German Free School Education was a primary concern for the new German immigrants who arrived in Texas in the 1840s and 1850s. Although Texas did not have a system of free public education at that time, it did offer subsidies for students attending private tuition schools who could not pay. The German-Texans organized a number of schools under this system, paying for teachers and buildings with a combination of state funds, donations and tuition.
In September 1857, the German-Texans in Austin held a public meeting to establish a German school for the city. Civil engineer Wilhelm von Rosenberg donated land at this site for the school. Within a month, German-Texan volunteers began construction of the school building. The first school in Austin chartered by the Texas Legislature, the German Free School Association opened in 1858 with August Weilbacher and Julius Schutze as its first teachers.
The 1857 building with rammed earth outer walls contained two classrooms and a basement. About 1872, a two-story limestone section was added to provide four additional classrooms. Julius Schutze returned to teach in 1880 and moved his family into the schoolhouse. They continued to live in the building after the school closed in 1881 with the advent of Austin's public school system. Schutze (d. 1904) published the Texas Vorwaerts newspaper here for a time and eventually gained title to the property.
The German Free School building, damaged in a 1919 fire, remained in use as both a single-family and multi-family residence until 1991, when it was deeded to the German-Texan Heritage Society.