On August 1, 1839, under the shade of a grove of oak trees in what is now known as Republic Square, the original 306 lots of the newly-surveyed town of Austin were sold at auction. Excluded from sale were four unnamed public squares, which were to be preserved as gathering places for the citizens of the fledgling town.
Located at the convergence of Guadalupe Street, West Fifth Street, San Antonio Street and West Fourth Street, Republic Square is one of three remaining downtown historical squares in Austin. The park has been known by different names throughout its history, including “Courthouse Square,” “Hemphill Square,” “Mexican Park,” and “Guadalupe Park.” In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the park had strong associations with Austin’s Mexican-American and Catholic populations, due to its proximity to Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church and parochial school, and concentration of Hispanic citizens in the surrounding neighborhoods.
By the 1920s and 1930s, residents and Mexican-American cultural events began moving to east Austin. Residences and businesses were soon replaced by warehouses, car lots, lumber yards and printers. From the 1950s through the 1970s the park—save for the southwest corner with the historic “Auction Oaks”—was used as a parking lot. In 1974, the Sierra Club and PARD began discussions of converting the parking lot back to a public park. The restoration began in 1976 as part of the Bicentennial celebration and the current name, Republic Square, was chosen in tribute to the Republic of Texas.