ACC opens its second full-time campus in the former Austin High School building at 1212 Rio Grande Street, renaming it the Rio Grande Campus.

A Look Back…

The histories of ACC and Austin High School first intersected in 1972 with the founding of ACC under the auspices of the Austin Independent School District. AISD leased some of its high-school buildings (including Crockett, Reagan, and Austin High School) to ACC for evening classes.

Much earlier, in 1881, the Austin School board adopted a plan for locating school buildings on property along Rio Grande Street, one block south of 12th Street (then known as College Avenue) and one block north to 13th Street. An elementary school, eventually named Pease School, stood on the south block of Rio Grande Street, and a three-story 134,000 square-foot brick structure occupied the west side of Rio Grande Street. The school, designated John T. Allen Junior High School, opened its doors in 1911. In 1927, it became Austin High School, and in 1939, the school district constructed a 23,000 square-foot annex building with offices and classrooms along with a covered walkway joining the two.

Another imposing red-brick building housed Austin High School. That arrangement lasted until a fire destroyed “Big Red,” and Austin High School relocated to the former Allen Junior High school building.  AISD also owned a 28,500-square-foot gymnasium and band hall across West Avenue from Austin High School.

With Austin High moving to a new campus on Town Lake (today’s Lady Bird Lake), AISD agreed to lease the old Austin High School building to ACC for nighttime classes and then evening classes as well.

Source: Austin American Statesman, May 2, 2021


Student government President Greg Hale, a communications major, in front of the Rio Grande Street entrance to Rio Grande Campus.

As the fall 1975 semester approached, almost 10,000 students registered for classes – 60 percent more than the previous spring. Fortunately, ACC enjoyed twice as much classroom space, thanks to the availability of the former Stephen F. Austin High School campus at 12th and Rio Grande streets.

AISDt had relocated Austin High School to a new campus near Town Lake and agreed to lease the old campus’ main building, which had been constructed in 1911, for ACC to use as a full-time, day/night facility. The arrangement exemplified the benefits that accrued to ACC, still without local taxing authority, from its connection to AISD. The campus was initially christened the “Austin Campus” and then changed to ACC’s “Rio Grande Campus.”

student lounge

The high school cafeteria was later converted to a student lounge.

Preparing the 64-year-old Rio Grande Campus for a full schedule of daytime and nighttime classes was an enormous challenge due to the age of the building, limited office and classroom space, and tight budgets. Resourceful employees spent Labor Day weekend of 1975 painting their new offices, which in some cases were actually converted closets. College officials turned the former school cafeteria into a student lounge. ACC also acquired an abandoned H.E.B. grocery store one block west of the Rio Grande Campus to use as an occupational and technical Skills Center. ACC’s Board of Trustees negotiated the purchase of property once owned by the Austin Athletic Club, including tennis courts, and leased them to the City of Austin to enhance the college’s cash inflow.

abandoned HEB

A view from 12th Street. ACC purchased an abandoned H.E.B. grocery store at the corner of 12th Street and Shoal Creek Blvd. and converted it into a vocational/technical Skills Center.

old athletic club

ACC also acquired the old Austin Athletic Club building and tennis courts adjacent to the Skills Center on Shoal Creek Blvd.

covered walkway

The covered walkway between the main building and the Annex, part of which AISD continued to use for students with special needs, provided a comfortable place to hang out between classes.

computer lab

A Rio Grande Campus student computer lab, circa early 1980s, was equipped with modern Apple IIe and Macintosh machines.

computer programming students

A computer programming classroom