songs.

Wynn was blown away when Rollins came to city hall holding Dell's latest mp3 player. "And [Rollins] said: 'Mayor, you can download ten thousand songs on this!'"

Today's smart technology gives users access to pretty much any song or anything, really. In hindsight Wynn says his brand new mp3 player was "laughably big and clunky, but [it] gave me the opportunity to download my list of 100 Austin songs."

One of the songs Wynn loaded was Guy Clark's Dublin Blues. It starts with a line that will probably be true for those of us who are not likely to be here in 2105. Clark sings, "Well, I wish I was in Austin."

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.
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