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Somewhere along the way, Austin became known as "The City of the Violet Crown". We chose the name Violet Crown because of this. That's all fine and good, you say, but I can hear you asking, "Why is Austin called that?" During the 30-odd years I've lived here, I've heard several explanations.

The story I'm most familiar with also happens to be my personal favorite: With near-by hills that keep air-born things from drifting on to other places, Austin has a fair amount of haze. Before the current problem of auto exhaust, it was attributable to smoke, dust and such. At sunset, and into dusk, the haze takes on a purple cast, covering all with a violet crown. I've experienced this evening corona, and it is truly lovely.

Another popular explanation also involves the setting sun. Looking west from town, the Balcones Escarpment marks the beginning of the Hill Country. When they turn purple at sunset, the hills form a violet crown around the city.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Violet Crown is a reference to the purple-ish glow from the Moon Towers. For some interesting reading on Austin's Moon Towers, see The Moonlight Towers of Austin, Texas

We also liked the fact that the nickname has a literary connection. The first published use of the phrase was in O. Henry's short story Tictocq: The Great French Detective, in Austin. The story was originally published in his locally published newspaper The Rolling Stone on October 27, 1894.

The phrase is used in Chapter Two: "The drawing-rooms of one of the most magnificent private residences in Austin are a blaze of lights. Carriages line the streets in front, and from gate to doorway is spread a velvet carpet, on which the delicate feet of the guests may tread. The occasion is the entree into society of one of the fairest buds in the City of the Violet Crown."

Austin isn't the first City of the Violet Crown. That distinction goes to Athens (Greece, not Texas) . In a time when Athens was considered the cradle of western civilization, Austin called itself the "Athens of the South". If you consider that Titocq was a politcal humor story, as well as a spoof of a popular literary figure, French detective Leroq, you might come to the conclusion that O'Henry was poking a little fun at Austin's high-faluting cultural claim.

Or maybe he just liked the sunsets.

Thanks to Blakeway Worldwide Panoramas for permission to use the beautiful photograph.
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