By Keva Hoffmann Boardman —
In the last article, I let you know about some of the wonderful and informative markers and memorials located downtown. There are so many more. If you really want to get into this, check out the Comal County Historical Commission’s website, http://www.co.comal.tx.us/CCHC.htm. But, until you do that, I’ll let you in on one other spot in New Braunfels that is absolutely loaded with info on NB history: Landa Park.
You see the monuments and memorials every day, but have you ever stopped to find out why they’re there? Maybe you just don’t care or have the time …. Take. The. Time.
This mini field trip could take all day (it is a park and it has water to play in) so you might want to take food and drink for either a picnic or snacking purposes. Start at the Landa Street entrance and look at the Maibaum. This tall Christmas tree-shaped pole has 20 “branches” with painted metal cutouts illustrating important aspects of New Braunfels’ cultural heritage. From bottom up:
- Sts. Peter & Paul and First Protestant churches
- Immigrant journey to Texas by ship, then wagon
- The Plaza fountain and bandstand and the Schmitz Hotel
- Seele teaching school under the elm and agriculture
- Cotton and milling industry and Lindheimer’s home
- The butcher and the baker and the newspaper
- The fire department and Kindermaskenball
- Shooting society and 9-pin bowling
- Singing society and furniture makers
- Photographer and postmistress
Whew! An historical marker about Merriwether’s barbed wire is nearby. Imagine a Texas without fencing…
Continue into the park and at the corner across from mini golf is the 125th Anniversary Memorial. Built to showcase the fachwerk building technique of early NB homes, the monument also lists names of founding families and contains one of the many time capsules in place around the city. See if you can find it.
Follow Landa Park Dr. across the bridge and take a left onto Playground Drive. Right before the road exits the park, in a little ornamental iron fence, is the only remaining limestone mile marker on the New Braunfels-Fredericksburg road (1854). Never saw it before, right? Keep going around the road till it joins Landa Park Dr. again. You might as well park and continue on foot.
To your right you will find the Centennial Cenotaph (I just like saying the name), a tall pink granite shaft with a large bronze panel depicting the first Sophienburg. This is just one of several markers in New Braunfels erected by the State of Texas during its Centennial Anniversary in 1936.
Cross the street towards the boathouse taking the paved path. This is essentially “holy ground” in NB. Really. Lots of community gatherings and events have taken place on this little point of land. Early town meetings took place under the grand old oak tree now called The Founders Oak. The tree itself is the monument and attests to the beauty and provision of the Comal waters for the Native Americans, Spanish and early German settlers. Sneak a peek behind the large stone pedestal in front and find the location of yet another time capsule.
Across the paved area is perhaps the most elaborate monument in town, The German Pioneer Memorial. The 1936 ground breaking for this star-shaped, granite and bronze monument, was attended by more than 3500 German-Texans from across Texas as well as Texas Governor James V. Allred. The bronze family on top was sculpted by Hugo Villa (Google this guy). The unveiling and dedication of the monument occurred in 1938. Interesting fact: The German consul was invited to take part in the ceremonies. However, after New Braunfels citizens refused to let him fly the Nazi flag and play the anthem, he left town in a huff.
Nearby you will find two smaller markers. The memorial to Joseph and Helena Landa is of pink granite and honors the park’s first owners. The other little marker has a limestone pedestal and is for the Gesangvereins (Singing Societies) which kept the German language and traditions alive. It’s always good to remember from whence we come.
Only three more! Going back to Landa Park Dr., right before you pass over the car bridge is the Seekatz Saltpetre Kiln. It looks like a little rock building built into the hillside. This relic of the Civil War was used to manufacture saltpetre from bat guano. Saltpetre is mixed with black powder to make gunpowder. Cool, huh?
Just over the car bridge are two state historical markers. One marks the springs gurgling out of the hillside. The Comal Springs feed our beautiful Comal River. As a child I would bike to the park and get a drink from the springs with my cupped hands (I drank from the garden hose, too). Take a look at how many cubic feet of water is currently coming out of the ground.
Last one! The historical marker for Mission Nuestra Senora de la Guadalupe, just opposite on the “island,” marks not the exact spot, but the general location of this short-lived Spanish Mission. There is another marker for this mission up by the HEB on Hwy 46. The Spanish archives from the time tell us about this mission, but just give us clues about its exact location. History sometimes keeps its secrets.