The Hirshfeld-Moore property, an historical estate in downtown Austin, has a new owner.
Austin-based World Class Holdings last week bought the three-building property for an undisclosed price from the Texas A&M Development Foundation.
At West Ninth Street between Lavaca and Guadalupe, the half block is home to a Victorian mansion, an older honeymoon cottage and a two-story carriage house.
“The Hirshfeld-Moore compound is an iconic asset with historical significance in downtown,” Nate Paul, president and CEO of World Class Holdings, told the Statesman.
Noting that the property’s history traces back to Henry Hirshfeld, one of Austin’s first entrepreneurs, Paul said: “This purchase fits my long-term ownership philosophy and commitment to downtown Austin. I look forward to being a steward of this asset and the preservation of the historical buildings.”
Formerly known as the “Aggie Embassy,” the Victorian house served as the Austin governmental relations offices of the Texas A&M University System from 1987 to 2016. The Texas A&M System offices moved in late 2016 to the new St. David’s Foundation building downtown, and ownership of the Hirshfeld-Moore property reverted to the A&M Development Foundation.
Last year, Timothy Walton, handling real estate for the Texas A&M Development Foundation, told the Statesman: “It’s a very special property. We’ve been very fortunate to have such an iconic building for our use for decades. We just outgrew it.”
The mansion was built from 1885 to 1887 for Hirshfeld, a banker, merchant and German immigrant, and his wife, Jenny Melasky Hirshfeld. The building was restored in the 1970s and 1980s.
The couple’s first home in Austin was the adjacent cottage built in 1873.
Henry Hirshfeld co-founded both Austin National Bank and Temple Beth Israel, the city’s first Jewish congregation.
Jamie Knight is the Austin real estate broker who represented the seller. He said Knight Real Estate last year solicited users and investors who might continue to occupy the building. The field was narrowed from 10 or 11 prospective buyers to about four before World Class Holdings was selected.
An important factor in the choice, Knight said, was Paul’s stated intent to “be a steward of Austin history.”
“His price and terms were preferable, and he’s a known quantity with a history of closing deals,” Knight said.
World Class Holdings has purchased numerous other high-profile properties in Austin in recent years,, including the 156-acre 3M campus in far Northwest Austin.
Knight said the Hirshfeld-Moore property “is constrained as far as re-use and particularly redevelopment” due to rules designed to preserve views of the state Capitol dome and various historical protections existing on the property.
“Not only are there city of Austin and state protections for this property, it is also on the National Register of Historic Places,” Knight said. “These protections guarantee preservation of the building and protect the overall look and feel as well.”
Last year, John Volz, a preservation architect whose wife, Candace Volz, directed the restoration of the Hirshfeld-Moore interiors, told the Statesman that, given its historic designations, “I think that the preservation community would have a ‘call to arms’ if it were seriously threatened.”
The Hirshfeld family occupied the house continuously for 85 years. It was sold to the Heritage Society of Austin — now called Preservation Austin — with financial help from the Hirshfeld heirs when Henry’s daughter Leila Bernheim died in 1973.
The property changed hands again in 1977, when Joe Hiram Moore, a past president of A&M’s Association of Former Students, and his wife, Betty, bought it from the Heritage Society. The couple began restoring it and gave it to the foundation.
The Texas A&M University System took it for offices in 1987.