Need to knows:
Stroller or sling? Recommended sling
Baby friendly restrooms? No
Parking validation? No — free street parking
Did y’all know we have a castle in central Austin? Ok, that’s slightly misleading. There’s a castle-like historic home in Hyde Park which belonged to 19th century German sculptor Elisabet Ney. The building was her studio — called Formosa — and houses the world’s largest collection of her art, which includes mostly marble and occasional plaster busts of influential Texan leaders. It was also apparently a big party spot for OTs (Original Texans — just made that up) like Samuel Houston and Stephen Austin, our city’s namesake and the “Father of Texas.”
It’s also a great place to bring that baby and your bougie self to soak up some culture.
The building itself is three floors, but the sculptures are all the ground level and split between two main rooms. If you are pressed for time or have a fussier baby, then feel free to bring the stroller since you can do the two ground level galleries in less than an hour.
If you were hoping for more of an excursion, then definitely bring the sling. There is no elevator or ramp leading to the galleries upstairs — which contain artefacts like her old wash basin as well as other artists’ works — and the stairs would prove tricky with anything larger than an umbrella stroller. The spiral staircase to the top floor would be downright treacherous with a stroller.
Parking is seamless, however they ask that you don’t park on Avenue H since that’s reserved for residents of the area. Park on 44th street which is the main road running parallel to the property. They do temperature checks at the entrance and require masks, so it’s a Covid-times friendly excursion.
It’s a self guided tour, but they have descriptions of all the art on paper that you bring around like a little guide. The woman working there was friendly and helpful, and she offered to give us a tour if we’d like, which we declined. She did share some fun anecdotes (e.g. Elisabet drank cognac and had a raw egg for breakfast — I guess don’t knock it?) and was available for questions as we explored.
The work is pretty incredible. The first gallery includes a bust of herself and her husband (a studly physician, might I add) as well as some of her art that was shipped over from Germany. She died trying to reattach the arm to this statue, apparently:
The second gallery has busts of influential Texans, including politicians like Houston, Austin, and Lubbock, and one of her most famous works — a sleepwalking Lady Macbeth.
The restroom is below ground level and would be difficult to navigate with a stroller. There is also no changing table, so plan accordingly. It would be best for both you and the baby to go before you visit.
All in all, it’s a charming museum and the whole experience feels like a mini-Villa Borghese smack in the middle of Austin. Entrance is free and they’re open 5 days a week from 12—5 pm. Check out their website for more info.