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Historic treasures hiding in plain sight

Photo Caption: Louis Forshage Building/Becker Chevrolet ca. 1932.

Photo Caption: Louis Forshage Building/Becker Chevrolet ca. 1932.

Photo Caption: Holz-Forshage-Krueger Building/Krueger Mazda ca. 1982.

Photo Caption: Holz-Forshage-Krueger Building/Krueger Mazda ca. 1982.

By Tara V. Kohlenberg —

Historic Downtown New Braunfels. It calls to my heart. The fascination for me is held by the details of the buildings and architecture, the part many people do not notice.

Growing up, any business that needed to be conducted could pretty much be done within two blocks from the Plaza. It wasn’t Downtown. It was just Town. We went to town to the bank; to pay the utilities and phone company; shop for shoes or clothes; go to the movies and get a haircut, all within those compact blocks called Town. Yes, there were parts of town that extended beyond the vicinity of the Plaza, like churches, grocery stores and car dealerships. I didn’t really pay attention to the buildings back then, and I certainly never went beyond the first floor, except this one time.

My sister took dancing at a studio above an old car dealership next to the Methodist Church on San Antonio Street. The outside of the building was rough looking, but upstairs was amazing. The studio seemed to occupy the entire space above the old commercial building. Wood floors stretched wall to wall wrapped with ballet bars and floor-to-ceiling mirrors. Imagine my surprise many years later upon learning that this unassuming building was on the National Register of Historic Places for its architecture? I began to pay attention.

I am talking about the Holz-Forshage-Krueger Building located at 474 West San Antonio Street. It was built in 1908 to house the N. Holz and Son Implement Company. The 2-story brick building is typical of commercial buildings built in South Texas at the turn of the century. A distinctive curvilinear parapet tops the building. It had a corrugated metal roof that was required by New Braunfels city fire code at that time and became a show piece on the primary route south to San Antonio. Nicholas Holz first obtained the property in 1858. What began as a simple blacksmith shop, grew to accommodate the largely German agricultural community. It is thought that Holz and Son were dealers for not only Avery Plows, but Studebaker Buggies and Carriages. They later added Oakland automobiles (pre-cursor of Pontiac).

In 1921, Louis Forshage, who held interest in the Sippel Buick Company, purchased the building from the Holz family. In 1926, a major one-story addition was added to the east side of the 2-story building and alterations made to the first story of the 2-story building. Sipple Buick also picked up the Chevrolet franchise. Next, the property housed Becker Chevrolet. Krueger Chevrolet bought the Chevrolet franchise from Beckers. The Becker family moved to a new location on Seguin Avenue and opened Becker Motor company. They sold Dodge/Plymouth automobiles until purchased by Bluebonnet Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep a number of years ago. Krueger Chevrolet remained in the building until 1936 before moving down the block.

Between 1936 and 1944, the building’s first floor was home to Piggly Wiggly. Then, there were more auto dealerships, including Bock Motor Company and Liefeste Nash Company. Leissner Auto Parts took over in 1950. Thousands of new and used cars were sold from this building.

In 1972, New Braunfels was remaking itself into a Bavarian village. A Bavarian facade was put on the front and the interior renovated with new office space and a modernized service department, and it became Krueger Mazda. It remained the dealership for Mazda until 1986 and then was reclaimed by Krueger Chevrolet, Inc., for used car offices and storage until 1992.

As to the second floor… remember the huge expanse of room with a wooden floor I talked about earlier? During the 1920s, the upper floor was utilized by a dress manufacturer. In the 40s, a roller-skating rink for teenagers and apartments. In the 50s, it was used for the Eagles Hall and a karate school (among other things.) For a short time in the 60s, it was that dance studio. During the 60s and 70s, the lower floors were used as an auto body shop, a furniture store and also an antique store.

In 1996, renovations were made, restoring the exterior to its original beauty. In 1997, the Holz-Forshage-Krueger building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its architecture, as an example of early automobile facility building type. The building has since been updated again, maintaining its reputation as a New Braunfels’ 115-year-old treasure hiding in plain sight.

Sources: Sophienburg Museum and Archives; www.co.comal.tx.us/Historical/National_Register.