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Henry Hirshfeld was born in 1834, originally from Schneidermuche in Posen, Germany. He emigrated to the United States at the age of 15. He served in the Texas Military Brigade as a Private under Gen. E. S. C. Robertson in Georgetown, Texas.
By 1866, Hirshfeld was living in Austin as the proprietor of Capital Clothing Company at Sixth and Congress Avenue.
He married Jennie Melasky in 1868, whose father was also in the dry goods business. A successful merchant, by 1871 he was the first vice president appointed to the new Board of Trade by Governor Davis. He was a leader in Austin’s Jewish community, a charter member of the Mason's Hill City Lodge, and a leading member of the Austin Sängerrunde.
In 1873 he built a one-story limestone cottage on the lot west of this site. Because of the financial success and a growing family, they later made plans for a larger home here. Construction of this two-story brick and cut stone house began in 1885 and the family moved in a year after completion.
Designed and built by architect John Andrewartha, it features characteristics of Victorian and Eastlake styling. Exterior ornamentation includes a double gallery, a bay, strained glass, ornate woodwork, and intricate limestone detailing. The two-story stick style carriage house was built soon after completion of the main residence.
Two of their sons, Jake and Sam, also became merchants and opened separate clothing stores. Jake and his brother Morris served as directors of the Austin National Bank, an institution their father helped establish in 1890. Family members continued to reside here until the death of the Hirshfelds' daughter Leila Hirshfeld Bernheim in 1973.
The Hirshfeld House and Cottage is a City of Austin landmark, and Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, and is listed on the National Register. The complex is now utilized by the Texas A&M University system.