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Ullrich homes on Mill Street tell the story of early home construction

By Myra Lee Adams Goff —

What do three houses on Mill Street have in common? The homes located at 502, 528 and 554 West Mill Street are part of New Braunfels’ Mill Street Historic District and they are homes built on the property owned at one time by George Ullrich in the 1850s through the 1860s.

George Ullrich bought the partitioned lots in 1850 from Jean Jacque von Coll. They were part of the larger acre lot #168, acquired by von Coll in 1847 from the German Emigration Company. Von Coll served as business manager for the Adelsverein. Ullrich was the Adelsverein wagon master.

George Ullrich was one of those First Founders who, along with his wife, Margarethe, were in Texas before the Adelsverein immigrants. Prince Carl met Ullrich in Frelsburg in the early 1840s. The prince asked him to lead the immigrants inland from the coast as head wagoner. He lead the 31 wagons across the Guadalupe River on Marcy 21, 1845.

Mill Street runs parallel to San Antonio Street all the way to the Comal River at Clemens Dam where the Torrey Mill was located, therefore Mill Street. It is one of the earliest named streets in New Braunfels. Many of the homes on Mill Street are the oldest surviving homes from the time of the city’s settlement. Several of the homes are log homes and many are fachwerk. A home’s core building materials were typically covered over with layers of plaster or wood for insulation and protection from the environmental elements and when restoration occurs, the construction is revealed. The log home and fachwerk home were the earliest building techniques used, with the use of cut limestone blocks to follow. The log home is made using walls of horizontally placed logs with chinking in the spaces between the logs and the fachwerk home is constructed using timber framing with some type of infill, usually brick, rubble or rock.

554 West Mill

The home at 554 W. Mill has a historical marker titled the Pioneer Home. The marker reads: “Sand brick home built 1855, by Geo. Ullrich, who had driven first wagon of German Emigration Co. settlers in 1845 across the Guadalupe River.” On July 7, 1962, this home belonging to Mr. and Mrs. Chester W. Geue, was awarded the Texas Historical Building Medallion, the first awarded in New Braunfels and Comal County. The Geues had purchased and restored the home because the Ullrichs were his ancestors. The home was originally built as two front rooms and kitchen. By 1865, a daughter of George and Margarethe Ullrich, Sophie, married William Froelich and they lived in the home adding rooms to accommodate a growing family. The Geues bought the home from Blanca Froelich Bading. In 1965, the home was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark. The Comal County Historical Survey Committee is now known as the Comal County Historical Commission.

528 West Mill

The home at 528 W. Mill is owned by Marvin and Ann Giambernardi. This home was recently on the New Braunfels Conservation Society tour of homes and it was this tour that piqued my interest in the homes on Mill Street and about the people who so lovingly restore them, the Giambernardi’s being two of them.

Marvin and Ann met when he was helping her with electrical work involving the restoration of her home at 581 E. Camp Street. Ann had been an antique dealer here in New Braunfels for several years, having shops in downtown New Braunfels. She grew up in San Antonio but decided in 1990, to purchase the home on Camp St. so she would not have to drive back and forth from San Antonio to New Braunfels for her business. Her description of the home when she moved in is priceless. It had been in the same family from the time it was built and Ann bought it from the family. Ann lived in the home while restoring it. It had only cold running water. The previous owner heated her water outside in a tub. The electricity consisted of a bulb hanging on an electrical wire from the ceiling and there were no outlets. This did not deter Ann from living in the home while restoring it. Ann’s abilities in home restoration, expertise in the antique business, eye for color coordination along with her abilities as a seamstress, combined with her endless energy, contributed to success in the restoration arena. All she needed was an electrician, plumber and wood craftsman. This was when Marvin entered the scene.

Although Marvin was retired from the military as an aircraft inspector, he was also an electrician, plumber and wood craftsman. Marvin was living at Lake Dunlap at the time in a home he had restored that had belonged to his father. Marvin did some work for Ann on the Camp St. house and the rest is history. They married, eventually sold the Camp St. home, bought the 528 W. Mill home, restored it and now are working on another restoration. Home restoration is the perfect outlets for their creative talents and energy. They love the local history.

Back to 528 W. Mill Street. The home was thought to have been built in 1865 by George and Margarethe Ullrich. Around the same time, the 554 W. Mill Street home was given to their daughter and husband. The home is a beautifully crafted fachwerk home with handmade brick infill. The Giambernardis have exposed the fachwerk in several areas to show the construction. It was originally three large rooms with very high ceilings (about 14 feet), divided with one large room on the right and two smaller rooms on the left. One of the rooms on the left was the kitchen. There are two fire places, one on each side of the home. Additions were made throughout the years and provide ample room for Ann’s extensive collections of antiques. She began collecting as a teenager.

502 West Mill

Marvin and Ann recently purchased the small home next door at 502 W. Mill. The home had belonged to Elsie Roeper. Elsie was born in 1916 and lived in the home her whole life, caring for her grandparents who also lived there. Elsie’s mother was Alma, and Alma’s parents Julius and Julia Krueger Buske (Elsie’s grandparents) bought the home in 1890. The home was built on property owned by George Ullrich and was possibly built by him in the 1850s but may be much older. The home is a combination of log cabin and fachwerk with homemade brick infill construction.

The home originally was a small, single room log cabin with front and back porch. This single room is constructed of hand-hewn horizontally placed logs on all four sides that was revealed when Marvin and Ann removed the plaster. At some point, the back porch was closed in using fachwerk with handmade brick infill. A kitchen was built behind the home and at some time, the front home and kitchen were connected and also a bathroom added to the south side of the front structure. Marvin noted that termites where only present in the bathroom addition and nowhere else in the older parts of the home. Marvin and Ann are continuing their restoration and are in the process of researching more to find the exact construction date of the home. It is surely one of the oldest in New Braunfels and worthy of preservation.

Author, Myra Lee Adams Goff in front of the 502 W. Mill home with Ann and Marvin Giambernardi. Karen Boyd photo collection.

Author, Myra Lee Adams Goff in front of the 502 W. Mill home with Ann and Marvin Giambernardi. Karen Boyd photo collection.