New Braunfels, Texas has a lot of interesting history to explore, and is a great place to visit for that and many other reasons. It offers world famous water recreation (more on that in another blog post), historic places, and lots of fun things to see and do. New Braunfels is located about 50 miles south of Austin and 35 miles north of San Antonio. These six locations in New Braunfels hold the title of “oldest” and are worth some time to check them out.
Photos by Judy Peacock
1. Oldest Bakery in Texas
Naegelin’s Bakery, in operation since 1868, is the oldest continuously operating bakery in the state of Texas. Just walk in the front door and instantly smell the wonderful baked goods. The bakery is still famous for their strudels that Naegelin perfected years ago, and the new owners, the Granzin’s, have added terrific sausage kolaches to the menu of fruit filled ones. A popular favorite is the Lebkuche, a thick, rectangular brown cookie covered with pink frosting. We snagged some basic sugar cookies and chocolate chip cookies on our recent trip, and are very glad that we stopped by. Check out their tasty treats at 129 South Seguin Avenue in New Braunfels.
2. Oldest Hardware Store in Texas
The Henne family moved to New Braunfels in 1846 and Mr. Henne started a tinsmithing business. This business evolved into the business which is still around today, the oldest hardware store in Texas. The present Henne building, at 246 W. San Antonio Street, was built in 1893, and has beautiful old architectural features and fixtures, such as a tin ceiling, wood floors, built in oak-and-glass display cases, rolling ladders, and parquet flooring in the show windows, standing the test of time. Something that fascinated us on our visit was the Money Trolley, a system of cables and pulleys used in the past to send money and orders from sales counters to the back office where change was made and returned to the front along with a receipt.
3. Oldest Restaurant in New Braunfels
Freiheit Country Store, established 1889, is a burger joint with a German heritage. They have a menu full of delicious food, including chicken fried steak, wiener schnitzel, homemade pie, and award-winning hamburgers. This area started as the San Geronimo school community 3-1/2 miles northeast of New Braunfels. The store opened near the school, and has served as a place where locals came for groceries and postal services, then as a community gathering place to eat, play games, and catch up on local gossip. The city has grown up around this area, and you can find it at the intersection of FM 1101 and FM 306, just a mile or so southeast of Buccee’s. All the food we saw looked and smelled great, but we can personally attest to the greatness of their burgers, as well as the homemade onion rings and sweet potato fries. Yummy!
4. Oldest Dance Hall in Texas
Gruene Hall (pronounced Green Hall) was built in 1878, and it is the oldest continually operating and most famous dance hall in Texas. They host live country, blues, and Americana musicians every night, some free and some who require a purchased ticket. It is located at 1281 Gruene Rd., in the Gruene Historic District of New Braunfels, in the shadow of the iconic Gruene water tower. This old dance hall looks much like it did when it was first built. Old hardwood floors, screened-in windows with side flaps for open air dancing, and signs from the 1930’s and 1940’s on the walls, it is a great place to come listen to some good music and to dance or watch others dance. Hundreds of celebrities have played and sang here over the decades, and there are pictures of lots of them on the dance hall walls. You can see some of the artists who have played here and a list of upcoming artists on their website, www.gruenehall.com
5. Oldest Church in New Braunfels
The First Protestant Church, located at 172 W Coll Street, was founded in 1845. Even before New Braunfels’ first settlers arrived in 1844, Reverend Ervendberg was invited by Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels, Germany, to serve as the minister for the German immigrants who were expected to arrive a few months later. Their first church services were held in December, 1844. The beautiful building the congregation still uses today was built in 1875, and renovated and enlarged in 1955. Other improvements and additions have been made through the years. You will find the original bells displayed on the church grounds. These bells were used to call people to worship, men to work, and children to school. It is a beautiful building to visit, with stonework and stain-glassed windows, and impressive beams and arches inside.
6. Faust Street Bridge
The Faust Street Bridge is a beautiful, historic bridge connecting Faust Street to Porter Street over the Guadalupe River. At the time of its opening, it was one of the first permanent “toll-free” structures completed over a major waterway in Texas. It was constructed in 1887, and is the most complex and intact example of a Whipple trust roadway bridge surviving in Texas. The Whipple is an unusual truss type that was popular for only a short period of time during the mid-to-late-19th century, and this one is the only multiple-span example surviving at its original site. The Faust Street Bridge is important for its long history serving transportation needs in the region and for its role as a state highway bridge from 1917 to 1934. In 1978, it was closed to local traffic due to fire damage. Now the majestic bridge has been reopened to carry pedestrians and bicyclists. It is a pleasant, peaceful place to stand or sit and take in the sounds of the water below and the surrounding scenery.