Monday, April 1, 2013

The Bremond Block Story

In the 1840's this block, which is just a short walk from Congress Ave., was still a wild place -- there was mortal danger from Indians.  But by 1866 it was becoming a residential neighborhood.  Austin is rightfully proud of it:  it is a rare example of a Victorian-era neighborhood still intact, beautifully landscaped with lush planting and giant live oaks.  Interested architecture buffs can find a few more homes from this glorious era in the neighborhood blocks just west of the Bremond Block.

The story of the Bremond family goes something like this. 

The Bremond patriarch, John Bremond, Sr., was a successful merchant with a store on East 6th Street. It was one of the earliest stores in Austin and he was tremendously successful.  The west side of Congress Ave. was being developed:  The new  Governor's Mansion was built there in 1856 and Gov. Elisha Pease invited John Bremond, Sr. to come see the Fourth of July fireworks from its balcony the year it was completed. 

Mr. Bremond, Sr. also enjoyed the company of his neighbor, close friend and fellow merchant  John Robinson, Sr.  Their success and friendship was the basis for two important developments:  marriage and banking.  Three children of the one family married three children of the other.  And where the younger Bremond son, John Jr., kept up the family merchant business, the eldest son, Eugene, developed one of its natural offshoots:  banking.

It was common practice at the time for retailers to extend credit terms to customers.  Eugene took this to the next step by creating the Bremond Bank (which became State National, then Capital National).  The Hirshfeld Bank was created during this same time period, and the bank officers of both helped to fill out this beautiful neighborhood with their wealth and taste for lovely homes.  Some of these banker's homes were later demolished to create banking facilities for customers -- parking garages and drive-thru banks.  The Bremond Block is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Eugene had a vision of a family compound.  His brother already owned an empty lot at the corner of 7th St. and Guadalupe when Eugene joined him.  Homes on this block eventually housed Eugene's children, his mother, his brother, four younger sisters, and numerous neices and nephews.  By 1876, the local newspaper reported that one-twentieth of the city's taxes were paid by the Bremond family -- and in 1876 the most glorious homes were not even built yet on this block.

All of the properties in the Bremond Historical District are now either private homes or offices.  The stories of each of the houses help to trace the family members as they matured and passed on their inheritance.  For more details, see the individual listings of the Bremond Block houses.

Bremond Block Historic District
Tel: none
Location: the block bounded by W. 7th St., W. 8th St. Guadalupe and San Antonio
private residence/office