By Myra Lee Adams Goff
Ten years ago on January 22, 1999, our Comal County Courthouse, the Grand Dame of Main Plaza, celebrated its 100th birthday. Demanding the center of attention, the imposing, age-worn structure has stood guard over the hub of New Braunfels and Comal County all these years. The Courthouse guards the records of citizens past and present, literally from the cradle to the grave and everything in between.
Iris Schumann with the Sophienburg asked me to do research on the 100 years and the result was a 12 page booklet published in the Herald-Zeitung on January 17, 1999. Here are a few interesting facts:
The very first actual courthouse was a rather plain-looking building (in comparison) located at the Plaza where the Chase Bank is located. The most noteworthy event that happened at that building was on Oct. 4, 1860, when Sam Houston came to plead with the citizens to vote against seceding from the Union. New Braunfels Zeitung Editor Ferdinand Lindheimer led a campaign to vote in favor of secession. Statewide, secession was ratified with Comal County voting 239 “for” and 86 “against”. Lindheimer’s influence was greater than Sam Houston’s in Comal County. In 1897 the Commissioners noted that thecourthouse building was dilapidated and needed replacing. This decision was not without controversy. Some people wanted the building to be directly on the Plaza. Judge Adolph Giesecke asked the Mayor if the city-owned plaza could be used and the answer was “no”. The lot chosen was # 32, initially belonging to Nicholas Zink and then Samuel Millett. The last owners were Wm. Clemens and Joseph Faust and the lot was purchased for $6,098.63.
The Commissioners asked for plans and bids from architects across Texas. Finally the plans of J. Riely Gordon were accepted and that really opened a “can of worms”. Three commissioners voted for Gordon, – A. G. Startz, John Marbach, and W. H. Adams- but Judge Giesecke and Comm. August Schulze opposed the selection on the grounds of what they heard about Gordon’s character and the shoddiness of his buildings. Schulze was mad enough to resign but two days later he withdrew his resignation. Schulze told the Zeitung that he did not approve of the plan; too much wasted space in the center and the four cut-out doorways. He said the walls should be thicker than 17 inches. He wanted an architect from out of state and for many other reasons. He concluded that the building wouldn’t last. Nevertheless, the building was built, but Mr. Schulze and Judge Giesecke refused to have their names on the cornerstone as it remains today.
At the laying of the cornerstone ceremony, there were two bands and flag-waving children walking from the NB Academy to the oldCourthouse and then on to the new location. Then there was a big party at Oberkamp’s Garden (where Callahan’s Pub is) with lemonade for children and beer for adults. The cornerstone was opened in 1999 by Comm. Moe Schwab who was chairman of the 100th Anniversary.
The Romanesque style building is made of Comal County limestone. Betty Pfeuffer Triesch, who researched information about thecourthouse, said that the limestone was extracted from a quarry on Altita Ranch that was sold in 1901 to her grandfather, Gus Pfeuffer. Her father inherited the ranch and the last limestone taken from the quarry was in 1937 to build the spring-fed pool and old bathhouse in Landa Park. The Herald said that the limestone from the old torn-down bathhouse was used in the construction of the Dittlinger Library, now the Sophienburg Museum and Archives.
The Courthouse knows who we are and what we are about. For a building thought by some to cave in, it has handled its age remarkably well.