By Tara V. Kohlenberg —
Having lived in New Braunfels for most of my life, it feels oddly disturbing to see long-standing buildings damaged or torn down. It also piques my interest. Questions about what happened there or where the buildings went start spinning in my head. I wanted to know what happened to the collection of gray and orange buildings on South Seguin Avenue, recently vacated by Adele Kerr Antiques. As a child, I remember the buildings so differently. Definitely not gray with orange trim. So, let’s dig in.
First of all, the property of gray buildings really had multiple addresses. We will start with the oldest building. The building that looked like a house with a closed-in porch and an orange door was, indeed, a house. It was built in 1909. The property was once part of the estate of Conrad Friedrick Meyer, one of the city’s earliest citizens.
Conrad Meyer, 29, emigrated from Grossenmahner, Hildesheim, Hanover, with his wife Christine Kassel Meyer, 28, and son Christian, age 5, arrived on the ship Eberhardt in 1845. According to census records, Conrad Meyer was listed as a stonemason and later, a farmer. He and his wife had ten children, two of which died in childhood.
Conrad was an active community member. During the Civil War, at age 45, he was enlisted as a private with the Comal County Militia, Company A. He was listed in the 1878 Reunion of Surviving Settlers photograph taken in front of the original Adelsverein Sophienburg building. Conrad Meyer and wife made their home on acreage located between South Seguin and Castell Avenues. That property eventually became part of New City Block 1034.
Their fourth child, Marie (Mary) married Robert C. Sands, a Union solider from Indiana whom she met while his unit was stationed on Camp Street in Comaltown. They, in turn, had three daughters, Fenora Sands, Laura Sands, Clara Sands and one son, Oliver. From her father, Mary Sands was deeded Lot #25 on which to build their home. Having lost her husband at age 44, Mary continued to share the home with her three daughters — who never married. They lived all in the home until the last daughter died in 1950. Lot #25 is located at 636 S. Seguin where Cancun Mexican Restaurant recently burned down.
Mary also later received Lots #23, 24, 9 and 10 from her father’s estate. Just for perspective, lots 23, 24 and 25 face S. Seguin. Lots 9 and 10 back up to 23 and 24, but face Castell. Lot #23, located at 666 S. Seguin Avenue, was acquired at some point by local businessman Otto Bodeman and his wife Emma. Nothing was built on the property. They sold it in 1939 to Felix Garza.
Mary Sands deeded Lot #24 to her son Oliver, who built the beautiful house at 650 South Seguin in 1909. Oliver and his wife had two children. Their home was masterfully constructed with state-of-the-art materials on a pier and beam foundation. The front of the house was symmetrical, with large windows flanking the big wooden door. The door was framed by sidelight and transom windows. The porch ran the width of house, accentuating the simple architectural design. Originally, it had three fireplaces which were later covered by drywall when the gas floor furnace was installed in the living room. Oliver and Julie Sands continued to live out their lives in the home after their family was grown. Julie Sands died in March of 1948. The house was sold in 1950 to Felix Garza.
The story of Felix and Olivia Zamora Garza and the properties of South Seguin Avenue is a whole other story all its own. I will save that for next time. In the meantime, I will tell you that the once beautiful Sands house has been saved; moved to another location nearby to enjoy a rebirth with another owner in recent weeks. Stay tuned for the Garza story.
Sources: Sophienburg Museum & Archives; Alicia Garza Moreno; Sally Tamayo Stoneking.