Walking Tour – 408 West Austin – John Walter Home (Austin Street Retreat)

From Cross Mountain, go back towards town, turn right on West Austin Street.

John Walter, a bartender, bought this property in 1867 for $50, and built the log cabin on the right for his family. Behind and to the left of the log cabin was a rock kitchen, connected to the back of the cabin by a durchgang, or enclosed walkway. The addition to the left of the log cabin was built in front of the old kitchen. In 1876, Walter was elected sheriff and tax collector for Gillespie County, a post he held for 10 years. After the county’s third jail burned down in1885, Walter used the kitchen as a jail.

In the 1976, new owners added the faux-fachwerk addition to the left of the log cabin. The walls are made from concrete block and the wood and plaster facade laid over that. Today, the John Walter Home is better known as Austin Street Retreat, Fredericksburg’s premiere guesthouse complex.

Walking Tour – 309 West Schubert – John Joseph Knopp House

The land on which this house sits once belonged to Christian Crenwelge, who sold the corner lot to John Knopp on December 8, 1871. Knopp was a stonemason and built the house. He had a farm a mile from here that his wife and children worked. Knopp died in 1917. In 1929, Albert Keidel, who owned the old Crenwelge home next door, purchased the property and began renovation. After many sales over the years, the stone building between the two larger houses is a part of both properties, the property line runs down a dividing wall.

Walk to FM 965 and turn right. Go 2 miles until you find the entrance to Cross Mountain Park, on your left, and take a left. (You might want to do this in your car.)

Corner of South Acorn and West Main – John Klingelhoefer Home

Johann “John” Klingelhoefer was born in 1802 in Germany and trained as a surveyor. He emigrated to Fredericksburg in 1847. He pitched a tent on this lot while he built the front two rooms of the house, seperated by a durchgang, or breezeway, between them, which was later enclosed as a third room. The half story attic above these rooms was their boys’ bedroom. John was elected Judge in 1851. The house passed through several generations and they added a little more to the home.

Turn right on Main Street and walk to the end of the block

404, 408, 410 West San Antonio – Sunday Houses

Sunday Houses are unique to Fredericksburg. When the settlers arrived, they received ten acres farms and a lot in town. They built these small one-room structures, usually with a sleeping loft or half-story above them reached by an outside stairway, so they would have place to stay when they came for Sunday church services. The families would arrive on Saturdays to shop for needed staples, and to sell their butter and eggs. Saturday night they went visiting or dancing. Sunday evenings they returned to their homes in the country. Families often used them, too, when someone needed to be near a doctor or when children attended confirmation classes. The arrival of automobiles and good roads was the end of usefullness for Sunday Houses. Many found permanent use by older residents who moved to town when they turned their farm or ranch over to their children. (Note: All small houses are not necessarily Sunday Houses.)

Across the street is a Sunday House that has had the front porch enclosed. And around the corner on South Adams in The Yellow House.

Continue West on San Antonio.

415 West Main – Wilhelm Crenwelge Home

John Schmidt built a log cabin to the west of the house site in 1850 that has been torn down, then sold it to Jacob Schneider in 1852. In 1860, Schneider, by this time blind, sold the property to Wilhelm Crenwelge. And his heirs lived in this house until the mid-1950s. Wilhelm Crenwelge lived in the log and rock house next door while his parents used the bigger house after it was finished. He and his father were wheelwrights and conducted their business here. The Crenwelges raised a large family on the property.

By the 1930s, Erwin and Paul Kraus who used the building for storing Coca-Cola and Pearl Beer. They ran their business from the building on the corner. They sold the property to Mary Crenwelge, no relation to the previous Crenwelge owners, in 1966, who conveyed it to her son Milton in 1972.

Walking Tour – 112 North Crockett Kreuger-Weihmiller House

The original townlot at 112 North Crockett was granted to Ferdinand Wilhelm, but Franz W. Kreuger built the oldest of the two houses, and the fachwerk portion of the house on the north side is the oldest part of the house.

Kreuger operated a drug store here. He died in 1865, and the executor of his estate tried to find a renter for the house. But by 1866, no renter had been found, so the administrator rented the building himself for 6 months to clear the inventory.

The house was sold to Freidrich Weihmiller in January 1867, who operated a blacksmith shop from the older house. The house stayed in the his family until 1938. Later, Richard Tatsch ran a blacksmith shop here. When Tatsch retired, he rented out the property as a restaurant. Later, Reinhold Enderlin operated his Lone Star Beer Distributorship from the building. After Enderlin built a new warehouse, Charlie Svatek operated the Falstaff Distributorship from here.

The houses later served as a liquor store, bed and breakfasts, and a bakery.

Turn to your right, north from Main Street, and walk down to the corner. Turn left and walk down two blocks.

314 West Creek – Ahrens-Langehennig Home

After an Indian attack that killed Conrad Ahrens’ father, Dorthea, his mother, moved the family from their farm into town. The oldest part of the house is on the west side, a two-room rock house. The family once used the front room as their bedroom and parlor—a common practice at the time. The kitchen was in the back room. Above the front room is an attic, with a laden, or opening, in the west wall, but there was no outside stairway. Two bedrooms were added to the old house, with a front door in each opening onto the porch and one window flanking each door in the front wall. Later owners, the Langerhennigs, remodeled these rooms to include a bathroom and a small storage and laundry area.

Turn left on Crockett street, then turn left on San Antonio Street.

117 West San Antonio – Old Gillespie County Jail

Turn left on Crockett street, then turn left on San Antonio Street.

117 West San Antonio – Old Gillespie County Jail

In 1852, the Gillespie County Commissioners authorized construction of the first jail. It was to be 18 by 18 feet wide, with an 8 foot high, two foot thick wall. It was built near where City Hall stands today, on the corner of North Orange and Main Street. The county’s first courthouse was across the street where the old Post Office stands today. But this first jail was not well built, and after a couple of escapes, the second jail was authorized in 1859, and built by Ludwig Schmidt behind the Court House, about where Nimitz Parkway runs. The third jail was built in 1874 on the South Side of the Courthouse. At daybreak January 7, 1885, fire broke out in the jail and a prisoner named William Allison, indicted for the 1884 murder of John Braeutigam, lost his life. According to once source, Allison set the fire himself, hoping to burn his way out of jail, but the fire got out of control.

By this time, the second courthouse, the McDermott building, had been constructed, and the Commissioners authorized a fourth jail to be built by C. F. Priess and Bro. for almost $10,000 on the townlot originally granted to Justus Herber. The contract called for the jail to be 25 feet wide, 35 feet deep, and 20-22 feet high with two stories. The contract also called for “waterclosets, privy, sinks, wash sinks, water tank,” etc., and bids were advertised in the San Antonio Express, Austin Statesman and Friederichsburger Wochenblatt.

The jail was finished in December 1885. Downstairs is a lockup, and jailer’s quarters. The lockup later was used as a women’s cell. Iron steps lead to the upper floor. On the east wall of the second floor are two steel cells, each with a crude lavatory and commode, and at one time steel cots were riveted into the walls. Going through a solid steel door, one reached the back room, or maximum security. Two cells stand in the center of the room with a “run around” around them where prisoners could get exercise. The only heat for the upper floor was a wood heater in the corner of the back room. Prisoners in the front cells were often moved to the back cells in extremely cold weather.

John Dietz built the wall surrounding the jail, complete with glass topping the walls, a crude but effective way to keep prisoners from scaling the wall, and often seen in Mexico.

When the current courthouse with its upstairs jails were built in 1939, the jail was converted into living quarters for William Heimann, the custodian of the new building, and his wife. When they moved out, the building was used for storage. In the late 1970s, Fredericksburg Heritage Foundation funds, matched by Texas Historical Commission dollars, restored the old jail. The sheriff’s office and kitchen are authentically furnished, as are the sheriff’s living quarters. Graffiti decades old still mars the cell walls upstairs.

The building is locked, but the wrought iron gate to the jailyard is kept unlocked so that visitors may examine the building’s exterior. The building is open for tours every year for the Candlelight Tour of Homes, held the second weekend in December.

Corner of North Bowie and West Schubert – John Peter Tatsch House

Turn right on Bowie, and stop at West Schubert Street.

The Tatsch Haus, made from local stone by John Peter Tatsch in 1856, is one of the most widely known historic homes in Fredericksburg. Tatsch was a “Tischler” or cabinetmaker and turner. The front two rooms are the original section of the house with the kitchen, fireplace and oven being added later. In 1965 the house was dedicated with a Texas Historic Landmark located on the front of the house. This home is a favorite subject for many history books and detailed floor plans can be found in the Library of Congress. The authenticity of this pioneer home gives you a true feeling of what life was like in Fredericksburg.

The large double wooden doors lead into the bedroom where a double size bed owned by Richard Tatsch was the family’s pride and joy because of the fact it was “factory made”. The living room is adjacent to the bedroom. An inside stairway was a real novelty in its day as most homes only had outside stairways. An authentic kitchen has the original fireplace and cooking pots demonstrating how cooking was done….including a baker’s oven–now sealed. The shutters and the back door are solid with no openings or outside handles designed as a safety measure against the Indians.

Walking Tour – FM 965 – Cross Mountain

At 1951 feet above sea level, the peak of Cross Mountain was once a place Indian signaled news of the advancing white settlers. John Christian Durst arrived in Fredericksburg in 1847 and received a town lot and 10 acres of land, including this hill. He found a timber cross on the hilltop, suggesting that Spanish missionaries had used it as a landmark on the path from San Antonio to Mission San Saba. Durst named the hill “Kruezberg,” or Cross Mountain.

In 1849, Father George Menzel, replaced the first cross with a larger one. For almost 100 years afterward, Easter services were held on the hill. In 1946, St. Mary’s Catholic Church built a larger metal and concrete cross decorated with lights.

Cross Mountain was also a big part of the annual Easter Fires celebration in Fredericksburg.

On the Saturday evening preceding Easter, bonfires were lit atop as many as twenty-two specified hills flanking the town. At the appointed hour the church bells of the town tolled, and the hilltops burst into flame.
The fires, dating from the first Easter celebration in 1847, are almost as old as the town itself. According to local tradition, the custom originated when Comanche Indian scouts lit signal fires in the night to communicate with their chiefs, who were negotiating a treaty with German leader John O. Meusebach many miles to the north, beyond the Llano River. The scouts presumably were informing their chiefs concerning the movements of the town’s inhabitants.

According to this tradition, the signal fires terrified some German children in Fredericksburg, prompting one imaginative mother to tell her children that the Easter Rabbit and his helpers had lit the fires to cook eggs before decorating and distributing them among the children on Easter morning. As a result, many residents believe the Easter Fires are a custom linked to the founding of their town.

However, the Easter Fires have a much more ancient history. The people of northwestern Germany, especially in the provinces of Westphalia and Lower Saxony, practice an identical custom of lighting Easter-eve fires on specified hills. The practice originated in pre-Christian times as part of a spring festival and, along with the rabbit and egg, represents pagan customs that passed intact into Teutonic Christianity. The German provinces where Easter Fires occur contributed almost half of the settlers who came to the Texas Hill Country. The most likely sources of the story were Hanoverians, one of the two largest groups in early Fredericksburg.

More damaging to the signal-fire story, is that the Meusebach-Comanche negotiations occurred on March 1 and 2, 1847, while Easter eve in that year fell on April 3. Perhaps these two major events in Fredericksburg’s first spring later merged in the popular mind, or possibly the initial Easter Fires frightened German children from Hesse or some other southern province where the custom was unknown. In any case, the Old World origin of the fires is incontestable.

The City of Fredericksburg, which owns the property, has plans to develop the park and add facilities in the future. A master plan has been developed, but its implementation has not yet been funded and may still be a few years away. It is accessible to the public free of charge. There are nature trails at the base of the hill, and several trails that lead to the top where one can enjoy a panoramic view of the town. There is a paved parking area a short distance from the entrance (but currently no restroom facilities).

The Fredericksburg Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas conducts field trips to Cross Mountain several times a year, and some members visit the park on a regular basis, and has compiled a list of plants found in the park and so far have identified over 130 species.

Go back towards town, turn right on West Austin Street.