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What’s a ‘Sophienburg’? Depends on the era

Recently a child who was visiting the museum asked, “What is a Sophienburg?” Well, for some of you who may be wondering the same thing, here goes:

When Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels accompanied the German immigrants to Texas, and from the coast on to the area that became known as New Braunfels in 1845, he set up his headquarters on the hill on which our museum now stands.  He called it Sophienburg (Sophie’s castle) after his “intended” back in Germany.  A log building was built for housing supplies, but never a castle. Perhaps the Prince wanted Sophie to come here, but that wouldn’t happen.  What is a Sophienburg?  It’s a museum of history and a collection of archives named after a princess.

Possibly the last time the old dilapidated building was used was on July 4, 1878 when 26 old surviving settlers walked up the hill to have their picture taken.  Notice in our picture how the roof is falling in.  Just eight years later the building was so damaged by a hurricane that it had to be torn down.

Speaking of the Fourth of July, it is appropriate that The Sophienburg once again sponsor the big celebration downtown, complete with parade, concerts on the plaza, bells ringing, and all the other elements of an old fashioned Fourth of July celebration.  Look for details in the Herald-Zeitung.

Sophie’s Shop, the museum gift shop, under the direction of Bette Spain, has quite a few July 4th Christmas decorations.  What? Not in the mood to decorate your tree? How about a great souvenir reminding you of this meaningful patriotic celebration? Bette will be down at the Main Plaza selling these ornaments. She will also have the second in a series of three bandstand ornaments for sale down there.

Back to Sophie’s hill. The biggest news up here is the recent opening of the Museum of History, New Braunfels history, that is.  Under the able leadership of Helen Hoffmann and a slew of volunteers, she managed to put together a fine museum.  Come see it.

Upon entering the doors, one sees the cross-section of one of the ships that brought the settlers across the seas from Germany to Texas.  It was built by local restoration contractor  Ron Schmid.  I have read enough about the terrible, miserable conditions and have enough of an imagination, to get seasick just looking at it.  Imagine two months or more at sea.  More on the museum next time.

Another big event at the Sophienburg was the choosing of New Braunfels native Linda Dietert as the Executive Director.  Her aim and the aim of the Board of Directors is to make The Sophienburg Archives and Museum of History a state-of-the-art facility.  She intends to involve as many people as possible in the volunteer program.  There is a lot of work to be done because the archives are still in the organizational stage, so come on up the hill.

Research is fun! Just ask volunteers like Jeanette and Darvin Dietert.  They are working on the Seidel Photography collection.  Thousands and thousands of negatives and photographs going back to 1920 will eventually be put on the computer.  You will be able to type in a name and find what photos were taken by Seidel and then have a copy made.  Volunteers Mary Adele Schneider, Jean Ward, and A.D. Nuhn, Jr. are working on the photo collection of Braunfels Studio, which was owned by Vera Shaw.  She purchased the photography business from the Seidels in 1970.  Stay in touch to find out more about volunteers.
The following two paragraphs were taken from a collection of daily activities during New Braunfels’ Sesquicentennial, collected by Sophienburg volunteers under the supervision of Iris Schumann, edited by Roger Nuhn, and read over KGNB daily by Herb Skoog.  This collection can be purchased at Sophie’s Shop.
Where were you exactly 68 years ago today?  If you were old enough to play golf, you could have attended the grand opening of the New Braunfels Country Club Golf Course (where T-M Tennis Ranch is). Manager Hilmar Staats announced that green fees were 25¢ on weekdays and 50¢ on weekends.

Just 60 years ago today, you could have helped the Seekatz family celebrate the opening of the Seekatz Café and Drive Inn, located on Elliott Knox Boulevard.  Their ad in the Herald-Zeitung said they would serve barbeque, fried chicken, plate lunches, and sandwiches.

Every two weeks this column will appear in Wednesday’s paper.  From time to time, an unidentified photo will be shown for you to help identify. You’ll find out what’s old and what’s new around the Sophienburg.  In two weeks you will be reading about marbles, “spaß in the museum,” Jesse Ayala, and all sorts of interesting things and people.

Possibly the last time the old Sophienburg log building was used was on July 4, 1878, when 26 surviving settlers walked up the hill to have their picture taken.