took it hard when workers demolished the original Vereins Kirche in
1897 and almost immediately made plans to build a new one, exactly
like the old one, out of the traffic flow, not 200 feet from where
the original Vereins Kirche stood in the middle of Main Street.
The present has always mingled with the past in Fredericksburg.
The town faced the 20th century with some apprehension. Progress meant
change. Wires hummed with electricity. Cars rapidly replaced horse-drawn
wagons. Roadsters sped through town right over the spot where the
old Vereins Kirche once stood.
Citizens talked frequently about building a replica of the famous
coffee mill house, but the cost, reportedly in the $5,000 range, was
too high for serious consideration. Then the Great Depression hit
making the rebuilding project even more unlikely.
Ironically it was our country's response to the worst financial crisis
in history that made the replica of the Vereins Kirche financially
President Franklin Roosevelt took office in March 1933, and almost
immediately his New Deal program made money available to cash-strapped
local governments in the form of grants and low interest loans. The
purpose of the money was to give jobs to the unemployed and to pump
dollars into local economies.
seized the opportunity and requested help from the federal government
to build a replica of the Vereins Kirche. The plan called for the
city and county to supply materials and the Civil Works Administration
(CWA) in Washington to pay the labor costs.
The state CWA agreed to help with the project provided there was a
local organization to sponsor it. For that purpose citizens of Gillespie
County met in January 1934 to organize the Gillespie County Historical
Society. The Historical Society and the Vereins Kirche have been closely
linked ever since.
Over 100 enthusiastic citizens gathered at the courthouse
on December 10, 1933 to view plans for the new Vereins Kirche drawn
by Lee Kiehne, a recent graduate of the University of Texas School
of Architecture. Estimated cost was $6,200. The New Deal would donate
the cost of the labor. The balance, about $1,700, would have to be
raised locally. Even that amount would be a struggle during those
In hindsight what seemed a fortune during the Great Depression turned
out to be the deal of a lifetime. The Vereins Kirche generated more
publicity than anyone could have imagined.
Plans called for a ceremony to lay 2 cornerstones for the building:
a new one of red granite and the original1847 cornerstone, provided
it could be located. Someone found it in a barnyard - a watering trough
On January 6, 1934 city officials laid the 2 cornerstones. A copper
box placed in the new cornerstone contained a history of the Vereins
Kirche, the latest copies of the Fredericksburg Standard and
Fredericksburg Radio-Post, the Concordia Singing Club Jubilee
Booklet, a program of the 46th Saengerfest, some Chamber of Commerce
literature, a photo of the city commission, a photo of John Meusebach
and some coins.
Work on the building continued throughout 1934. Citizens from all
over the county brought in interesting and unusual rock specimens
for the flagstone floor which is itself a work of art. Workers completed
the building in time for the 1935 Founder's Day celebration.
Kirche" in Fredricksburg
Click on image to enlarge
Feb. 2019 photo © Michael Barr
| In no time
at all a bond developed between Fredericksburg
and the little coffee mill house in the middle of Marketplatz. Beginning
in 1938 Fredericksburg
used the building as a library until the McDermott Building replaced
it. Children who grew up in Fredericksburg
in the 1950s and 60s have fond memories of summers spent playing baseball,
swimming at the city pool and sitting with Mrs. Phillips for story
time at the Vereins Kirche.
To the descendants of the German settlers, the building is a connection
to their ancestors. To the rest of the world the Vereins Kirche symbolizes
It is the backdrop for festivals and the most photographed place in
town. Its simple design and unique shape make it one of the most recognizable
small town symbols in the country.
| © Michael
August 1, 2020 Column
"Vereins Kirche - Fredericksburg's Most Famous Landmark," Fredericksburg
Standard, June 30, 1976.