Like the other two extant public squares planned for the city in 1839, downtown's Wooldridge Square Park (it's the one with the bandstand) has had its ups and downs through Austin's booms and busts over the past century and a half or so.
The park at what is now 900 Guadalupe Street is one of four public squares designated by Austin's first mayor, Edwin Waller. (Two of the four, Brush Square and Republic Square, are still public spaces; First Baptist Church was built on the remaining square, at 901 Trinity Street.)
The city pretty much ignored the square for the rest of the 19th century but made some improvements around 1907, according to a recent city announcement, and at some point was named after then mayor A. P. Wooldridge. In 19109, Wooldridge sponsored the construction of a classical revival-style gazebo/stage in the middle of the bowl-shaped park.for public events in the park.
The plaque designating the park a Texas state historical site notes all of the above, adding some highlights from Wooldridge's career (the city's first public school system, bringing in the railroad, the first Colorado dam—not too shabby, from an economic-development point of view). What the marker leaves out, according to the city's press release, is the historical impact of the park's use as a gathering place and stage for speakers:
The park became known as an area where politicians and great orators were able to make an impact on the public. In 1911, Governor Colquitt began the tradition of launching campaigns from the square, followed by Governors Allan Shivers, Pat Neff, Dan Moody, Jimmy Allred, Jim Ferguson, and W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel. Booker T. Washington addressed the crowd in Austin at Wooldridge Square in 1911 after he was not allowed to speak on the floor of the Texas Legislature due to the color of his skin. Minnie Fisher Cunningham, who helped organize the National League of Women Voters, announced her campaign as the first Texas woman to run for the U.S. Senate from the park in 1928. Lyndon Baines Johnson famously announced his bid for the U.S. Senate in 1948 at Wooldridge Square. The history of Wooldridge Square is not only significant because of its age, but its ties to the pulse of Austinites in the Texas State capital city also makes this park special.
On Friday, May 12, the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department and the Friends of Wooldridge Square will dedicate a new Texas Historical Commission Marker—one that more fully reflects the park's significance—at the park. The ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. and is open to the public.