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History

How We Got Here, Where We’re Going

The distinctive Italian Renaissance-style building at the corner of 9th and Guadalupe streets is a fitting home to the Austin History Center. The building, and the property it sits on, is steeped in Austin history.

In 1839, When Edwin Waller laid out his plans for the city of Austin, he designated a church be placed on the present Austin History Center site. A total of three churches were located there until 1913, when Mayor A.P. Wooldridge petitioned the state legislature to repurpose the lot for public library use.  In 1928, Austin voters approved bonds for a permanent building on the property and enlisted the architectural design services of Hugo Franz Kuehne, a native Austinite and founder of the school of architecture at the University of Texas. Construction of Kuehne’s library building design began in 1932. Before it’s completion in 1933, other Austin craftsmen would leave their indelible mark on the building – iron work by Fortunat Wiegl, wood carvings by Peter Mansbendel, and fresco paintings by Harold “Bubi” Jessen to name a few. The regal structure would serve as Austin’s Central Library for more than 45 years.

By the 1970’s, the Central Library had outgrown the distinctive building at 9th and Guadalupe, and in 1979 moved next door into the newly constructed John Henry Faulk Central Library building.  With an eye toward creating a home for the expanding Austin-Travis County Collection, Austinite Sue Brandt McBee led fundraising by the Heritage Society of Austin, the Junior League of Austin and local individuals for a renovation of the former Central Library building. The refurbished building opened in 1983 as the Austin History Center, headquarters for the local history division of the Austin Public Library.

Now, as the Central Library looks to its new “library in the future” at 710 W. Cesar Chavez Street in Seaholm District, the Austin History Center plans to expand into the vacated Faulk facility.  More than one million documents of Austin history will be transferred, dating from before the city’s founding in 1839, to present. Items include 12,500 biographies on residents who influenced the community, and more than 1 million historic photographs.  Whether you are considering membership, or remain a valued member on our roster, we encourage you to support saving Austin’s history by joining the Austin History Center Association as a member or purchasing from online store.