By Keva Hoffmann Boardman —
Don’t know your early NB history? No excuses, people. There are many outstanding works of art and memorials you probably see every day just driving through our beautiful downtown. Pack up the kids or load up your Omie and Opie and take a mini field trip or two. Enjoy the summer weather and connect with your community’s past.
Start with a trip to the NB Civic Center on S. Seguin St. for a really good overview of New Braunfels’ beginnings. Out in front is a bronze of our city founder, Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels. Did you get that? Solms-BRAUNFELS. There. You know how we got our name. We are the only city in Texas founded by a Prince!
Walk up on the front porch and you will find an entire wall of metal plaques that lay out the basics of our town’s history. There are 20 etched metal “photos” of early NB sites and leaders and four rectangular metal etchings of the German immigrants’ journey from Indianola. It’s a lot to take in, but there is more.
Go around the left side of the building. You will pass a blue-tiled fountain that honors citizens who have been designated as “Legends”. These individuals have given countless hours to make our city better. Maybe one day your name will be etched into our history.
Continue to the back entrance and find a long polished grey granite marker in the flower bed. Check out the towns the immigrants passed through as they followed the Guadalupe River up from the coast. That trip took almost six weeks to walk. I just drove that route with a group of fellow citizens; it took us a day in an air-conditioned van. I can truthfully say that I would not have made it to NB. No apology.
Another concentration of art, architecture and memorials is found on our beloved Main Plaza. On the north side, find the rough pink granite rock with a plaque from the City’s 150th Anniversary; it has an outline of the changes made to the Plaza. Having been planned from day one to be the City Center, the Plaza is almost overflowing with information of our past.
And flowing in front of you is the Plaza Fountain, bought and installed in 1896, with funds from the City’s 50th Anniversary celebration. The fountain has not only survived time, it has survived being hit (and badly damaged) several times by drunk or speeding drivers. Did you know that the fountain has not always been black?
The Bandstand has been New Braunfels’ centerpiece since 1905. Just imagine that for over a century, singing and shooting society festivals, presidential and gubernatorial visits, community meetings, concerts and city anniversaries have been celebrated in its shadow. It has witnessed hundreds of 4th of July, Dies y Seis, Loyalty Day, Comal County Fair and Kinder Maskenball parades. Innumerable wagons, carts, bicycles, automobiles and trucks have circled around the octagonal red-roofed little building. Just stand in it and you are a part of that history!
Near the Bandstand is the “Friendship Tree” (Freundschaft Baum) dedicated to YOU, the citizens of New Braunfels. If you circle the Plaza, you will find four polished pink granite markers for the 150th Anniversary. Take some large sheets of paper and some crayons and make rubbings of the crests. Can you figure out what the symbols mean?
At the east end of Main Plaza are two memorials to Comal Countians who fought for our rights and freedoms in the Civil War and WWI. Note that the Civil War monument honors all men who died, both North and South. I like what that says about our town.
If you still haven’t had your fill of history, you can read the marker on our century-old, restored Comal County Courthouse. Take time to go inside and explore the exhibits and spaces of this unique and stately structure; believe me when I say there will be some fun surprises.
Cross Seguin St and grab a cup of coffee at Crosswalk in the former lobby of the Schmitz Hotel where you will walk on floors that knew the footsteps of Texas Rangers, Civil War officers and men, cotton merchants and so many more. I suggest you park yourself in a chair on the front porch. Take a little time to watch present day history happen right before your eyes and be thankful for the all the people who have made New Braunfels so wonderful.
FYI: Saturday, May 19th is FREE Museum Day from 1-4pm. Take advantage of this once a year freebie.