By Myra Lee Adams Goff
In the early days, when Seguin Ave. was considered the main street in New Braunfels, the first houses and businesses were constructed there. Possibly Seguin Ave. was so named because most people entered the town from guess where? Seguin. When the settlers first crossed the Guadalupe River in 1845, they traveled from Nacogdoches Road to Seguin Ave. and then on to the location where they would camp above the Comal Creek. Hermann Seele wrote about coming to the town on Seguin Ave. Early traveler and historian Friedrich Olmstead, commented that he found Seguin Ave. in New Braunfels three times wider than Broadway in New York.
Nicholas Zink, surveyor and engineer for the Adelsverein, set up our Main Plaza, and intersected it with Seguin Ave. and San Antonio St. By May of that first year of settlement in 1845, Zink had plotted the town lots and a drawing was held for each lot.
Let’s look at one of the old homes built on Seguin Ave. in 1870 or maybe as early as 1866. The house which still stands is located at 228 S. Seguin Ave. on lot #56 between the Faust Hotel and the Taco el Tapatio. This house has been the home or office of some very influential people and the house itself has received some very prestigious designations. In 1968 the Texas State Historical Survey Committee awarded a marker to this building. In 1999, it became a New Braunfels Historic Landmark and in the year 2000 the house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The person responsible for having the house constructed was Carl Wilhelm August Groos, born in Prussia, Germany in 1830. He immigrated to Texas with his brothers and sisters and his widowed father in 1848. His two brothers, Friedrich and Gustav, became very important in his life. For two years Carl lived in Fayette County and then moved to Gillespie County where he lived with relatives.
In 1854 Carl joined his brothers Gustav and Friedrich in Eagle Pass. Brother, Friedrich had secured a contract in 1849 with the United States Government to send freight into Eagle Pass. He formed the F. Groos and Company.
During the Civil War in 1862 Carl was arrested by Confederate authorities and taken to San Antonio. A letter that had been addressed to him was found on the body of a Mexican killed near the border of Texas and Mexico. Carl was eventually released and returned to Eagle Pass. He then moved to Matamoros where the Groos Company had a branch office. The firm weathered the Civil War by freighting cotton to Mexico.
After the war, Carl moved to San Antonio where the F. Groos and Company was relocated. In 1870, Carl married Hulda Amalia Moreau. She was the daughter of Franz Moreau, who was a cotton broker in New Braunfels and a German consul. Shortly after their marriage, Carl had a home built on Seguin Ave. Family history notes that it was a wedding gift to Carl and Hulda. Hulda’s father, Franz Moreau lived at 190 S. Seguin Ave. His home was built in 1854 and is still standing and serves as an office complex. Between the Groos home and the Moreau home was a store that became known as Moreau and Groos. After the Civil War, the economy in New Braunfels was suffering but business was booming in San Antonio. In 1872, Carl and Hulda moved to San Antonio but kept the home at 228 S. Seguin Ave. for summer visits until 1879.
The history of the property goes like this: The first immigrant to draw lot #56 was George Kirchner. If Kirchner built some sort of house on that lot, it wouldn’t be surprising, because he could easily go to the German Protestant Church, where he was a member. Kirchner died very soon in 1846 and the administrator of Kirchner’s estate conveyed the lot to Jacob Winkler for $60. In 1857, Winkler sold the lot to August Forke who sold it in 1866 to Charles Bender and four years later it was sold to Carl Groos, the subject of this information.
When Carl bought lot # 56 on Seguin Avenue he also bought lot #72 directly behind this lot on Castell Ave. It is believed that he had the house built on lot # 56 in 1870. The adobe brick L shaped, Gothic Colonial house with its cypress floors was beautifully crafted. The front door contains ruby glass and the cement frame windows are of original rolled glass. In 1879 the house was sold to Groos’ sister, Emilie and her husband Johann Friedrick Giesecke, Mayor of New Braunfels. After that, Giesecke sold the house to Fritz Scholl who owned it until 1946, when it was purchased by Arlon and Faye Krueger. After Arlon Krueger’s death, the house ownership remained in the family and became home of the New Braunfels Art Center and then the business office of Ambassador Robert Krueger.
Here is more of the story that resulted in the transformation of F. Groos and Company to the Groos National Bank. Carl’s brother Friedrich, a graduate engineer and architect, had a United States Government contract which he procured in 1849 for sending freight into Eagle Pass. The freighting business was successful despite the danger operating in Indian Territory. Branch businesses were located in New Braunfels, San Antonio, and Matamoros, Mexico. Carl and Gustav joined Friedrich in a mercantile company in 1854. It was called F. Groos and Co. A primitive form of banking was necessary for the operation of a frontier store. Saved money was hidden in boxes, cotton bales, axels of wheels or just about any hiding place. This resulted in the brothers forming the Groos National Bank of San Antonio. This bank became a very successful financial institution in San Antonio. The banking business prospered so well that the freighting was discontinued. Carl became the first president of the firm and in 1879 built the first building in San Antonio devoted exclusively to banking at the corner of Commerce and Navarro.
What happened to the original builder of the house on Seguin Ave.? After Carl and his brothers became founding members of the Groos National Bank, Carl built a beautiful home in 1880 at 335 King William Street in the King William Historic District in San Antonio. He hired famous architect, Alfred Giles, to design the San Antonio home. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The house was eventually purchased by the San Antonio Council of the Girl Scouts of the USA who sold it to Charles Butt, founder of the grocery chain.
The King William Historic District, the state’s first historic district, was created in the late 1800s on the south bank of the San Antonio River. Prominent German merchants brought with them a distinct architectural style and created an elegant residential area of 25 blocks. For a real treat, log on to the King William Historic District and view these magnificent homes.
Carl Groos died in 1893 and is interred in San Antonio City Cemetery #1. His first home still remains on Seguin Ave. in New Braunfels, Texas.