By Myra Lee Adams Goff
Soon after moving to New Braunfels, Bill and Bonnie Leitch began “looking for a perfect place to live away from city life” in the city. For that matter, the house they found in 1971 is very close to downtown but has the feeling of being “outside the city”. The home was an old Victorian beauty in a neighborhood that had changed, located on a street whose name had even changed. The house itself was still preserved and the Leitches bought the house and made it their ambition to restore it.
The house was located on Grand Street. Never heard of it? That’s because Grand Street (only one block long) changed to Hill Ave. and I bet you know where that is. It parallels Academy running next to the railroad track and then goes up the hill for about a block. This property was located in the Jahn Addition. The whole area was originally owned by Johann Jahn, the furniture maker in 1846. The property was later given to Carl and Emma Jahn by their mother, Anna Jahn, upon the death of their father, Johann Jahn.
The lot on which the house is located is really a double lot and the original property was two double lots, extending from Grand St. (Now Hill) straight through to Academy.
When Carl Jahn inherited the four lots, he sold two of the lots to Heinrich Blumberg and two to Johann Wahl. In 1905 and 1906, both Blumberg and Wahl sold their four adjoining lots to Frederick Hofheinz.
Now we get to the builder of the house that the Leitches bought. Records show that Frederick Hofheinz was 11 years old when he emigrated from Germany to Texas with his parents, Johannes and Emilie Hofheinz from Nassau in Germany. In 1852 this family landed on the coast at Indianola. After a difficult nine-day trek inland, the family settled in Hortontown, a small settlement across the Guadalupe River from New Braunfels. Very shortly after arriving, Johannes died of cholera, which affected so many emigrants at the time.
Frederick, as the oldest child, took on the responsibility of taking care of his mother and his younger siblings. He went to work as a teamster, hauling freight from the coast into the interior from age 14 until he was 22 years old.
During that time Frederick had moved to Kendall County and joined Captain E. Jones’ volunteers organization to guard the frontier from Indian attacks. In 1864 he married Emilie Wilke of Kendall County and started farming and ranching. Emilie was born in Lavaca, moved to New Braunfels where she went to school, and later moved to Kendall County with her parents. This is where she met Frederick. The couple eventually had four sons- Adolph, Hugo, Bruno, and Max. They also had two daughters, Adele (Mrs. Otto Beseler) and Emma (Mrs. Hugo Liesmann).
Frederick Hofheinz was very active politically in Kendall County. For several years he was elected Justice of the Peace and County Commissioner. In 1903 he was elected state president of the Order of the Sons of Hermann. He finally turned over management of the ranch to his son and the couple moved to New Braunfels.
When the Hofheinzs moved to New Braunfels (1905), they bought the four lots from Blumberg and Wahl and began building their home in the middle of the lots with the front facing Grand St. and the back facing Academy Ave. The old carriage house is still standing behind the house.
Before he died in 1918, Hofheinz became one of the principal founders of the New Braunfels State Bank. Both he and Emilie are buried in the family plot in the Comal Cemetery. Their headstones include porcelain portraits of the couple.
Now the house began its own journey, reflecting the change that time brings. First the house was sold to Charles Knibbe in 1920 and when Knibbe died in 1927, his children inherited the property and house on Hill Ave. and the other property on Academy at the back of the house. These were the four lots originally bought by Hofheinz.
During WWII the house was divided into three apartments. During this time the neighborhood deteriorated. A lack of housing in New Braunfels and the increase of train traffic was probably the reason. If you ask anyone that lives close to train tracks if they are bothered by the trains, the standard answer is, “What train?”
Then Ella Bremmer, daughter of the Knibbes, sold the house to Bruno and Elizabeth Schoenfeld who moved into the house. Schoenfeld’s son, Herman, built a home for himself and his wife, Lila, on the Academy St. half of the lots. Bruno, who was a brick layer by trade, made many improvements. He planted the pecan trees that still embrace the property and cut a cellar under the front porch. The elder Schoenfelds lived there the rest of their lives. Bruno died in 1959 and then Elizabeth in1968. When both were gone, the house stood vacant for three years until it was purchased by Bill and Bonnie Leitch.
Much time and love has gone into the restoration of this house, done mostly by the Leitches. A central tower and spindled friezework (gingerbread) accent a curved porch. Sitting on that front porch is an amazing experience. The window shutters were replaced. The 14- foot ceiling inside, with transoms to let the air circulate by the fans, above the longleaf pine floors, are original. Longleaf pine wood is now extinct and this house has longleaf pine decorative wood throughout. All the windows are the original glass, giving the appearance that only wavy glass windows can create. The ceiling is pressed tin with tiles in the hallway that were salvaged from the original Carl Schurz School.
Once a building like that is gone, it’s gone. A beautiful Queen Anne house has been saved from the chopping block by Bill and Bonnie Leitch. Viele Danke!