By Myra Lee Adams Goff
Do you know the story behind the formation of the Sophienburg Museum and Archives? It’s a rather interesting story and unique like the city in which it is located.
Here’s how it goes:
The Hippolyt Dittlinger family (of flour mill fame) received a portrait of Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels from the royal couple that was living in the Braunfels castle in 1925. Hippolyt and Elise Dittlinger had made a pilgrimage to Rome to celebrate the anniversary of the Catholic Church, as the church celebrated every 25 years.
They made a side trip to Braunfels, Germany. There they were presented the portrait with the request to place it in NB’s museum.
Since there was no city museum at the time, Mrs.Dittlinger volunteered to keep the portrait until some arrangements were made to hang it in the proper building. Mayor Blumberg suggested that she organize a museum association to appropriate funds, which she did.
The association was headed by S.V. Pfeuffer. The property that the group had their eye on (Sophienburg Hill) belonged to Mrs. Johanna Runge of Austin. She agreed to sell the property for $5,026. It was no small matter to raise this amount of money during the Great Depression.
Now the association had a name: Sophienburg Memorial Association. ”Sophienburg,” meaning “Sophie’s Castle”, was what Prince Carl called the area on which he intended to build a fort to protect the early settlers. In 1845 a cornerstone was set, but no fort was built, only a log structure that became the headquarters of the Adelsverein. Prince Carl left NB in May of 1845, never to return. The log building was finally destroyed by winds of a hurricane in 1886, the same hurricane that destroyed Indianola.
After securing the property, a plan for a combined museum and library was designed by local architect Jeremiah Schmidt and on June 12, 1933, when the building was almost finished, there was a formal laying of the cornerstone. By then the president of the association was R.H. Wagenfuehr.
Finally on October 8, 1933, the building was complete. Beginning with a parade from the Plaza, the celebration went on all day. Lunch was served by pretty girls in German costumes and the Old Heidelberg Band played old familiar tunes. A Pageant depicted characters and incidents of the old days.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Emmie Seele Faust agreed to build a small library on the adjacent property purchased by the City of NB. When the City built a new Dittlinger Library, the smaller Faust Library became the Sophienburg archives building. Finally, in 1992, the archives portion of the Sophienburg moved downtown to the old City Hall, leaving the Sophienburg Museum on the hill.
After the City built their new library on Common St., the old library building was donated to the Sophienburg and the present three structures consist of a museum and archives, and two collection buildings.
This year the Sophienburg Museum and Archives is celebrating its 75thanniversary. A major fund-raiser black tie optional Gala will be held March 29 at the old Hippolyt Dittlinger home on Magazine Street. The beautiful home belonging to Barron and Michele Casteel has been restored. A champagne reception will be held at the museum, followed by a walk across the street to the Casteel home where a dance floorwill be constructed in the yard. Music will be furnished by Jazz, Blues, and Diamonds. The cost is $100 per person and reservations must be made.
What started out as a request to hang a portrait turned into the beginning of the Sophienburg Museum and Archives, devoted to the preservation of New Braunfels history. I like what S. V. Pfeuffer said:
“We are beginning a movement to hold forever this historical site. History and sentiment will always cling to the spot where it once stood.”.