Monday, April 1, 2013

Hirshfeld Honeymoon Cottage & Bremond Block

In 1873, Henry Hirshfeld and his wife Jennie built the one story cottage here on West 9th Street.  It is known as the "Honeymoon Cottage" although it was never used for a honeymoon for any of the Hirshfeld family.  Henry and Jennie had eight children, and as they continued to live in the large Victorian home next door they must have leased out this cottage at times.  Perhaps this is when it became known as a "Honeymoon Cottage."  History suggests that Jennie Hirshfeld enjoyed this house very much:  She let a year go by after her new house was completed before she agreed to leave this little house and move into her new one.

Henry Hirshfeld was a German Jewish immigrant who came to Austin after the Civil War.  He began his career as a peddler, then as a merchant with a store at the corner of 6th St. and Congress Avenue.  He eventually started the Hirshfeld Bank which later became Austin National Bank.  The large Victorian Hirshfeld house which stands next to the cottage, built in 1885, marks the vast distance that his profession and social standing had grown from his early days as a peddler.

These two houses can help to tell the story of how rapidly Austin was changing in the mid-1800's.  While Hirshfeld's career went from street peddler to banker in a very short time, so did Austin change from dust and scruff to a fine State Capitol.

To backtrack a bit, a little Texas history is needed.  Texas became free from Mexico in 1836 and it encouraged settlers to come here with a generous land grant program. Then in 1845, in order to unload $10 million of debt that the Republic had accrued, it made a deal to become a state of the United States.

Historical records show that around the year 1842 this area of Austin was undeveloped and dangerous.  Three children were attacked and abducted by hostile Indians on the sloping hill near what is now known as the Bremond Block, just a block or two from this Honeymoon Cottage.  But the neighborhood was changing as new state government was growing and the economy was changing in Austin.

In 1853, Austin built its first State Capitol building on the grounds just north of 11th Street and Congress Avenue. The Governor's Mansion was built at the corner of 11th and Colorado Streets in 1856.  By 1870 Austin had a population of 5,000 and this area was becoming a residential neighborhood.   

In 1872, Eugene Bremond, another prominent merchant, moved into his first house at 8th and Guadalupe (see the Bremond Block Story).  

Now in 1873, Henry Hirshfeld built this little cottage here on 9th Street.  Bremond and Hirshfeld, both originally merchants and later bankers, established a toe-hold in what would become a prestigious neighborhood surrounding the Governor of Texas.  It was to become a neighborhood of bankers.

The City continued to change rapidly.  By 1874 an elegant chateau was being built by Harvey and Catherine North at the corner of 7th St. and San Antonio, just 2 blocks southwest from the Hirshfeld cottage.  The original Capitol Building burned to the ground in 1881, and plans for a new one were hurried up.  The University of Texas was founded in 1883.  

It was in this time of great growth that Henry Hirshfeld built his second and prestigious new home in 1885 next to the "Honeymoon" cottage.  The sense of competition in homes must have been growing.  The beautiful John Bremond, Jr. house at 7th Street and Guadalupe was completed in 1887 - it had the first indoor toilet in Austin.  The new pink granite Texas State Capitol building was completed, just a few blocks away on the Capitol grounds, in 1888. 

Henry Hirshfeld helped to establish the Austin National Bank in 1890.  By 1898, the Bremond Block was completely built with lovely homes and occupied by the many Bremond relatives.  A descendent of the Bremonds continued to live on her family's block until 1961. Similarly, the Hirshfeld House was occupied by the descendents of Henry Hirshfeld, the last one living there until 1973.

Hirshfeld Honeymoon Cottage
The interior is not open to the public.
307 W. 9th St., Austin, TX  78701