French Legation Museum

Austin, TX
United States
French Legation Museum

Situated on a hill with dramatic views of the State Capitol to the west, this house was built for French diplomat Alphonse Dubois de Saligny in 1841. When the Republic of Texas declared its independence from Mexico in 1836, only two nations acknowledged its sovereignty: the United States and France. In 1840, some 21 acres were set aside as a residence for chargé d’affaires Dubois, and the house was completed a year later. Political controversies and financial problems forced Dubois to sell the house. It eventually came to be owned by Dr. Joseph Robinson, whose family would occupy it until they sold it to the State of Texas in 1948. 

The Daughters of the Republic of Texas then restored the house and the Violet Crown Garden Club developed a plan for the surrounding landscape. This plan (only partially realized) called for the creation of a greensward flanked by groves of trees, terraced gardens with formal flower beds, and a network of gravel paths. In 1953, landscape architect Charles Coatsworth Pinkney, who had worked with Arthur Shurcliff, refined the earlier landscape design. Here Pinkney, eliminated the groves of trees from the plan, maintaining the openness of the hillside. Flower gardens were also replaced with a trimmed-hedge parterre near the house and flowering trees and shrubs such as crape myrtle, redbud, camellia, and mountain laurel were planted throughout the property. A stone wall was erected to enclose the 2.5-acre grounds. In 1956, the French Legation Museum opened and the property was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.