Downtown Historical Houses Walking Tour (Self Guided), Austin

Northwest downtown Austin boasts an impressive collection of historic residences of notable styles, ranging from classic Victorian to Georgian to Greek Revival. Carefully preserved and restored, these buildings form a major part of the city's cultural heritage. Take this self-guided tour for a quiet, much more peaceful stroll, as compared to that on the crowded Congress Avenue, for example, and explore a number of historically important houses and mansions of Austin.
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Downtown Historical Houses Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Downtown Historical Houses Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Austin (See other walking tours in Austin)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 Km or 1.9 Miles
Author: christine
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Texas Governor's Mansion
  • Brizendine House
  • Fischer House
  • Robinson-Macken House
  • John Bremond House
  • Henry Hirshfeld House and Cottage
  • O. Henry Museum
  • Susanna Dickinson Museum
Texas Governor's Mansion

1) Texas Governor's Mansion

The Texas Governor's Mansion, also known simply as Governor's Mansion, is a historic home for the Governor of Texas in downtown Austin. It was built during 1854 and has been the home of every governor since 1856.

On June 8, 2008, while midway through a major renovation, the mansion was damaged badly by an arson fire started with a Molotov cocktail.

Built by Abner Cook in a Greek Revival style and completed during 1856, the building occupies the center of a block and is surrounded by trees and gardens. The original mansion was 6,000 square feet (560 m2). Remodeling during 1914 increased the size of it to 8,920 square feet (829 m2). The original mansion had 11 rooms but no bathrooms. The remodeling brought the room count to 25 rooms and 7 bathrooms. In 1931, at the recommendation of former Texas First Lady Mildred Paxton Moody, the 42nd Texas Legislature established the Board of Mansion Supervisors to oversee all interior and exterior upkeep and enhancements to the mansion.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Brizendine House

2) Brizendine House

The Brizendine House is a historic home in downtown Austin, constructed circa 1870. The building is located on 11th Street and is today surrounded by an annex to the Travis County Courthouse and the Blackwell/Thurman Criminal Justice Center. The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

This simple vernacular rough ashlar house represents the life style of the late 19th century working middle class family in Austin. The exterior proportions of the structure reflect Victorian influence. It was built of limestone about 1870 by John R. Brizendine (1829–1914), an Austin carpenter, machinist and miller, a native of Kentucky, who lived here until his death. Mrs. Elizabeth Gordon bought the home in 1928, and members of her family lived here until 1972.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Fischer House

3) Fischer House

The Fischer House is a historic mansion in downtown Austin, completed in 1882. Its builder, Joseph Fischer, was a prominent mason in Austin at the time, and its bold high Victorian era, Italianate architecture and ornamentation reflect his family's skill in the trade.

The home is located at 1008 West Avenue. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on December 16, 1982.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Robinson-Macken House

4) Robinson-Macken House

The Robinson-Macken House is a historic home in west downtown Austin, located at 702 Rio Grande.

Built in 1876 for the family of Elizabeth and John Robinson Sr., this two-and-half-story farm house is a fine example of the Second Empire style of architecture coupled with Italianate detailing.

Located within the original 1839 Austin town plan drawn by Edwin Waller, it is in close proximity to the house built by the locally prominent Bremond family. It shares stylistic similarities with the Bremond house, now preserved as the Bremond Block Historic District. The Robinson's son, Eugene, purchased the house from the other Robinson heirs in 1902. The house was then bought in 1928 by Joe and Bridget Macken, in whose family it remained until 1983. Both John Robinson and Joe Macken were Austin community leaders, serving at different times as chief of the volunteer fire department and city alderman. Prominent features of the l-plan Robinson-Macken house include projecting bay windows with classical detailing, fine milled wood elements, dormer windows, and a mansard roof.
Sight description based on wikipedia
John Bremond House

5) John Bremond House

The John Bremond House is part of Bremond Block Historic District - a collection of eleven historic homes in downtown Austin, constructed from the 1850s to 1910.

The block was added to National Register of Historic Places in 1970, and is considered one of the few remaining upper-class Victorian neighborhoods of the middle to late nineteenth century in Texas. Six of these houses were built or expanded for members of the families of brothers Eugene and John Bremond, who were prominent in late-nineteenth-century Austin social, merchandising, and banking circles. They are located within the square block bordered by West Seventh, West Eighth, Guadalupe, and San Antonio streets. The district also includes several houses on the west side of San Antonio and the south side of West Seventh, at least three of which were built or altered by the North family.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Henry Hirshfeld House and Cottage

6) Henry Hirshfeld House and Cottage

The Henry Hirshfeld House and Cottage are two historic homes in downtown Austin, Texas originally inhabited by the prominent Hirshfeld family. The cottage, built in 1873, housed Henry and his wife Jennie until the larger house was built in 1885. The homes have been well-preserved and today house the Office of Governmental Relations for the Texas A&M University System. The buildings were added together to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Designed and built by architect John Andrewartha, Henry Hirshfeld House 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.

Hirshfeld had one-story stone cottage built for his family in 1873. It features a widow's walk on the roof and jigsaw detailing on the porch. After the family moved to their new residence on the adjacent east lot in 1888, the cottage was maintained as rental property.
Sight description based on wikipedia
O. Henry Museum

7) O. Henry Museum

This historic, little Victorian cottage in Downtown Austin is the former home of famous American writer William Sydney Porter, better known by his pen-name O. Henry. The cottage is a simplified version of the Eastlake Style of architecture and was built in 1886. Porter rented it between 1893 and 1895 together with his wife, Athol, and daughter, Margaret, before they moved to Houston, where Porter began writing full-time for the Houston Post. Though primarily associated with his home state of North Carolina, O. Henry set 42 of his stories in Texas.

The residence remained a rental property until 1930 when it was to be demolished to construct a warehouse. In January 1934, a committee representing the Colonial Dames, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Daughters of 1812, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, and the Daughters of the Confederacy submitted a proposal to the Austin City Council, that if the city would accept the house as a donation from the Austin Rotary Club and relocate it, the women's organizations would work to restore the house and open it as a "shrine."

The City of Austin had the house moved from its original location at 308 East 4th Street to its current address at Brush Square, 409 East 5th Street, following which it was restored and opened as a museum in 1934. The many period pieces on display here include some of the Porter's furniture and personal belongings, books, manuscripts and photographs of his life in Austin. The structure underwent further restoration in 1994–95 with a renewed roof and the replacement of four brick chimneys lost in 1934.

The Porter house was added to the National Register of Historic Places on June 18, 1973. Presently known as the O. Henry Museum, it houses the annual O. Henry Pun-Off, a spoken pun competition, traditionally held the first weekend in May.

Operation hours:
Wednesday - Sunday: 12:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Susanna Dickinson Museum

8) Susanna Dickinson Museum

Built in the “rubble-rock” style of architecture, brought to the Texas Hill Country by German immigrants, this 19th century home is a historic landmark and the only remaining residence of Susanna Dickinson who's gone down in history as the "Messenger of the Alamo." Having survived the Battle of the Alamo, she carried the news of its fall to Sam Houston, which ultimately led to Houston's defeat of Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto and won independence for the Republic of Texas.

The house was constructed in 1869 by Joseph Hannig, Susanna's husband. In appreciation for her exploit, Joseph and Susanna Dickinson Hannig's home – deeded to the City of Austin in 2003 – was saved, restored and opened as a museum on March 2, 2010, Texas Independence Day.

Inside the museum there are rare Dickinson family artifacts, as well as furniture produced by Hannig. The couple had lived in this house for six years, until 1875, upon which they moved into the part of town known as Hyde Park.

The museum forms part of Brush Square Museums, along with the O. Henry Museum and the Austin Fire Museum. If you are a history buff, you may want to stop by this lovely museum to let yourself showed around the property and recount the vivid stories of the survivors of the Battle of the Alamo.

Opening Hours: Mon: closed; Tue-Sat: 10:00 - 17:00; Sun: 12:00 - 17:00.

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