The historic New Braunfels building will find a new home in preparation for the development of the inner city

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The new development is expected to be built at the end of 2021. (Courtesy Woolsey Design Build)

On December 15, the building that was once located at 173 E. San Antonio St. in downtown New Braunfels was relocated to its new home on E. Coll St. and S. Seguin Avenues.

The property was originally built in the late 1920s and was used as an office building for Landa Industries, according to Amy McWhorter, the city’s heritage protection officer and development coordinator.

There was also the first public library in New Braunfels for a short time. In the 1960s, it became the Modern Beauty Salon, which operated in the building until it closed in early 2020.

Local development company Woolsey Design Build acquired the property along with two adjacent lots at 189 and 207 E. San Antonio St. in 2019 before proposing the construction of new commercial and retail space with the aim of revitalizing the area.

“I would say that (East) San Antonio Street is really the last street in downtown that hasn’t been updated,” said Matt Schuman, Vice President of Woolsey Design Build.

During a meeting in January 2020, the New Braunfels Historic Landmark Commission recommended a partial demolition permit for the full demolition of 207 E. San Antonio St. and a partial demolition of the other two properties.

Woolsey Design Build initially applied for a certificate of modification to demolish the buildings in November 2019. However, the commission delayed its decision on the buildings until the company investigated the possibility of relocating the traditional German half-timbered building to 189 E San Antonio St.

The half-timbered house was built in the 1850s for the early settler Otto Lindner. Like the other properties, the building has been changed throughout its history and the roofline has been lowered, although the original basement remains intact, McWhorter said.

The property at 207 E. San Antonio St. was completed at the end of the 19th century and was originally a commercial building. Once In a Blue Moon, a boutique and gift shop, occupied the building until it closed in December.

Civil engineers inspecting the properties found that all three are dangerous and in need of security updates, Schumann said, adding that moving any of the buildings would be too costly to consider.

“There was no way to safely occupy these buildings,” said Schumann. “We try to find this happy medium between new and old buildings.”

At a February 2020 meeting of New Braunfels City Council, the company received approval to demolish all three buildings to make way for the new development and a back parking lot.

The project’s progress was slow through 2020 as Schumann and his staff adjusted their design plans and worked to obtain the necessary permits.

After news of the proposed demolition was announced, New Braunfels resident David Harmann approached the company with an offer to buy and remove the building at 173 E. San Antonio St.

“I’ve been involved in monument preservation here in New Braunfels for over 50 years,” said Hartmann. “When I heard that this development was going to take place and that they were going to dismantle the buildings … I got quite worried.”

Hartmann said he has started talks with the Woolsey Group, which owns the property and will lead this development, and has worked out a deal to buy the building and move it within a certain time frame.

In order to move the structure safely, any asbestos-containing material had to be removed prior to the move, Hartmann said.

“You had to take out part of the interior,” said Hartmann. “They had to take out the floor all the way to the forest and they had to take out the eight windows that were in the building.”

Hartmann, whose family has been in the town’s pharmacy business since 1850, plans to restore the building to house his collection of items from many of New Braunfels’ original pharmacies.

The collection includes artifacts from family businesses like Richter’s Pharmacy that once served the New Braunfels community until competition from chain stores contributed to their closure, Hartmann said.

After the renovation, the building will be known as the Historic Richter’s Pharmacy Collection and will only be open for tours by appointment.

“I am using my own private funds to restore the building,” said Hartmann. “My project is to leave all of this to the citizens of New Braunfels.”

The remaining two buildings were dismantled in late 2020, Schumann said, adding that his team is expected to submit their final plans to the city for review within two months. He hopes to start construction in the spring.

The crews salvaged wood beams, adobe bricks, and other materials from the original buildings to use design elements as well as an educational exhibit dedicated to the property’s history, Schumann said.

Once construction begins, work is expected to take around six months, and several business owners have expressed an interest in the future retail space, he said.

“We’ll somehow grasp what was there. We learned a lot when we went through all the historic meetings, ”said Schumann.