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History Brought to Life: Have a Blast at Heritage Day in New Braunfels

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Happening on November 3 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture will be hosting Heritage Day in New Braunfels, and if you’re on the fence about attending, it just might be a fence that was constructed by the very craftsmen (and women) the museum showcases! Well, in actuality the museum is home to one of the largest collections of the Biedermeier furniture style that German immigrants and settlers of the area began crafting upon their move to the Texas Hill Country.

History Brought to Life: Have a Blast at Heritage Day in New Braunfels

Photo: Facebook/Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture

For those yet unfamiliar with the background of New Braunfels, a brief history lesson will help to connect the dots. Germany was considerably overpopulated back in the 1840s. It was also in the midst of suffering from a considerably long drought. Starvation, coupled with economic woes, resulted in an estimated 10,000 immigrants making their way to Texas to start fresh with new opportunity. And, they did so quite enthusiastically, bringing with them their trade skills and workmanship. Everyone from minor nobility to farmers, businessmen and skilled tradesmen made the voyage to settle in Texas. With that move came access to new natural resources. Combining these raw materials with their talents, they developed the Texas Biedermeier style of furniture. These items were constructed with extreme care and attention to detail, making them high-quality pieces of craftsmanship. To this day, many of these original pieces can be found in excellent condition, maintained at the Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture.

History Brought to Life: Have a Blast at Heritage Day in New Braunfels

Photo: Facebook/Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture

Located on the historic El Camino Real de los Tejas, a.k.a. The Royal Road of Texas, the Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture’s collection is curated from the works of local artisans (the very people who originated in Germany and became some of the first residents of New Braunfels). Even its grounds – dotted with ancient live oaks, gorgeous Texas wildflowers, and many a native plant species – reflect the work of one such German immigrant who made a name and a living here in the Texas Hill Country. Ferdinand Lindheimer, known as the “Father of Texas Botany” identified, named, and cataloged a number of Texas plant species, including the very prickly pear cactus that now lines the drive to this prestigious property paying homage to its local ancestry. The museum hosts weekly living history events on Fridays and Saturdays, bringing the past to life before the very eyes of its visitors! Not only that, but guests can shop the on-site general store, selling period toys, games, cosmetics, and other such goods to accent their trip and serve as great reminders of their wonderful visit.

History Brought to Life: Have a Blast at Heritage Day in New Braunfels

Photo: Facebook/Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture

The museum’s hours from September through November are 1 – 4 p.m., six-days-a-week (the only exception is Tuesdays,) with their last tour taking place at 3:30 p.m. each day. A tour includes an entire village of sorts, set in the period in which the early New Braunfels settlers established their new livelihoods here in Texas. Consisting of two log cabins (circa 1850,) a blacksmith’s building, a mercantile, and a schoolhouse, the guided tours are really just the beginning of this wonderful experience. Working to expand its programming, the Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture provides an amazing schedule of experiential events, including a Family Living History Schedule featuring life in 1800s Texas, Folkfest (an annual celebration scheduled for April 13 and 14 in 2019), the Historic Kindermasken Parade, and a Family Fun Spring Break session!

Plus, in their contingent of unique historic celebrations is Heritage Day, made possible by a grant from Humanities Texas. The museum welcomes guests to this one-of-a-kind annual production to learn from demonstrations, see the collection of 19th-century technology on-hand, and even witness the blast of an old cannon to add to the excitement! Featuring some of the foremost Living Historians in Texas, this day of life in the times of 19th-century settlers focuses on activities such as open-hearth cooking, broom-making, calligraphy, weaving, floor cloth painting, blacksmithing, as well as toys and games of the period. Music for the day will be provided in both a morning and afternoon set by the Celtair String Band! And, military firing demonstrations are also on the docket, including muskets, rifles, and artillery. The entire family is invited to take a trip back in time through this unique event! For more information, visit the museum’s Facebook event page at the link provided here, or contact the museum by calling (830) 629-6504.

History Brought to Life: Have a Blast at Heritage Day in New Braunfels

Photo: Facebook/Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture

More than 100 pieces of Texas Biedermeier furniture which previously belonged to the late Bill and Nan Dillen serve as the focal point of Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture. The main house (an 1858 Texas colonial fachwerk house which once was their home,) is where a guided tour of the property commences, complete with staff in period clothing. The furnishings may appear simplistic in design, but the timelessness and quality of the craftsmanship using primarily black walnut and pine are second-to-none. From the main house, visitors are then guided to the Reininger log cabin, the Cabinet Shop, the Summer kitchen/smokehouse, and the Breustedt kitchen. Tours last approximately one hour, however, at the visitor’s request, one that is customized to accommodate groups or specific schedules can be coordinated. The works of such prominent local cabinetmakers as Johann Jahn, Franz Stautzenberger, and Heinrich Scholl, Jr. are featured on site. In addition, there is a large collection of handmade quilts, white English ironstone, and period accessories that complement the furnishings and focus of the tour. Groups of ten or more can obtain special tour rates and times via appointment, making an extremely interesting setting for historical society meetings or school field trips.

History Brought to Life: Have a Blast at Heritage Day in New Braunfels

Photo: Facebook/Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture

In 2001, Heritage Pavilion was opened on the grounds of the Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture. It proved to be an excellent venue for not only Folkfest and a Heritage Living Experience but also a wonderful place for families or school groups to relax and enjoy the property, perhaps even having a picnic! Guests can also rent the Solms school as well as the museum grounds for special events. The other pieces of what’s known as Heritage Village on the grounds were relocated to the museum’s property in 2003, 2006, and 2009 respectively, including Breustedt summer kitchen. This latter building was relocated from its original site to once again join the Dillen house in its preservation and exhibition.

The Reininger Log Cabin, which underwent extensive renovations into this fall, has recently re-opened as an interpretive space. It now houses a part of the museum’s collection, featuring period pieces that focus on the life and times of those who would have inhabited this 19th-century dwelling. This circa-1847 home was constructed from the very timbers that were cleared from the Reininger family’s acreage upon arrival in Texas – a process which took approximately two years and saw the family living in tents and makeshift shelters. It started out as one room, but the addition of another room as well as a loft above the “dog trot” was necessitated with the growth of their family. Many additions were made to the home in its lifetime, housing several generations of the Reininger family. However, the original cabin was relocated to its present location on the museum property in the early 1970s and lovingly restored by Bill and Nan Dillen.

History Brought to Life: Have a Blast at Heritage Day in New Braunfels

Photo: Facebook/Heritage Day 2017 Via Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture

These and so many more fascinating details of the homes, furnishings, and lifestyles of the first settlers of New Braunfels are brought to life in a tour of the Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture grounds. The living history events and teachings alone are great opportunities for understanding the times, the obstacles these immigrants faced, and how they triumphed in completing the daunting task of settling the Texas Hill Country. A full appreciation for what they lived through to make a sustainable life here in a new country can be gleaned with the guided tours of the grounds, presented by a costumed docent, or by attending one of their many worthwhile events, such as Heritage Day in New Braunfels on November 3! Bring the whole family out for a journey back in time from which you’ll return richer in knowledge and experience – similar to those who made the original journey all those years ago.