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Landa Park is site of many historical events in New Braunfels history

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy” (Hamlet), meaning that the obvious is not the only thing there, and that’s true in Landa Park as well. I went to the park looking for historically unobvious, little known facts of significance and insignificance. And found them.

The Pioneer Monument dedicated in 1938 is really the hub of history in Landa Park. Funded by German-Americans throughout Texas, the statue depicts a German immigrant pioneer family by Hugo Villa, sculptor from San Antonio and also Gutzon Borglum, whose work included Stone Mountain in Georgia and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. The entire sculpture rests on a Texas Star and tells the immigration story around the base. The dedication ceremony created quite a brouhaha. Representatives from Germany were invited, and guess what! Members of the Nazi Party showed up and demanded that the Nazi swastika be flown in place of a German flag. The New Braunfels planners sent them packing before the dedication. Hip, hip, hooray for the USA!

On the south side of the Pioneer Monument is a small monument dedicated to the controversy created by the Veramendi family who sold the Comal Tract for $l,l11.00 to Prince Carl in 1845. Then in 1852 the Veramendi family took court action to reclaim the land but it was later determined by the court that Prince Carl did indeed purchase it.

Close by the statue is a large dance slab where dances were held on Saturday nights. When thousands of soldiers from the military bases were brought to Landa Park in buses during WWII, they could “wiggle and wobble with Al Schnabel” (one of the bands that played atLanda Park). The band would sit on a platform up in a tree that was in the middle of the floor. For years the Kindermaskenball (Children’s masked dance) was held at this location. This outdoor floor was enclosed by a fence that is now gone, but the light pillars are still there. These pillars were built by the WPA after the Depression in the early 1930s. President Franklin Roosevelt instigated the nation-wide program to give men jobs by building public works. All through the park you can see evidence of WPA presence in the form of retaining walls, lamp posts, restrooms and drinkstands.

The water coming out of the second largest spring flows by the Arboretum and the focal point of this area is the Philippine Gazebo built in 1898. The story is that this gazebo was fashioned in the Oriental style so popular in the late 1800s when the United States was involved in the Spanish-American War (The first battle occurred in the Philippines). Bridges constructed in the same style and area did not withstand the test of time and floods. Photos reveal lush, tropical landscaping throughout the park, but particularly in this area.

There is a rock kiln near the footbridge. An interesting history: In 1863 during the Civil War, saltpeter made from bat guano was produced there. This saltpeter was an ingredient for gunpowder used by the Confederacy. One hundred pounds of guano from nearby caves would produce four pounds of saltpeter. Captain William Seekatz managed the kiln.

The Sophienburg Museum has historian Oscar Haas’ display of Lipan, Tonkawa, Karankawa and Waco Indian artifacts that he gave to the museum. Most of the arrowheads, flint darts, and lances were collected by him over a lifetime, mostly on the golf course and in the park.

Talk about unobvious! On Landa Park Lake, I spied a flock of ducks swimming along, minding their own business and right in the middle was a nutria, trying to disguise itself as a duck. You’re going to have to strap on a bill and some feathers if you want to fool me, Mr. Nutria.

Sculptor Hugo Villa in his studio. 1937. Sophienburg collection

Sculptor Hugo Villa in his studio. 1937. Sophienburg collection