All information is provided by Fritz Weigl ©2005
The following are excerpts from a set of tapes recorded by Herbert Weigl, Sr., son of Fortunat Weigl, about 1975 (Fritz Weigl ©2005):
Fortunat Weigl and Peter Mansbendel become Friends
“A young woodcarver came to Austin from New York city and married one of the Shipe daughters. M.M. Shipe was developing a real estate addition in northeast Austin, and Peter Mansbendel, the woodcarver, opened a small business of his own. He did woodcarvings, made chests and cabinets, and other work of this nature. It so happened that Pop (Fortunat Weigl) went to work for him one time, and here again a new friendship developed. Peter Mansbendel, Bill Dieter, Anton Stasswender, and Fortunat Weigl became firm friends. It stayed that way until each had died.”
Weigl Iron Works is Born
“Peter Mansbendel found that a new hotel in San Antonio needed fancy handmade iron light fixtures. A young architect named Roy L. Thomas was drawing iron handrails on his outside porches and steps. The old Hireman Industry did some steel fabrication in Austin at that time and had a smith that did some ornamental ironwork. The handrails and grills that he made (and that) were used at that time, were made of heavy materials and costly to make. Pop knew a better way, lighter, cheaper and strong enough. Mansbendel and Pop began to think ornamental iron. Mansbendel talked to the San Antonio people, told them that he knew of an iron smith that came from Germany that could do that type of work, and that he would be glad to submit a sample or pattern. Mansbendel also loaned Pop the money to buy an anvil, vise and small forge. The old perfume factory became a smithy, and the F. Weigl Iron Works was born. Lee and I, (and) my mother, spent the afternoons after school cutting out sheet iron leaves and rosettes for Pop to forge into light fixture parts after his work and at night and most of the time on Sunday. Needless to say we got the job in San Antonio….”
Fortunat Weigl was born on March 21, 1884 in Bad Aibling, Germany (Bavaria). His father, Joseph, was the Bürgermeister (mayor) of Bad Aibling and an iron worker. He sold and repaired bicycles, repaired machine parts, made tools, and did some decorative iron work, but he did not shoe horses.
Fortunat was apprenticed at the iron shop of a man named Prester in Bad Reichenhall. It was here that he met and studied under Hans Lepperdinger, one of the top decorative ironsmiths of southern Germany. Lepperdinger taught Fortunat the intricacies of iron crafting, which he brought with him to America. By the time Fortunat Weigl emigrated to America in 1913, he was married to Anna Schmidtschneider (smith who cuts).
In preparation for their move, the Weigls sold all their possessions except what they could carry to Texas. They took the SS Breslau and landed in Philadelphia, then sailed around the Florida peninsula and followed the coast to Galveston, where they disembarked for Austin. They were met at the train station by Anton Stasswender, a friend from Germany who had preceded them to Austin.
Weigl first worked as a plumber. He was slow to acquire proficiency in English, so he worked for a German plumber until he could get established. When the old Main Post Office was being built at 6th and Lavaca streets, the supervisor was German-speaking Willie Dieter, who hired Weigl to help in the construction. He was offered the opportunity to do some iron work and later established his own business, which was moved several times. In 1935, he moved his ironworks to this site.
Weigl forged many fences that are still standing today, such as the fence at the Hirshfeld House, the Smith House, and other decorative works. Examples of Weigl’s work are evident all over Austin. Read more about the Weigls and the history of this building at the Iron Works BBQ website.