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VEREINS-KIRCHE

VEREINS-KIRCHE. The Vereins-Kirche (Society Church), the first public building in Fredericksburg, was designed by a Dr. Schubert of the Adelsverein and built by the first settlers of Fredericksburg in 1847. It followed an ancient German style known as the "Carolingian octagon," exemplified by the original portion of the cathedral of Charlemagne at Aachen. Originally all the religious groups in Fredericksburg used the building, which stood in the middle of Main Street and was nicknamed the Kaffeemühle (coffee mill) for its octagonal shape. Each side of the Vereins-Kirche was eighteen feet long and eighteen feet high; an octagonal roof rose ten feet above the sides and formed the base of an octagonal cupola with ten-foot-square sides. The cupola was crowned by an octagonal roof about seven feet high; the original weather vane, in the shape of a rooster, was destroyed by lightning in 1862 and replaced with a cross. Fredericksburg's Lutherans, whose services were led by the Rev. F. Basse and subsequently by the Rev. Gottlieb Burchard Dangers, met in the Vereins-Kirche until 1886; the town's Catholics, whose first services were led by Johann Leyendecker, used the building until 1848, when they built their own church. The Methodist congregation, organized in 1849, met in the Vereins-Kirche until 1855, and the orthodox Lutheran congregation, organized in 1850, used the building until 1853. The Vereins-Kirche was also used as Fredericksburg's first school, established under Leyendecker in 1847, and also as a town hall, a fortress, a sanctuary, and, in 1896, a pavilion for Fredericksburg's fiftieth anniversary celebration. In 1897, however, having fallen into disuse and disrepair and regarded as an obstruction to traffic on Main Street, the Vereins-Kirche was torn down. When the Gillespie County Historical Society was formed in 1934, its first goal was the construction of a replica of the old Vereins-Kirche, with the assistance of the Civil Works Administration, to be completed in time for the Texas Centennial celebration in 1936, in Fredericksburg's old market square. The replica used the original cornerstone and is designed like the old Vereins-Kirche, though its walls are stone instead of half-timbered Fachwerk, the artistic carpentry of the original church (see GERMAN VERNACULAR ARCHITECTURE). It housed the Gillespie County Historical Society's Pioneer Museum until 1967, when the museum was moved to its present complex on Main Street. Since then the Vereins-Kirche has housed the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce, the Gillespie County Archives, and a local history collection.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Rudolph L. Biesele, The History of the German Settlements in Texas, 1831–1861 (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1930; rpt. 1964). Dallas Journal, January 28, 1934. Dallas Semi-Weekly Farm News, June 5, 1934. Terry G. Jordan, The German Element of Gillespie County, Texas (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1961). WPA Historical Records Survey, Historical Sketch: Gillespie County (MS, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin). Richard Zelade, Hill Country (Austin: Texas Monthly Press, 1983).

Martin Donell Kohout

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Martin Donell Kohout, "VEREINS-KIRCHE," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ccv01), accessed October 31, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.