Ever thought you were born in the wrong decade? What about the wrong century? If so, this weekend’s your chance to step back into the 1800s with a visit to Austin’s oldest home.
This Sat., May 7, the Texas Historical Commission will offer free admission to historic sites around Texas. In Austin, that includes the French Legation State Historic Site, a former diplomatic outpost still preserved on the east side.
If you’re wondering what to expect, let’s turn back the clock oh, 180 years or so, to learn a bit more about Austin’s oldest structure.
The story begins before Texas was even a part of the United States.
The French Legation site was constructed in 1841, in the era of Austin’s first white settlers + two years after a tiny town called Waterloo was chosen as the capital of the Republic of Texas.
France had just acknowledged the new republic, and sent Alphonse Dubois overseas to act as their representative. Dubois’ home became the base for the official French Legation.
Fast forward a few years, and the French Legation site was purchased by Dr. Joseph Robertson. The home housed his family of 13 and nine enslaved workers for several decades. Robertson’s daughter, who inherited the home, allowed the public in for occasional tours, but it wasn’t until the state of Texas acquired the house in the 1950s that the site was officially opened to the public.
In more recent history, the site has hosted Petanque matches + live SXSW shows. In one full circle moment, the French Ambassador for the United States Gerard Araud, even made a visit to the historic building.
The Legation will be free to visit this Saturday, but you can also stop by another day from Monday-Saturday for staff-guided tours of the house and reconstructed kitchen. Check hours + ticket prices online here.