By Myra Lee Adams Goff
On October 8, the Sophienburg will culminate a year-long celebration of its 75th year with a rededication. For you members and those that want to become members, come join us at a “Mad Hatters” reception from 6 to 8 p.m. with refreshments and exhibits. Wear a wild hat!
The old Sophienburg Museum on the corner of Coll and Academy was built in 1933. The building site was the original location of a log cabin that Prince Carl chose as headquarters for the Adelsverein. Prince Carl called the site “Sophienburg” after his fiancée back in Germany. Some say that the prince wanted Sophie to come to Texas, but most say “no way.”
Prince Carl returned to Germany just two months after the first settlers arrived. After that, the property had various owners but not until the H. Dittlinger family was presented a portrait of Prince Carl in Germany did the idea of a place to hang the portrait come about. The newly organized Sophienbureg Memorial Association purchased the hill sitefor a museum.
The rock building was completed in 1933 with a cornerstone in place containing a manuscript from Hermann Seele, a list of churches, schools, current prices of commodities, a record of founders, a population count, stamps and coins.
The rockwork on the building, beautifully hand-set is what Dr. Fred Frueholz calls “fieldstone technique” (gathered randomly from the fields). Frueholz pointed out a face constructed in the wall out of various types and colors of rocks. I thought it was Prince Carl.
Frueholz’s association with the museum goes way back to when he was a first-grader at Carl Schurz Elementary School in 1933. On his way home from school, he would stop by the museum to visit and look around. He remembers that he entered the beautiful wooden front double doors and on the left of the building was the library and on the right was the museum. He says that as a young child, he was always curious about the museum displays, many of which were clothes and things donated by friends of his parents. He wondered why they hadleft their belongings there.
The library eventually moved out and the entire building housed the museum until the City gave its library building across the parking lot to the Sophienburg in 2001.That building is now the museum and archives and the old museum building is a collection building.
And what of the library? In 1938 Mrs. Emmie Seele Faust, daughter of Hermann Seele, appropriated $5,000 for the building of a public library. The Sophienburg Museum Association donated the corner of Magazine and Coll on their property for that purpose.
During the early 1930s there was a push called the “People’s Library Movement of Texas” and of the 254 counties in Texas, only 19 had free public libraries. George Nowotny was chairman of the 19th Senatorial District promoting libraries in the area.
Meanwhile a test library was set up at the back of Vollmar’s store by school librarian B.C. Homeyer. Established by the state, the collection of up to 2,000 volumes would be available to NB citizens. This library was a huge success.
Mrs. Faust donated additional money towards the new library’s construction and Jeremiah Schmidt designed the building built by Edwin Hanz. At the dedication on Oct. 30, 1938, all books from the museum and Vollmar’s store had been moved. Homeyer was head librarian, assisted by Mrs. Bulgerin and Mrs. Erna Wegemann. Four thousand visitors signed the register in 2½ months.
Exciting restoration! The Sophienburg board is planning to restore the Emmie Seele Faust Library building, not to be used as a library, but as a meeting room for educational purposes and it will surely bring back memories for past patrons of the old library.
Put on a hat and celebrate with us October 8th!