Footprints of Fayette

A Historical Column From The Fayette County
Historical Commission and Fayette County Judge’s Office

The Streithoff Home –
Soon To Be Gone
By Carolyn Heinsohn

Unfortunately, many old historic homes in La Grange have disappeared through the years, some due to neglect and the ravages of time and nature. Others have been moved away to be renovated by new owners. Some that were still structurally sound were simply razed to be replaced by new buildings or parking lots. Those that are presently being neglected will eventually be demolished if they are left unattended to the point of no return.
A condemned house that was built by August Streithoff circa 1890 is another one of La Grange’s historic old homes that is now sadly waiting for its demise. Situated on the southwest corner of the intersection of North Washington and West Guadalupe streets, the Streithoff home has its own unique story to tell.
August Streithoff, born in 1852, was the son of Christian and Justine Streithoff, who emigrated from Germany in 1850 and settled in La Grange, where Christian took up the trade of carpentry, which proved to be a very successful business. Records show that he was paid $18 to hang the new bell in the third courthouse. Sadly, Christian died only 13 years after arriving in Texas, having drowned while crossing the Colorado River. 
On Feb. 2, 1885, August purchased lots No. 11 and 14 in Block No. 6 in La Grange, totaling approximately 0.6 acre, for $950 from John P. and Herman Goebel. The two adjacent lots were located three blocks north of the square. There was a small one-room building made of wide cypress boards on one of the lots.
August, a respected businessman, moved his stove and tin ware shop from the east side of the square to the north side in 1890 and continued to operate it at that location for decades. He was a charter member of both the first fire company in La Grange and the local Hermann Sons Lodge.
Around the time of his marriage to Martha Karges in June 1890, Streithoff began construction on a new home by adding on to the original building, which became the kitchen at the back of the home with an exterior door. The house with its high-pitched roof has “Folk” Victorian elements with trim on the chamfered gables and fascia that resemble the “Eastlake” style. 
The interior of the home has large rooms with 14-foot ceilings, wainscoting, long-leaf pine floors and wallpapered walls and ceilings. The double front door with etched-glass inserts and a transom opens from a porch into a wide foyer that is flanked by a formal living room and master bedroom. Another large room that possibly was first used as a dining room later became a family room. A small room is located on the north side of the house; its original use is unknown. Originally, there was an outhouse out back, as well as a carriage house that was torn down in the 1990s.
August and Martha Streithoff had one son, Gustavus George, commonly known as Gus G., who was born in August 1891. Gus became a well-known music teacher in La Grange and surrounding areas. While giving music lessons in Smithville in the 1920s, Gus met Hettie Cook, whose family had moved there from Witting when she was an infant. Hettie was working as a bookkeeper at a local furniture store when they met. A romance soon led to an engagement, but fate intervened. One by one, their aging parents required their attention and care, thus delaying their marriage for over 20 years. Finally, after the death of her mother, Gus and Hettie were married in October 1949. Being the only heir, Gus inherited his parents’ home that was filled with lovely antique furnishings, but needed renovating. They added an indoor bathroom and a side porch adjacent to the small room on the north side, adding an exterior door and a floor-to-ceiling window, as well as other decorative and functional amenities inside and out.
After their marriage, Gus journeyed to several schools to direct their bands, as well as providing private lessons in their home, utilizing the small side room as his music room. He taught piano, horns, stringed instruments and accordion to more than one generation of La Grange youth, so the house was always filled with music. In the 1950s, he conducted a small elementary school band in Round Top. From 1957 to 1966, he traveled to Flatonia to work as a contract employee for the school district, where he organized and directed the first high school band. 
After years of working and waiting, Hettie lived a happy life of fulfillment with Gus, keeping busy with her bridge club, church and community activities. They never had children due to their advanced age when married. Gus died at age 80 in April 1972. Hettie continued to live in their home until she had a stroke and was forced to enter a nursing home where she died on Christmas Eve in 1986 at age 91. 
Their wills stipulated that their sizeable estate should be given to multiple institutions, charities and three nephews. Their century-old home was sold in 1989 and was subsequently sold again. Structural changes were started, but never completed. Due to its present deteriorated condition, it may soon join the roster of other long-gone historic homes and be nothing more than a memory.
Fayette County Deed records, Vol. 24, p. 189
Interviews with Donna Mueller, Neale Rabensburg, Judy Pate
Obituary for August Streithoff, La Grange Journal, May 8, 1941
Obituary for Gus Streithoff, The Fayette County Record, April 21, 1972
Webster, Margaret. “A Valentine for Hettie”; The Smithville Times, March 5, 1987