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Texas | Architecture | Drive-by Architecture /Preservation

The First Fayette County Library
AKA
The Judge Stiehl House

La Grange, Texas

Recorded Texas Historical Landmark, 1979

by Johnny Stucco

One of Texas’ early libraries was opened in a small fachwerk cottage that had been built in 1852 as a residence. Shaded by one of the area’s huge Live Oak trees – it remains in use today - to hold art meetings. Fachwerk buildings were once common in areas with healthy German populations, but as times changed – the style was abandoned.

Originally it was the home of Judge John C. Stiehl and family. Stiehl was the first German-born Fayette County Judge. As the initial Anglo settlers sold off their land to the newly-arrived Germans, the vacancies in public office were filled by men elected by the people they represented.

TX - La Grange First Library Building, AKA Judge Stiehl House
La Grange First Library Building
AKA Judge Stiehl House

TE photo, June 2004
TX - La Grange City Library Building Historical Marker
La Grange City Library Building Historical Marker
TE photo, June 2004
When the judge moved into housing more in tune with his office, he sold his house to the literary society for $700. The library was organized in 1888 and in 1902 it was officially “born.” The library’s very first volume was Robert Louis Stevenson’s St. Ives (one of his lesser-known efforts). The book's donor was mentioned only as “a doctor’s wife.”

The “Etaerio” Club formed in 1912. The Latin name means “companionship” The society took their motto from Shakespeare’s Love’s Labor Lost:

“Learning is but an adjunct to ourselves, and where we are learning is likewise.”

Despite their catchy motto, the Etaerio Club disbanded in 1938 but not before they had assembled 1,500 volumes. The first librarian was Miss Norma Willrich followed by Miss Minnie Crum and then Miss Agnes Robson.
La Grange TX - Wasp Nest
The globe of the porch light attracts wasps each year.
TE photo, June 2004
The structure – an excellent example of what the neighborhoods must’ve looked like in the mid 1800s - got the attention of preservationists and the house was rebuilt in the late 1960s. The bricks were cleaned and all exterior boards replaced with weather-resistant redwood.
Another view of the first library building in La Grange
TE photo, June 2004

© John Troesser

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