Published in the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung, Sunday, June 5, 2016
GOOD WORKS: Sophienburg cherishes and protects the community's heritage
By Tara Kohlenberg
Main Plaza. We drive around it every day. It captures the imagination and baffles the tourists. It's a magical place in the heart of our community that dons 'new clothes' for each occasion, no matter the season, drawing us in to the scene. Ever wonder how that came to be? It was created that way by our ancestors.
When the first German emigrants came to New Braunfels in 1845, they had Nicholas Zink lay out the town in the German tradition, with a large open space in the center. The space was used for meetings and celebrations. That space is now known as Main Plaza. Early town celebrations were big affairs and generally began with cannon fire. Independence Day was no different.
The first celebration of Independence Day by the immigrants as U.S. citizens took place at the Adelsverein headquarters building on Sophienburg Hill just fifteen months after arriving in New Braunfels. Later Independence Day celebrations moved to the center of town, with lavish parades of singing societies, bands, decorated wagons and triumphal arches over the roadways.
The first to occupy the big open space was the fountain. The Plaza Fountain with protective curbing (to keep the horses out) was added in 1895 with money left over from the 50th Anniversary Celebration of New Braunfels.
The Bandstand, where music and singing programs were performed, was built in 1905. The monuments of Civil War & World War I Soldiers were dedicated to honor the fallen sons of New Braunfels. The landscaping, sidewalks and trees have changed over the years, as has the location of the monuments, but the sentiment of community pride tied to Main Plaza has always been the same.
With New Braunfels recently being listed as the second fastest growing city in the United States, it becomes more important (and more difficult) to cherish our heritage, traditions and history, sharing it whenever possible.
The Sophienburg Museum & Archives is the Guardian of History, Keeper of the Treasures, Teller of the Stories and the Tie that Binds the Past with the Future. Dedicated in October 1933, The Sophienburg was the first (and only museum for about 40 years) established to preserve local history.
Over the years, the collection has grown to include over 100,000 artifacts, half a million photographic images, 3,900 rare books and numerous other documents spanning 170 years of New Braunfels and Comal County history. Emphasis is on founding German emigrants and their contributions of language, science, education and industrialization, but also includes contributions and traditions of other cultures present in this area.
The Sophienburg Memorial Association is a 501(c)3 organization, not a part of city or county government. Funding for museum operating expenses is generated strictly through memberships, donations and fundraising events.
This July 4th, New Braunfels marks their 170th celebration of Independence Day. (Thankfully, not with cannon fire!) The Sophienburg's gift to the community (as it has been for the past 40 years) is The Annual Old Fashioned 4th of July Patriotic Parade. It is little and home-grown and very Pollyannaish -- and we like it that way. We invite you all to bring your families, your camp chairs and your patriotic spirit to a Grand Old Flag Waving Birthday Celebration on Main Plaza for the greatest nation on earth. (Find more parade information at http://sophienburg.com/events/july-4th-parade.)
Tara Kohlenberg is with the Sophienburg Museum and Archives.