A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Church of the Generals (St. John’s Episcopal Church, Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn) (7/28)
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Entry from February 22, 2007
City of the Violet Crown (Austin nickname)

Athens, Greece was called the “City of the Violet Crown” or “City of the Violet-Crowned Hills.” Some say that when Athens was ruled by King Ion (Ion = “violet"), Athens acquired this name. Pindar (the Greek poet of the fifth century B.C.) used the “violet crown” term.

O. Henry called Austin, Texas the “City of the Violet Crown” in 1894, although Austin has used the name since at least 1891. Austin’s Violet Crown Garden Club began in 1924.


Austin History Center
What’s the origin of the term “City of the Violet Crown” referring to Austin? Did it really originate with O. Henry?
Yes, the first published use of the phrase is found in O. Henry’s short story “Tictocq” in the Rolling Stones collection of O. Henry short stories. It 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 entrée into society of one of the fairest buds in the City of the Violet Crown.”

Austin Museum of Art: About Laguna Gloria
Clara Driscoll was one of the founding members and first president of the Violet Crown Garden Club in 1924. The name was undoubtedly taken from Pindar, a Greek lyric poet of the fifth century B. C., who wrote of Athens thus: “City of light, with thy violet crown, beloved of the poets, thou art the bulwark of Greece.” O’Henry, the popular American short-story author, borrowed this classical reference when he referred to Austin as the “city with violet crowned hills.” The club dedicated itself to the beautification of the city through the planting and cultivation of flowers and shrubs.

Longhorns, Aggies & the Texas State of Mind
There’s magic in Texas that everyone should experience, a magic that arrives in spring as the Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrush cover the miles and miles of Texas Highways. The sky at sunset reflects this same magic, as do the stars under the West Texas sky, stars that burn so bright they seem to be within reach. The magic exists in the history that fills the San Antonio Riverwalk, or exudes from the high-tech hustle and bustle of cities like Dallas and Houston. That same magic illuminates Austin at night as for a brief moment the sky is illuminated by a flash of lavender, giving the capital its nickname, “City of the Violet Crown.”

14 February 1872, Fort Wayne (IN) Daily Sentinel, pg. 2?, col. 1:
...even as the Athenians ostracized their designing and dangerous leaders from the City of the Violet Crown.

2 September 1884, Oshkosh (WI) Daily Northwestern, pg. 4, col. 1:
It needs a patriot who loves his country as the Roman loved the City of the Seven Hills, or the Athenian the City of the Violet Crown.

Chronicling America
17 August 1891, Fort Worth (TX) Gazette, pg. 6, col. 7:
Athena’s fane, Athena’s town—
The city of the violet crown.
-- Douglas Sladen in Harper’s Bazar.

6 September 1891, Galveston (TX) Daily News, pg. 3, col. 4:
Hom. Barney Zimpleman of Austin is registered at the Tremont. he says the “city of the violet crown” is very quiet just at this time.

19 September 1891, Dallas (TX) Morning News, pg. 4:
...and requestion Col. Grsham to come to Austin at once, as his presence was desired by the commission. Col Gresham left to-night for the “city of the violet crown,” and will spend to-day there in conference with the august body above spoken of.

25 May 1925, Salamanca (NY) Republican Press, “Poetic Name for City,” pg. 2, col. 5:
The appellation “City of the Violet Crown” was bestowed upon the city of Athens by the ancient Athenians. The origin of the term is in dispute, and is variously explained. According to some authorities, the violet was the favorite flower of the Athenians, and thus became the symbol of the city. Aristophanes, in his “Equities” and “Acharnians,” speaks of Athens as the “Violet-Crowned.” According to others, Ion (the Greek for violet) was a king of Athens, was in consequence Ion’s city, the violet city, the city of King Ion, or the city of King Violet.—Kansas City Times.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Thursday, February 22, 2007 • Permalink