German native Henry Hirshfeld (1834-1911) migrated to the United States at the age of fifteen. After working with his two uncles in Mobile, Alabama, he moved to Georgetown (28 mi. N), where he enlisted in the Confederate Army.
Following his service in the Civil War, Hirshfeld moved to Austin and entered the mercantile business. By 1868, when he married Jennie Melasky, he owned a clothing store and was becoming a prominent businessman of the city. Three years later Governor E.J. Davis appointed him as the first Vice President of the newly created State Board of Trade.
Active in civic development, Hirshfeld was also an early leader of Austin's Jewish community. He was a founder and the first President of Congregation Beth Israel, established in 1876 on the second floor of his Congress Avenue store building.
Hirshfeld had this one-story stone cottage built for his family in 1873. Constructed by Ed Christian, Ferdinand Dohme, and S. Loomis, it features a widow's walk on the roof and jigsawn detailing on the porch. After the family moved to their new residence on the adjacent east lot in 1888, the cottage was maintained as rental property.