Formerly known as Pecan Street (all the east-west streets in downtown were originally named for Texas trees while north-south streets continue to be named for Texas rivers), Sixth Street was the main connecting road to the older settlements east of Austin. During the Reconstruction boom of the 1870s, the wooden wagon yards and saloons of the 1850s and 1860s began to be replaced by the more solid masonry structures you see today. After the new state capitol was built in 1888, the center of commercial activity began shifting toward Congress Avenue, and by the middle of the next century, Sixth Street had become a skid row.
Restoration of the 9 blocks designated as a Historic District by the National Register of Historic Places began in the late 1960s. In the 1970s, the street thrived as a live-music center. Austin's former main street is now lined with restaurants, galleries, bars, and shops. Despite the makeover, East Sixth still retains an air of decadence that reminds many of Bourbon Street. (West Sixth is much more sanitized.) On any night, you'll find a mostly young crowd walking the sidewalks looking for just the right bar.