Just a few blocks from downtown Austin, right in the middle of a blossoming East Austin, lies the Texas State Cemetery, serving as the resting place for many notable Texans, including governors, senators, judges, and soldiers.
Now at first thought, an afternoon visit to the Texas State Cemetery doesn’t sound like a must do, but I was surprised. The gorgeous 22 acre plot of land is quiet and serene (even with three somewhat loud children who had little concept about what a cemetery really is) and mostly shaded. Small ponds and water features bubble at the entrance, welcoming guests into the beautiful enclosed grounds, and paths wind through the cemetery, leading visitors through the impeccably kept grave sites.
Upon entering, visitors can stop in at the Visitors Center and Gallery for information about the cemetery. We happened to be visiting on a Sunday, so the buildings were closed (which also meant no bathrooms, so take heed if you go on a weekend). The Texas State Cemetery Visitor Center is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The cemetery grounds are open seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The Texas State Cemetery was originally the burial place of Edward Burleson, Texas Revolutionary general and Vice President of the Republic of Texas. During the Civil War it was expanded into a Confederate cemetery, and then later expanded again to include prominent Texans and their spouses. I thoroughly enjoyed combing through the area, reading the names and titles, looking at dates, and just marveling at the beauty of the entire site. It was a hot day, but the cemetery was peaceful, and I barely felt it.
If you’ve spent any large amount of time in Austin, strolling through the cemetery is a who’s who of the city’s street names, buildings, museums, and parks. We came across graves of Frank Craig Erwin, Jr. (Erwin Center), Robert Douglas Bullock (Bullock Museum and former lieutenant governor who actually initiated an extensive restoration of the cemetery from 1994 to 1997), patriot Barbara Jordan, author James Frank Dobie, and of course Stephen F. Austin. I made sure to find the gorgeous headstone of former governor Ann Richards, and the monumental headstone for former UT football coach Darrell K. Royal gave me a touch of my Longhorn pride.
A large part of the cemetery is dedicated to over 2000 marked graves of confederate soldiers and widows. We continually marveled at the dates and the wear of some of the headstones. Many had been there for over 100 years!
Along with the grave sites, the Texas State Cemetery also features several monuments, including a Vietnam War Memorial Monument, a World War II Monument listing the notable dates and events of the war, and a monument dedicated to recipients of the Purple Heart, those who were wounded in combat in the hands of the enemy.
The most breathtaking of the monuments is the 9/11 Memorial, a circle of smooth, polished granite surrounding two steel beams salvaged from the wreckage of the World Trade Center. The encompassing circle features signs indicating the times of each of the crashes, along with granite benches inside. I found myself needing to take a seat for several minutes to take it all in.
Tips for visiting the Texas State Cemetery:
- Visit during business hours if you’d like to get more information… or use the restroom. The Visitor’s Center is open Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- If you’re looking for a particular grave site, you can search the Texas State Cemetery website by name or by eligibility criteria (governor Texas Ranger, etc.). The individual’s profile will show the section, row, and number of the site.
- If all else fails, turn to Google images. When I still couldn’t find Ann Richards’ headstone, my husband googled it, showed me the photo, and I was able to find it immediately. Especially since it’s one of the most unique ones in the cemetery.
- Once you’ve finished at the cemetery, head a block or so over to the revitalized and hip area of East Austin where you can grab brunch at Hillside Farmacy, get a cold drink and snack at the Quickie Pickie, or browse the latest exhibition at Tiny Park, all within walking distance of the cemetery.
Texas State Cemetery
909 Navasota St.
Austin, TX 78702
Leigh Ann Torres is a freelance writer and blogger living in Austin with her husband and three girls. She’s a pretty good cook, a mediocre photographer, and a horrible housekeeper. She writes about the good, the bad, and the ridiculous of life with twins plus one at Genie in a Blog.