Ruffini, Frederick Ernst (unknown–1885)

By: Drury Blake Alexander

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: October 1, 1995

Frederick Ernst Ruffini, architect, was reared in Cleveland, Ohio. He received his architectural training there and gained considerable architectural experience in Cleveland before he moved to Austin in 1877 as partner to Jasper N. Preston. The partnership lasted two years, after which time Ruffini practiced alone. In his advertisements Ruffini listed as examples of his work many courthouses and jails as well as public and commercial buildings. Most of his courthouses have been replaced by later structures. The mansard roofed courthouse of his design in Blanco was built in 1885; it was still standing in the early 1990s. His outstanding buildings in Austin included the Millett Opera House; Texas School for the Deaf; the Hancock Building on West Pecan Street (now West Sixth Street), where Ruffini had his offices; the Hancock Opera House; and the most important of all, the Old Main Building of the University of Texas. That structure was begun in 1882, but only the west wing was completed when Ruffini died in November 1885. The central tower and last wing were completed according to his plans following his death. The large watercolor that his brother, Oscar Ruffini, painted of the Old Main Building was hanging in the Barker Texas History Center in Sid Richardson Hall at the University of Texas at Austin in 1972. Plans for the erection and completion of the west wing of the Old Main Building are in the university archives. Of all the buildings Ruffini designed in Austin only the Millett Opera House, now much altered, was still standing in 1990. A number of architectural drawings and watercolors of building specifications were on file in the Texas State Archives. Among the collection of drawings were plans for nine courthouses in Georgetown, Franklin, San Marcos, Sulphur Springs (Hopkins County), Quitman, Longview, Corsicana, Blanco, and Henderson. Plans for jails (prisons) included those for New Braunfels, McKinney, Franklin, Groesbeck, and Burnet (with sheriff's residence). Ruffini was married. When his wife Elsie died in October 1885, they had three surviving children; F. E. Ruffini died less than one month later, on November 16, 1885.

Austin Daily Statesman, November 17, 18, 1885. F. E. Ruffini Papers, Specifications, 1882, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Ruffini Papers, Texas State Library, Austin. Roxanne Williamson, Victorian Architecture in Texas (M.A. thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 1967).
  • Architecture
  • Architects

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Drury Blake Alexander, “Ruffini, Frederick Ernst,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 28, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

October 1, 1995