A type of unique structure found only in the Fredericksburg area is known as the Sunday house. Built by German settlers who lived in distant rural areas, they served as little more than weekend sleeping quarters for the families who came to town to shop and attend church on Sunday. Sherry was especially captivated with this “little dollhouse.”
Logs, Limestone and Fachwerk
Fredericksburg’s neighborhoods provide a romantic snapshot of what small town America looked like in the mid 19th century. Streets are lined with old trees and small century old homes … many sporting a distinctive Germanic architectural style. With over 700 historically significant structures in the Frederiksburg’s Historic District and almost as many historic markers, one would have to be a certified obsessive compulsive to try and see it all. Many of the residential and commercial buildings were constructed of local limestone. As unbelievable as it may sound, it took one year for a crew of stonemasons to build the typical five room home.
Built in 1904, the tiny sixteen by twenty foot Weber Sunday House is preserved at the Pioneer Museum as an example of a typical early Sunday House … it’s wood framed, with no electricity or running water, has one room with a lean to kitchen and a half story above. No inside space was wasted on a stairway to the second floor sleeping quarters … the boys of the family would climb a ladder propped up against the porch roof and climb through the window to their sleeping loft.
Most Sunday houses were constructed between 1890 and 1920, after which good roads and automobiles erased the necessity for a separate place in town. It’s amazing, but of the more than 100 Sunday houses built in Fredericksburg, most remain intact, still used as homes or shops. Sunday house construction evolved over the years … they became larger, limestone verses wood became the building material of choice and outside staircases replaced the use of the ladder. As the town grew, the Sunday Houses gradually became more than just a weekend home … many of the larger homes eventually became comfortable retirement homes for elderly German farmers.
At the Pioneer Museum the stucco covering has been partially removed on one of the oldest houses in Fredericksburg to show the underlying Fachwerk construction.
Several of Fredericksburg’s historic homes exhibit Fachwerk construction … a traditional German building technique consisting of heavy timber framing and diagonal bracing, with an infill of limestone. In Fredericksburg, the vertical and diagonal bracing timbers are not always visible since much of the Fachwerk has been stuccoed over. In one house we toured, the interior stucco had been tinted with a laundry bluing liquid that tinged the walls a cheerful blue color.
Touring the Kammlah House at the Pioneer Museum was fascinating. The initial one room structure was built in 1849 with multiple additions occurring over the years. The Kammiah family lived here continuously from 1849 until the 1940’s, running the original room as a general store and living in the rear.
We found this old home warm, practical and comfortable with its well worn stone floors and stone hearths. Here's a larger photo.
Sprinkled among Fredericksburg’s neighborhoods one can still see small log and stone mortar houses like the 300 square foot Walton Smith Log cabin. Built around 1880 it has a one room frame addition. Even with the addition, many might find the interior claustrophobic, but because we currently live in an Airstream trailer, we thought it was rather cozy.
For a bigger view ... click here.
Built in 1876, the Fassel-Roeder House served as a family home until 1959. The original structure served as a butcher shop before a kitchen, living room and front porch were added.
The Historical Society has furnished the home with a variety of late 19th and early 20th century household items from Fredericksburg to illustrate domestic life during this portion of the town’s history. Click here for a larger photo.
While walking around a one-room schoolhouse at the Pioneer Museum, Danny spotted this chalkboard sign. Translation: "Work makes life sweet. Laziness stiffens the joints."
A fleet of antique wagons and buggies gave us a good sense of what transportation must have been like in old Fredericksburg.
The Kuenemann House (circa 1847) started out as a "fachwerk" or "half-timbered" dwelling. After 40 years it evolved from a typical early settler's cottage to one of the most affluent Victorian home in town. You can click here for a larger view of Victorian gingerbread.
The fortress-like appearance and iron bars on the windows are big clues that this structure was used as a jail. Built in 1885 as the fourth jail for Gillespie County, it was in use until 1939. The ground floor housed a holding area and living quarters for the jailer. The second floor had two steel clad cells and maximum security cells.
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