By Myra Lee Adams Goff
This year the Heritage Society of New Braunfels is 25 years old. The formation of the Society happened because of a gift of land, buildings, and antique collections from the late Bill and Nan Dillen.
Here’s the story: After the 1972 flood here in NB, the citizens of Braunfels, Germany sent a gift of $1,500 to the Chamber of Commerce for the purpose of restoring the beauty of the town. As a result, the Chamber established the Braunfels Foundation Trust for restoration projects.
In 1985 the Dillens turned over their property to the Trust and the Heritage Society was formed to manage the property. Roxolin Krueger became the first president of the Society and Laverne Eberhard became the executive director
This valuable gift included the old Breustedt House on about 13 acres of land next to Conservation Plaza. The Breustedt house, built in 1858, was in danger of being demolished because of the expansion of Hwy. 46 (next to the NB Smokehouse) so the Dillens purchased it in 1965. The house was of German fachwerk construction and had been built by cotton farmer Andreas Breustedt and his wife Caroline. The small separate kitchen remained behind.
Like many others, the Dillens discovered NB while he was stationed at Kelly Field in San Antonio during WWII. Looking for a small town, they moved to NB and opened an interior decorating shop in 1946 on the corner of San Antonio and Santa Clara Sts.
In 1952 the Dillens purchased the Comal Hotel on the corner of San Antonio and Market and renamed it Prince Solms Inn. Marie Offerman, in describing the Inn said that the dirt basement under the Inn had been used by former owner Ted Eggeling to grow mushrooms to sell to restaurants and hotels in San Antonio. The Dillens added outside steps into the basement using stones from the torn-down jail building originally located on Main Plaza (vicinity of Black Whale Pub). These same stones formed the patio. Look at the steps the next time you go to the Piano Bar.
After selling Prince Solms Inn, the purchase of the Breustedt house was their next project. The house was renovated and they began collecting pieces of early handmade furniture by such craftsmen as Franz Stautzenberger, Friedrich Tietze, Heinrich Scholl, Johann Jahn, and other less known local craftsmen. Presently there are over 75 pieces of furniture made mostly of black walnut from banks of the Guadalupe and pine from the Bastrop area. Check out our Web–site for more on Johann Jahn (www.sophienburg.com, May 12, 2009).
Besides an extensive ironstone collection, there are many appointments from the old days like a rifle from one of Prince Carl’s soldiers. The Prince formed a group of 20 emigrants to serve as protectors of the group on the trek to the colony. They also protected the emigrants from Indians after arriving in New Braunfels. Looking at the rifle, one has to wonder what these soldiers must have felt like in a strange land, protecting the emigrants against who-knows-what.
The Foundation Trust deeded the property to the Heritage Society in 1999 and the name was changed to Heritage Village home of the Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture. The Society has added many buildings, including that small Breustedt kitchen. We can look forward to the restoration of the first German Protestant Church now in storage. Over the years the Society has been the home of Folkfest and the Kindermaskenball became part of that event in 1999.
The Heritage Society has done a good job of preserving a huge gift to New Braunfels by Bill and Nan Dillen. Executive Director Chere Stratemann invites you to attend their Silver Anniversary Celebration next Thursday (Oct. 15) at the McKenna Events Center. Reservations are due day after tomorrow, so call them at 629-6504 or go by the Chamber.