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

Old General Land Office (now Texas Capitol Visitors Center)

112 E. 11th St.

Texas Capitol Visitors Center

Old General Land OfficeConstructed in 1856, this three-story Norman-style building was designed by German architect Conrad C. Stremme, who was educated at the University of Giessen in Germany and was a member of the Royal Hannoverian Commission on Public Buildings. Stremme taught architecture at the University of Dorpat in Tartu, Estonia, published a book on architecture in 1842, and received the title of nobleman from Czar Nicholas I. He also designed the 1857 main building of the Austin State Hospital (still standing).

William Sydney Porter (writer O. Henry) worked as a draftsman in the General Land Office. The building was used as the opening and setting for one of his short stories, "Bexar Scrip No. 2692:"

Whenever you visit Austin you should by all means go to see the General Land Office.

As you pass up the avenue you turn sharp round the corner of the court house, and on a steep hill before you, you see a mediaeval castle.

You think of the Rhine; the "castled crag of Drachenfels"; the Lorelei; and the vine-clad slopes of Germany. And German it is in every line of its architecture and design.

The plan was drawn by an old draftsman from the "Vaterland," whose heart still loved the scenes of his native land, and it is said he reproduced the design of a certain castle near his birthplace with remarkable fidelity.

Under the present administration a new coat of paint has vulgarized its ancient and venerable walls. Modern tiles have replaced the limestone slabs of its floors, worn in hollows by the tread of thousands of feet, and smart and gaudy fixtures have usurped the place of the time-worn furniture that has been consecrated by the touch of hands that Texas will never cease to honor.

But even now, when you enter the building, you lower your voice, and time turns backward for you, for the atmosphere which you breathe is cold with the exudations of buried generations.

The building is stone with a coating of concrete; the walls are immensely thick; it is cold in the summer and warm in the winter; it is isolated and somber; standing apart from the other state buildings, sullen and decaying, brooding on the past.

Twenty years ago it was much the same as now; twenty years from now the garish newness will be worn off and it will return to its appearance of gloomy decadence.

Along with the Governor's Mansion and Carrington-Covert House (the Texas Historical Commission headquarters), the General Land Office is one of the oldest buildings in the Capitol Complex. It once housed the state of Texas' deeds, patents, maps, and other records. Today, it serves as the Texas Capitol Visitors Center and gift shop. It’s a City of Austin Landmark and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

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