The Austin History Center is proud to be the steward of Austin's first permanent public library building. This Texas Historic Landmark is also on the National Register of Historic Places and has been open to the public since 1933. It remains a source of civic pride for Austin. Many of Austin's long-time residents remember coming to storytimes in this building, or watching the bookmobiles get loaded from the back door. Now those same people, along with their grandchildren, come here to explore our photos, books, and documents that elicit those days of yore.
Austin architect Hugo Kuehne designed this building, and construction began in 1932. The building was designed to take advantage of local materials and craftsmen. Cordova cream limestone was selected to achieve the Italian Renaissance Revival style of the building. Ornamental wrought iron work was created by Fortunat Weigl to enhance the balconies, doors and windows. Peter Mansbendel, a Swiss master woodcarver who immigrated to Texas in 1911, carved much of the interior woodwork. "Bubi" Jessen and Peter Alidi painted the tracery frescoes on the ceiling of the arched loggia on the north side of the building.
Furnishing the building's interior continued the cooperative community spirit that created the building itself. The furnishings and rugs were donated by individual Austinites and community groups. For example, the decoration of the meeting rooms was funded primarily by the Junior League of Austin. The O. Henry Room contains furniture and special research materials collected and donated by Judge Trueman O'Quinn. The Mayors' Room, now office space for the Austin History Centers Neighborhood Liaison program, contains pictures of mayors of Austin from 1839 to the present, as well as the official archives of recent mayors. The Assistance League of Austin provided exhibit cases for the lobby. The tables and chairs in the Reading Room are from the original Central Library. The Austin History Center Association has equipped a photography lab on the ground floor, provided beautiful landscaping, as well as helped to maintain the building's historical significance.
Photographs, top to bottom: