The Austin History Center's mission is to procure, preserve, present and provide the historical records that make up Austin's unique story.
Born in Germany in 1834, Henry Hirshfeld emigrated to the U.S. at age 15. He served in the Texas Military Brigade as a private under Gen. E.S.C. Robertson in Georgetown. By 1866, Hirshfeld was living in Austin as the proprietor of Capital Clothing Co. at Sixth Street and Congress Avenue. He married Jennie Melasky in 1868, whose father was also in the dry goods business. Henry Hirshfeld became a very successful merchant, and by 1871, he was the first vice president appointed to the new Board of Trade by Gov. Edmund J. Davis. He was also a leader in the Jewish Community in Austin, charter member of the Mason's Hill City Lodge, and a leading member of the Austin Sängerrunde (a German singing society).
In 1873, Hirshfeld built a one-story limestone cottage on the lot west of this site. Because of the financial success and a growing family, they later built 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.
The Hirshfelds had eight children. 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 complex is now part of the Texas A&M University system. The Hirshfeld House and Cottage is a City of Austin Landmark, State Antiquities Landmark, Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, and National Register-listed property.
Cover Photo Courtesy of Daniel X O'Neil via Flickr