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Discover Historic Austin: the French Legation Museum

By Elisha Neubauer

Since 1956, the French Legation Museum has been standing proud as a lasting reminder of what life was like during the Republic of Texas. A beautiful park-like setting frames Austin's oldest building, inviting you to discover the era through the life and times of its previous residents. They aim to celebrate and share the story of Austin's beginnings.

The Legation house, the home of the Museum, began as a private construction project commissioned by the French chargé d'affaires, Alphonse Dubois. In 1839, Dubois was sent to Austin- the capital of the Republic of Texas at the time- by the French Monarch, King Louis Philippe. Unsatisfied with any of the available homes, Dubois hired local builders to erect one more suitable to his tastes. Before the home was completed, however, the capital was relocated to Houston. After suffering several political and personal impediments, Dubois was forced to sell the home to a local Catholic bishop.

The house transferred owners several times, eventually ending up in the hands of Lille Robertson, who lived there for almost eighty-four years. Robertson was the first to open the house to the public- calling it the Old French Embassy. When she passed away, possession of the property was conceded to the state of Texas, which appointed the Daughters of the Republic as the standing custodians of the property. After an extensive restoration and reconstruction project, the home was reopened to the public as the French Legation Museum in 1956.

The Museum offers $5 guided tours of the house- which features period-furnished rooms, a rare stone basement, and a reconstructed kitchen building (the old one burned down.) When you finish, be sure to take a stroll around the grounds. "We have a park-like setting with native plants, butterflies & birds, and sculpture by area artists," says Withers. "Our protected view of the Capitol dome and downtown Austin is particularly lovely." In fact, the grounds and view are so lovely that the French Legation Museum has become a popular venue for weddings.

The Museum hosts events for all age groups during the year. Events such as the Magikhana, the Under the Oaks concert series, lectures, summer camps, picnics, and films bring in the community to celebrate the area and its history. "The Alliance Française de Austin has celebrated Bastille Day at the French Legation for twenty years," says Withers. "And if you want to come out and learn to play the French lawn game Pétanque (or Boules); we have groups meeting here three times a week."

Rich in history and a sense of community, the French Legation Museum rightfully draws its share of tourists and locals alike. Come to learn, to wander, and to enjoy!

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About The Author

Elisha Neubauer is a freelance editor, ghostwriter, book reviewer, and author. She is...

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