Mark Steger is a blogger out of Richardson, Texas, but over Labor Day weekend back in September 1990 he and his family visited Austin for a vacation — and Steger, an enthusiastic producer of home video, filmed several moments of the trip. These candid clips capturing Austin on a beautiful summer day more than 30 years ago are only a few of the dozens of family videos now uploaded to his YouTube page.
Considering the city’s transformation over the last few decades, Steger’s captures of Austin are a charming historical snapshot of a very different downtown, and their fairly high quality by the standards of camcorder video make for riveting viewing. We’ve annotated some of our favorite moments below:
The first video opens with a pan across the Austin skyline at 0:01. Steger and his family are staying in the Rainey Street neighborhood’s famous round Holiday Inn designed by Thomas Shefelman, which also gives us a pretty good view of the Hike-and-Bike Trail in this area — it’s surprising how much denser the tree cover on this part of the shoreline has become 30 years later. Even before the district’s proliferation of condo towers, the Towers of Town Lake, built in 1983, are seen here.
At 0:31, Steger zooms in on a hot air balloon floating over the city, giving us a better view of the comparatively sparse 1990 downtown skyline — on the left, you can see the smokestacks of the Seaholm Power Plant and the Green Water Treatment Plant storage tower, a region that is now dense with skyscrapers.
At 1:24, we cut to a visit to Treaty Oak, seen only a year after its poisoning. At this point, the oak was nearly two-thirds dead, its survival still uncertain — you can see a large sprinkler system surrounding the tree, along with numerous get-well cards.
At 2:19, Steger and his family visit the historic John Bremond House at 700 Guadalupe Street along with other homes in the Bremond Block Historic District — which, in 2021, sits only a stone’s throw from the construction site of what will soon become the city’s tallest tower yet.
In the second video, Steger’s family encounters some aggressive geese at the old Auditorium Shores near the South First Street Bridge — technically known as the Drake Bridge, but we’ve had a hard time getting anyone to notice.
At 0:15, you’ll see the original “Golden Mirror” exterior of the Chase Bank tower, which would be replaced by its current look a few years later.
At 1:18, we get a nice zoomed-in view of one of the old Town Lake paddle steamers from Lone Star Riverboats.
At 2:33, Steger’s family enjoys the shade of the iconic Fannie Davis Town Lake Gazebo.
At 3:00, Steger ends the video by panning over that lovably sparse skyline.
Other videos Steger shot that weekend include a tour of the State Capitol:
An inside look at the Austin Children’s Museum, now relocated and renamed:
And a Labor Day parade near the Capitol, including a glamour shot of an old Dillo bus at 1:23 and a visit to the Governor’s Mansion at 1:41:
Together, these videos add up to a fascinating trip back in time to a much sleepier city — and to us, they’re must-see viewing. At the moment, Steger’s videos only have about 10 or so views apiece, and we’d like to bump those numbers up for the sake of a little local nostalgia. Do you spot anything else in these videos we’ve missed?