By Myra Lee Adams Goff
A flurry of activity and preparation is engulfing organizations that involve themselves with Wurstfest activities. The ten- day celebration is from Nov. 2nd through the 11th. One organization, the Conservation Society, located on Churchill Drive, utilizes their grounds to hold a major fundraiser during Wurstfest. Carrying out the theme of early historic New Braunfels, they operate a German Kaffee Haus for lunch from 10:30a.m. to 2:00 p.m. from November the 7th through the 11th. The place is Forke Store.
This year’s lunch includes German potato soup, Koch Kase, Wurst, homemade desserts and features a sauerkraut cake. It actually does contain sauerkraut and the recipe comes from Mrs. Ben Faust who gave it to the Conservation Society. They, in turn, submitted it to the Sophienburg to be included in their book, “Guten Appetit”. I made this cake once and it’s delicious, but I no longer want to spend half a day baking it; I’ll get it at Conservation Plaza.
For those of you who are not familiar with Conservation Plaza, you should come and familiarize yourself with their grounds. Entrance is free and there is much to see. The Kaffee Haus is once again at Forke Store. New Braunfels has held many events in this building over the years. They estimate that the building is rented close to 200 times a year.
Forke Store was moved from the corner of Seguin Ave. and Jahn St. out to Conservation Plaza when the Becker family bought the property in the ‘60s. They gave the building to the Conservation Society. Arno Becker remembers a ten-foot wide trail from Seguin Ave. to the Comal River known as the “water lane”. It had been the property of the city and was used by early emigrants to walk down to the Comal to get water. This water lane ran across the property that Becker purchased and the city deeded the lane to the property owners. Somewhere under Bluebonnet Motors is that water lane. Sorry, you’ll have to turn on a faucet to get water.
The construction of Forke Store is interesting. The framework is of the “fachwerk” or half-timber style which means that the spaces are filled with bricks, stone or mud. When the emigrants arrived in 1845, they noticed that the building method that had been used in Germany would be well suited locally. The materials were all here – limestone for the foundation, cedar for beams, and sun-dried adobe bricks which could easily be made in Texas. Adobe would be poured into a wooden mold and even children could do this. A shingle roof was installed and siding was attached. The bricks were covered with mud plaster mixed with straw. Fine mud was smeared over and then painted.
The Forke building was moved in two parts and put back together with the original floor and ceiling. Doors and window sashes are also original. The store was a mercantile store and objects within the store reflect that. Old display counters are from Henne Hardware and the original handmade Forke walnut desk is displayed.
Originally the property belonged to Victor Bracht, author of “Texas in 1848”. He belonged to the nobility in Germany, was highly educated and trained for a mercantile career. In 1846 the German Emigration Company sent him to New Braunfels to look after the emigrants. He stayed a year, went back to Germany, and in 1848 returned to New Braunfels. That same year he married Sibilla Shaefer. One lot was given to him by the Adelsverein and he purchased another next to it for $35.00.The first store building and house next door was built in 1852. Bracht was a merchant at this location from 1846 to 1855 after which he moved to San Antonio. The first building described by Bracht was later used by Jacob Ludwig Forke as a “feather house” where feathers were sold by the pound.
From 1855 there were several owners and in 1865 Jacob and Caroline Forke bought the property from Joseph Landa. They ran the mercantile store and raised 10 children. In 1902, the property was left to their youngest son, Louis, who continued the business until he died in 1966. The Becker family purchased the property from the Forke estate and this is when Forke Store moved to Conservation Plaza. Becker Motor Company was sold to Bluebonnet Motors in 2002.
Thanks to the Becker family and the Conservation Society, Forke Store lives on.