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San Antonio Area Roads History
Historical Austin Highway Photos

This page last updated December 29, 2018


Below are historical photos of Austin Highway including the old highway to New Braunfels. These photos were compiled from the TxDOT photo library and the San Antonio TxDOT district office.

Locations are given using the present-day roadway names. The photos are arranged generally from south to north. Click on each photo for an enlarged view.

Click here to return to the historical photo galleries page.

Route history

SH 2US 81

This road has an extensive history and has continuously been one of the most important and busiest roads in the state. Parts of this route were on the El Camino Real that ran from Mexico via San Antonio to Nacogdoches, Texas and on to Natchitoches, Louisiana. Later, most of this road was part of the Meridian Highway, a network of north-south roads stretching from Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico to Canada delineated around 1910.

Around 1915, the US Post Office appropriated money to improve the road between San Antonio and Austin in order to speed mail delivery. The resulting 16-foot wide, macadam "post road" was considered the finest road in the state for several years. You can still find segments of this route named "Post Road" in New Braunfels and San Marcos.

When the state highway system was first developed in 1917, this road was designated SH 2. With the implementation of the US Highway System in 1927, it was numbered US 81. Eventually, this corridor was replaced with I-35.

In San Antonio, the early routes to New Braunfels took several paths through the city. Some maps show it going up Austin St. (or alternatively Broadway, then known as River Rd.) to Grayson St, then east from there to New Braunfels Ave. where it turned north. In the mid '20s, it seems the designated state route was east on Houston St. then north on New Braunfels Ave.

From there, the route went north through Fort Sam Houston, turned right onto today's Elanor St., and then veered onto what's now called Old Austin Rd. (and now you know why it's named that!) It then went back through Fort Sam Houston near the old BAMC and onto today's Harry Wurzbach Road. At Rittiman, it continued onto today's Corinne Dr. to Austin Highway. 

Sometime around 1930, the route from downtown San Antonio appears to have changed to travel up Broadway to Cleveland Court in Alamo Heights, then east on Garraty Road to Harry Wurzbach, where it then rejoined the previous routing northward; this may have been done as a temporary improvement while the route through Alamo Heights was being built (see next paragraph.)

In the early '30s, the state paid local engineer Edwin P. Arneson to develop a plan to improve the state highway system in San Antonio. One of those improvements called for connecting Austin Highway at Salado Creek to Broadway in Alamo Heights. That road opened in 1934 and US 81 and SH 2 were then routed along it and onto Broadway into downtown San Antonio. The segment between New Braunfels Ave. and Broadway was reportedly the first divided highway in the state. Interestingly, the original plan for the route through Alamo Heights called for it to leave Broadway on Cleveland Court and follow Wiltshire Ave. to Eldon, then run straight northeast to the crossing at Salado Creek..

From Salado Creek, the route followed Austin Highway northeast to the former community of Fratt, which was located in area around where Cowboy's Dancehall is located today. Fratt was considered a major milestone along the route, and the underpass at the railroad there was completed in the mid '30s as one of Arneson's recommended projects.

From Fratt, the route then continued northeast along today's Sherri Ann Rd. and onto Randolph Blvd. In the mid '30s, the section of Randolph Blvd. paralleling Sherri Ann Rd. from the railroad at Fratt to Weidner Rd. was built to provide a straighter and wider route there as per Arneson's recommendations. From Weidner, the route continued northeast along Randolph Blvd. and onto today's I-35 at Judson.

Continuing northeast, it left today's I-35 route briefly just north of Pat Booker Rd., following what's now Old Austin Rd., returning back to today's I-35 at Olympia Parkway. This section of Old Austin Rd. was also bypassed in the mid '30s.

From there, the route continued along today's I-35 northbound access road through Selma and into Guadalupe County and continued along today's I-35 to today's FM 2252, where it then took the route of today's FM 482 nearly to New Braunfels. At Rueckle Road, it rejoined today's I-35 briefly before entering New Braunfels via San Antonio St. By the mid '30s, it appears most of the FM 482 route had been bypassed along today's I-35 with the exception of the section between Solms and Rueckle; the short stretch of what's now Old Hwy 81 between FM 482 at Solms and I-35 at Doeppenschmidt Rd. was the northern end of the new route that connected it to the older route north. This was the route for US 81 until the completion of I-35 in the early '60s became the primary route to the northeast.

(I have found some evidence of an even earlier route between FM 2252 and New Braunfels that roughly followed today's route of I-35 but made several zig-zags off of today's I-35 path. I'm still investigating that route and it's timeline, but it appears to predate the FM 482 route.)

At Main Plaza in New Braunfels, the route turned right onto Seguin Ave., curved north onto Faust St., then crossed the historic Faust St. bridge before hanging a left onto Rusk and a right onto Church Hill Dr. It then continued onto the Post Road north along today's I-35 to FM 1102 into Hunter, then on to San Marcos via Hunter Rd. (FM 2439.) The entire route through New Braunfels would be bypassed by the mid '30s with the construction of today's Business Route 35 and its then-spectacular (and still impressive today) bridge over the Guadalupe.

Austin Highway at Broadway looking southwest
(ca. 1980)

This drainage ditch has since been covered over.

Austin Highway in Alamo Heights (ca. 1935)
This seems to be just east of Broadway looking northeast. This was shortly before this road opened to provide a new route for US 81 and SH 2 to bypass the route through Fort Sam Houston.

Austin Highway in Alamo Heights (ca. 1935)
This could be at Routt St. looking northeast. It appears the road ends a couple of blocks ahead-- that might be at New Braunfels Ave. and could be because this section was completed before the section from there to Salado Creek.

Austin Highway in Alamo Heights (ca. 1935)
This could be at New Braunfels Ave. looking west after the section from there to Salado Creek was completed.

Old Austin Road (1919)
The original caption described this as near the southern end. Based on that, this could be along Corinne Dr. or Harry Wurzbach.

Austin Highway at Salado Creek looking northeast (1919)
This photo was taken where the original SH 2 (and later US 81) curved onto today's Corinne Dr. The concrete low-water bridge near the middle of the photo is still in existance today below the current Austin Highway bridge. The road branching to the right across the bridge is today's Holbrook Rd.

SH 2 in Bexar County (ca. 1925)
This is likely on today's Sherri Ann Rd. near Crestway looking southwest at the old town of Fratt.

Old Austin Road at Cibolo Creek in Selma looking west (1919)
This is about where the northbound I-35 access road is today. The photo shows an improvised repair after flooding undermined the roadway.

New US 81 bridge over Cibolo Creek in Selma looking northwest (ca. 1935)
This is the location of the I-35 bridge today. The old low-water bridge can be seen in the foreground.

Old Austin Road between San Antonio and New Braunfels (ca. 1935)
Exact location unknown.

Old Austin Road between San Antonio and New Braunfels (ca. 1935)
Exact location unknown.

Old Austin Road between San Antonio and New Braunfels (ca. 1935)
Exact location unknown.

Old Austin Road (1919)
The original caption described this as "midway", presumably midway between San Antonio and Austin.

Old Austin Road (1940)
The caption for this photo was "scene on the highway north of San Antonio"; given the terrain, this would seem to be on the Austin Road between San Antonio and New Braunfels.
(Library of Congress)

Seguin Ave railroad crossing in New Braunfels looking southeast (ca. 1930)
This photo was before an underpass was built there.

Seguin Ave railroad crossing in New Braunfels looking northwest (ca. 1936)
This photo shows the completed underpass.

BL 35 bridge over the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels looking east-northeast (ca. 1934)
This photo was taken just after the bridge was completed. It replaced the Faust St. bridge as the route for US 81.

BL 35 bridge over the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels looking east-southeast (ca. 1934)

Click here to return to the historical photo galleries page.

This page and all its contents are Copyright 2023 by Brian Purcell

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