LITERATURE AND LEGENDS
Sitting at the corner of Fifth and Neches Streets, under the shade of the Brush Square trees, are two of Austin’s most beloved museums.
The O. Henry Museum is closed until late 2021 for restoration construction. Because of COVID-19 guidelines, the Susanna Dickinson Museum is closed until December 10, 2020. Please visit these historic landmarks on Brush Square, which are open free to the public Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. For more information on exhibits and pandemic guidelines, you may call (512) 974-3830.
The only Anglo adult survivor of the Battle of the Alamo, Susanna Dickinson (1814 – October 7, 1883) and her 5th husband, Joseph Hannig, once shared this 1869 stone home, which now sits on Brush Square next to the O. Henry Museum. It was moved in 2003 from its original location where the Austin Hilton stands on the opposite corner, beautifully restored, and officially opened on March 2, 2010.
Inside the museum are rare Dickinson family artifacts, photos, her story as "Messenger of the Alamo" as well as furniture produced by Hannig. Susanna was not the only survivor of the Battle of the Alamo. Learn about their stories by downloading this PDF.
The City's Susanna Dickinson Museum web site has links to more lesson plans and educational materials teachers will find helpful in teaching Texas history.
The O. Henry Museum once housed this prolific writer of short stories with a twist at the end. Young William Sidney Porter (aka “O. Henry”) rented this quaint Victorian-style residence from 1893 to 1895 with his wife and daughter. Visitors can see furniture, portraits, and household items owned by the couple. you may look at the online visual archive of artifacts. which is an ongoing project of the museum staff.
Although he started his literary and journalistic efforts in Austin, it was not until after he served his sentence in the Ohio Penitentiary for embezzlement that he moved in spring 1902 to New York City that the majority of his short stories were written. He died June 5, 1910 at age 47. The 150th anniversary of his birth on September 11, 1862 was commemorated in 2012 with an official US postal stamp.
O. Henry is perhaps best known for the 1905 Christmas short story favorite, The Gifts of the Magi. Others you may have read are The Last Leaf and The Ransom of Red Chief , which were published in popular book short story collections, national magazines, and New York newspapers.
ABOUT BRUSH SQUARE
Brush Square was designated as one of four original public squares in the 1839 Waller Plan for the City of Austin. It was named in 1888 after a prominent Austin merchant and in 1928 was zoned to be neighborhood park land.
However, parts of Brush Square have been used over the years as a public market, temporary railroad depot, and the Alliance Cotton Yard. In 1934, the O. Henry House (built in 1888) was relocated from nearby 4th Street to be a museum, followed in 1939 when Fire Station #1 was built on the western half of the Square. Finally, the Susanna Dickinson-Hannig House, built in 1869 just to the east of Brush Square, was relocated in 2003, completely restored, and opened again in 2010 as a museum. Both houses are now listed with the National Register of Historic Places.
Although still in active use by the Fire Department, today part of Fire Station #1 houses the Austin Fire Museum, a collection of early City of Austin fire fighting equipment, photographs, uniforms, and memorabilia. It is proposed that one day, when the Fire Department operations cease, the entire historic 1939 building could become a multi-purpose Firehouse Museum (p. 74, Downtown Austin Plan, Parks and Open Space Master Plan, 2010).
The residual open green lawn and courtyard between the O. Henry and Dickinson Museums, shaded by several exceptional Live Oak trees, is used several times a year for organized public and private events, including the annual O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships and the SXSW Film, Interactive, Music Festival. Foundation board members have been instrumental in planning a long-term park vision and finding money for new Brush Square landscaping.
VISIT THE MUSEUMS
Wednesday - Sunday
Noon - 5 p.m.
Closed until December 10, 2020
Parking: Metered street parking
409 East 5th Street
Austin, Texas 78701