Ruffini, Oscar (1858–1957)

By: Drury Blake Alexander

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: June 1, 1995

Oscar Ruffini, architect, the son of Ernest and Adelaide (Reihme) Ruffini, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on August 10, 1858. He was rumored to have descended from wealthy Tuscan nobility who migrated to Germany from Italy. Ruffini and his brother, Frederick Ernst Ruffini, were apprenticed to an architect in Cleveland, and from 1875 to 1877 various sources indicate the young man worked in Cincinnati for architect George W. Rapp. From 1878 to 1880 he is believed to have spent time in France, though in 1878 he was listed in the Austin city directory as a draftsman. On his return it is believed he formed a partnership with carpenter Levi S. Clark in Indiana and worked for Francis D. Lee in St. Louis, where he acquired a knowledge of contemporary engineering techniques, including metal construction. In 1883 he moved to Austin to work as a draftsman for his brother Frederick, one of the leading architects of public buildings in Central Texas. When, in 1883, Elijah E. Myers of Detroit was awarded the commission to design the Texas Capitol, Oscar, the better draftsman of the Ruffini brothers, spent the next six months at Myers' Detroit office working on plans for the project, after which he returned to his brother's office to work as a draftsman and project supervisor, involved in part with plans for the main building of the University of Texas. After his brother's death, he supervised the construction of the Concho County Courthouse.

By April 1884, Ruffini had gained enough experience to set himself up as an architect in San Angelo, the newly established county seat of Tom Green County. His first major commission was the Tom Green County Courthouse, the building that established his reputation. During his long career Ruffini designed numerous courthouses, schools, residences, and commercial buildings throughout West Texas. A collection of his architectural drawings, specifications, details, and watercolors of West Texas buildings, including plans for the courthouses of Concho, Mills, Sutton, Sterling, and Crockett counties, is housed in the Texas State Archives. Though he owned numerous properties in San Angelo, Ruffini made his home and office in a former toolshed used in the construction of buildings on Chadbourne Street in downtown San Angelo. The house was moved to become part of the complex at the nearby Fort Concho National Historic Landmark in 1951. In designing courthouses, Ruffini favored the ornate and formal Second Empire style originated in Paris in 1852 under the reign of Napoleon III and popular in the United States in the 1870s and 1880s. His contribution to architecture was a "qualitative sense of design, reflected in economy of form, symmetry of composition, and horizontality of orientation." He was active in organizing the San Angelo Turnverein, and was a charter member of the local Sons of Hermann. Ruffini never married, but financed the college education of several students. He died in San Angelo on January 18, 1957, leaving an estate valued at half a million dollars, and was buried in Fairmount Cemetery there.

Fort Concho Report, Summer 1984. Ruffini Papers, Texas State Library, Austin. San Angelo Standard Times, May 3, 1934.


  • Architecture
  • Architects

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

Drury Blake Alexander, “Ruffini, Oscar,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 08, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 1, 1995