By Myra Lee Adams Goff
If the Comal County Courthouse is the “queen” of buildings around the Main Plaza, then the Plaza Hotel is the “princess”. In this case, the princess is actually fifty years older than the queen. Just think about what these two buildings could tell us about our past in New Braunfels. Our Main Plaza is truly the hub of the town, a distinction that many towns don’t have.
Here’s what we know about the princess: In 1853 Adolph Nauendorf purchased a 55 foot frontage lot on the Main Plaza from J.J. von Coll. Von Coll operated a saloon next to this piece of property where Nauendorf would build a two-story building. In 1853 when the County was looking for property for a courthouse, Nauendorf offered to sell this property for $3,500, but the County turned down the offer. They instead purchased the property also on the Main Plaza where the Chase Bank now stands.
The building was purchased from Neuendorf in 1857 by Jacob Schmitz for $1,500. Jacob Schmitz was one of the immigrants that came to Texas on the ship “Ocean” in 1843 with several other immigrants that had signed up with Henri Castro to be part of the Castro colony. Castro was unable to fulfill his obligation to these immigrants and they were abandoned. Prince Carl encountered them in San Antonio where about 20 of them were stranded. These immigrants asked to join Prince Carl and the Adelsverein, Schmitz being one of them. They joined the Verein as laborers and some enlisted in the mounted company to guard against the Indians in their trip inland.
Schmitz is listed as a New Braunfels First Founder and was present when the drawing out of a hat of town lots took place in April of 1845. As an immigrant, he received Lot #61 located on Seguin Street between Coll and Garden Streets. In the Comal County census of 1850, he is listed as a 36-year-old hotel operator along with his 39-year-old wife, Catherine, and a two year old daughter, Pauline.
Schmitz built a hotel on his property on Seguin St. and called it the Guadalupe Hotel. A description of the interior of the Guadalupe Hotel that Schmitz owned on Seguin Street was provided by famous writer Frederick Olmstead who was a guest at the hotel. He described the hotel as reminding him of the inns in the Rhineland where all details were addressed. He described the main rooms as having pink walls with stenciled panels and scroll ornaments in crimson. There were framed lithographic prints on the side walls, and a sofa covered in pink calico with small vine patterns. The table was of dark oak with oak benches at the side. Chairs were chiseled oak. In one corner was a stove and in another, a mahogany cupboard with pitcher and glassware. Olmstead’s room was painted blue with roses over the outside of the large windows. There were books, a porcelain statuette, plants in pots, a brass study lamp and ample linens. Dinner consisted of soup, two meat courses, two vegetables, salad, compote of peaches, coffee with milk, wheat bread and beautiful sweet butter. Olmstead’s room was in a cottage in back where walls were blue and contained oak furniture. At that time there were no indoor bathrooms.
Back to the two-story building on Main Plaza that was the one that Nauendorf sold to Schmitz in 1857 for $1,500. Schmitz also named this building the Guadalupe Hotel like his Seguin St. hotel. In 1873 he added a third floor and a balcony. The hotel was a popular stage stop until the arrival of the railroad in New Braunfels in 1880.The hotel, then called the Schmitz Hotel, provided a popular stop during the daylong ride from San Antonio to Austin.
The Schmitz Hotel register that is at the Sophienburg Museum shows a host of illustrious people of the South. The register was rescued from a trash fire in 1910 by the Roth family who had a jewelry store next door. In the register was the name of the former president of the Republic of Texas, Sam Houston. Guests during the Civil War were the names of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, H.H. Sibley, Gen. B. Magruder and staff, Col. James Reiley, Col. Tom Green, Major R.J. Brownrigg and wife and Capt. H. Ragsdale.
Jacob Schmitz died in 1874 and was buried in the New Braunfels cemetery. Mrs. Schmitz conveyed the numerous properties owned by her husband to her daughter, Mrs. Paula Claessen. She leased the hotel to Emil Braun for $100 a month for the first two years and $124 a month thereafter. The lease agreement included Braun having a bar and billiard saloon in one of the rooms. It was changed to be the Plaza Hotel.
Both Mrs. Schmitz and her daughter were widows and so they returned to Germany. They sold the hotel in 1910 to Charles Koch. A local bank purchased the structure and converted the rooms into apartments, closing its use as a hotel.
In 1969 The New Braunfels Conservation Society purchased the hotel and began work restoring the building. Over the years, the hotel had been under many owners. Many alterations were made throughout its history. One owner removed the exterior columns and added wrought iron. These drastic changes were removed and the original facade was restored by the Conservation Society.
The project was not completed and in 1982 after four years of vacancy, W.A. Myers and Lee Lybrand bought the hotel with the hope of converting the building to gift shops, antiques, business offices and possible hotel suites. Much work needed to be done due to the vandalism that had taken place during the vacancy. Four years later, George Bokorney, representative and managing partner, purchased the hotel.
Then in 1995 a group of investors purchased the building for the purpose of restoration. The main investor was a woman from New York. An open house took place showing two reclaimed apartments and retail shops. The biggest structural change at this time was moving the staircase to the front entrance.
The Conservation Society was able to qualify the hotel site in a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark. Also the City of New Braunfels gave the hotel a Historic Landmark distinction. Presently the multi-purpose hotel is a remodeled landmark available to lease for days, weeks, or months and the bottom floor contains small businesses. It’s now known as “The Schmitz”, honoring Jacob Schmitz, who first owned this beautiful building as a hotel.