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Collecting, restoring, repurposing, categorizing, and identifying at the Sophienburg

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

What’s going on at the Hill? The Sophienburg Hill, that is. Busy, busy. There is constant change by collecting, restoring, repurposing, categorizing, identifying, and just about all of those “ing” words.

Probably the biggest change in the museum itself is the closing of the year-long Lindheimer exhibit and preparation for a new exhibit. The Ferdinand Lindheimer exhibit had a great response from garden clubs, school children, and other botanists. You know of course, that Lindheimer was called the “Father of Texas Botany.” Now over 1,000 third graders in the NBISD and CISD have been exposed to that fact.

The whole exhibit was under the direction of Keva Boardman, program director at the Sophienburg. All of those third graders not only came to visit the exhibit but they were given a deck of cards with Lindheimer’s picture on the pack and cards on the inside that had some pictures and stories that related to him or botany. This memorial souvenir was a gift from volunteers that believe in the project and I’m sure these cards will be shared with the child’s family. Records show that people visited the exhibit from all over Texas and several universities.

We’re sort of sorry to get rid of Lindheimer but we’ll just put him to sleep for a while. The next exhibit will definitely not put you to sleep. It’s called “Jump In” like the advertisement for the New Braunfels tourist trade so often used. Jump In is an exhibit of early bathing suits, particularly from around the 1920s, a time when bathing suits became a little more fashionable and less functional.

The exhibit is from the Sophienburg collection and many, many photographs of New Braunfels residents will be on display. You will know many of these bathing beauties. The purpose of the exhibit is to show changes in styles and really show how important swimming was and is in New Braunfels on the Comal and the Guadalupe. Watch for a June opening of the exhibit.

Another change in the museum is the merchandise in Sophie’s Shop which is a very popular stop for visitors. Sophie’s Shop has the largest collection of books about New Braunfels, Comal County, and its people anywhere in town. After moving out the Christmas merchandise, springtime predominates. There are many gift items for very young children and babies. Don’t forget the shirts proclaiming that “In Neu Braunfels ist das Leben Schon.”

Another year has passed and the Sophienburg is proud to announce the winner of the Myra Lee Adams Goff History Scholarship writing contest. This year’s talented writer is Marissa Young, a senior at New Braunfels High School. Her essay was chosen from about 40 entries. The rule for winning the $500 scholarship is to write a 500-word essay relating to anything about New Braunfels or Comal County history.

Marissa chose to write about her great-uncle, Nayo Zamora. She tells about his life and about his political involvement in the 1960s-80s dealing with the imbalance of racial composition in the New Braunfels schools. Marissa is very proud of the accomplishments of her great-uncle and I’m sure he would be proud of her. She is a real scholar and will begin her education in the field of medicine this fall.

You all know about the involvement of Prince Carl with Sophienburg Hill. It was his site of choice to build a fort to protect the settlers with his cannons. And it was in his mind to be the site of a castle for his fiancé still in Germany. On the Sophienburg Hill are historic buildings, some remodeled, and some repurposed. Because of this historic Sophienburg Hill significance to New Braunfels, the Sophienburg Museum and Archives Association has made the decision to pursue a Texas Historical Marker for this site. John and Cindy Coers with the Comal County Historical Commission are researching the history of all of the buildings on the property.

Originally on the hill property there was a log house and several small buildings used for Prince Carl’s headquarters. This building actually bit the dust in 1886 with the big hurricane that also destroyed Indianola. Pictures show that it was well on its way to falling down long before the hurricane.

In the late 1920s, the H. Dittlinger family made a trip to Germany and received a gift of a portrait of Prince Carl. The purpose of the gift was that it be hung in a museum in New Braunfels. Back in NB there was no museum so Mrs. Dittlinger volunteered to keep the portrait until a museum on Sophienburg Hill could become a reality.

A committee was formed to organize the Sophienburg Memorial Museum. Over the years, the hill property had been divided and sold several times and finally Mrs. Johanna Runge, the last owner, sold the property to the association for $5,025 to build a museum.

A rock building on the corner of Academy and Coll Sts. was built and completed in 1933. Eventually the Sophienburg Museum and Archives outgrew this building and then purchased the New Braunfels City Hall on Seguin St. The archives moved in the old city hall but the museum part remained in the rock building on the hill.

Another building that is on the hill property is the Emmie Seele Faust Library at the corner of Coll and Magazine Sts. This building is being nominated for historic designation by the Comal County Historic Commission and being researched by Wilfred and Marlena Schlather and Rosa Linda delaCerda.

In 1928 the New Braunfels Public Library Association was formed. Books were collected in the “small” Landa house on the plaza. The next move was to the Eiband property at 174 E. San Antonio St. In 1938, the Sophienburg Association donated land on Sophienburg Hill for the site of a public library. The library contents were moved into a small area of the 1933 Sophienburg Museum until the new library could be built.

Emmie Seele Faust donated over $7,000 to build the library on Sophienburg Hill that became the Emmie Seele Faust Memorial Library. It was the primary library in town until 1967, when the city built the Dittlinger Memorial Library on adjacent property. The library remained there until the city built the library on Common St. in 1999. The city then donated the Dittlinger Library building to the Sophienburg. It was remodeled and became the new home of the Sophienburg Museum and Archives. The original 1933 museum still stands on the Sophienburg Hill property and is now the home of the collections.

The old Emmie Seele Faust Library building was remodeled in 2001 to serve as a public meeting room.

Groups of people working together on projects are very important to the Sophienburg. For example, the collection ladies are always busy working on some project. A new group headed by Estella and Robert Farias are rounding up friends and researching Hispanic history in NB. Robert Morales uses the Microfiche to find information on old Hispanic history; John Serda is a Vietnam veteran obtaining military veteran’s information using the Sophienburg database; Elvira Villarreal is working on the Herald obituaries for Hispanic genealogy; and David Rutherford is researching the West End baseball teams.

The Sophienburg welcomes and could not exist without its volunteers. There’s always some collecting, restoring, repurposing, categorizing, and identifying to do.

Scholarship winner Marissa Young and Museum interim director Tara Kohlenberg

Scholarship winner Marissa Young and Museum interim director Tara Kohlenberg