Visit the Texas Heritage Trail Regions and see where it all happened

German Free School (now German-Texan Heritage Society headquarters)

507 E. 10th St.

German-Texan Heritage Society

German Free School, circa 1980

Education was a primary concern for the new German immigrants who arrived in Texas in the 1840s and 1850s. Although Texas did not have a system of free public education at that time, it did offer subsidies for students attending private tuition schools who could not pay. The German-Texans organized a number of schools under this system, paying for teachers and buildings with a combination of state funds, donations, and tuition. In September 1857, the German-Texans in Austin held a public meeting to establish a German school for the city. Civil engineer Wilhelm von Rosenberg donated land for the school at this site. Within a month, German-Texan volunteers began construction of the school building. The first school in Austin chartered by the Texas Legislature, the German Free School Association opened in 1858 with August Weilbacher and Julius Schutze as its first teachers. The 1857 building with rammed earth outer walls contained two classrooms and a basement. Circa 1872, a two-story limestone section was added to provide four additional classrooms. Schutze had left the school, but returned to teach in 1880 and moved his family into the schoolhouse. They continued to live in the building after the school closed in 1881 due to the advent of Austin's public school system. Schutze published the Texas Vorwaerts newspaper here for a time and eventually gained title to the property. Kelly Stevens, an Austin artist, purchased the building in 1948 and lived in it until his death in 1991. The building was then deeded to the German Texas Heritage Society. The German Free School is a City of Austin Landmark and Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.

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