A town treasure
One of Gillespie County’s oldest structures is getting restored.
The Kammlah House, which sits on the grounds of Pioneer Museum, began renovations in June.
The home was built in 1847 and it also operated as a store for 53 years.
“We kept seeing fractures increasing in the walls because they were leaning and the roof and windows started leaking more and the interior walls kept flaking off mortar. We decided it was time to renovate,” said Jeryl Hoover, executive director of Pioneer Museum and Gillespie County Historical Society. “We felt that those who saved it in the mid-1950s deserved our best in keeping it viable as it is one of the most effective representations of early pioneer structures that we own.”
Because the home is 172 years old, Hoover said it was in need of the most repair.
“There hasn’t been this level of work done since the historical society purchased the home from the Kammlah family,” Hoover said. “Schatzie Crouch and Albert Keidel did much of the work themselves and when you stop and think, that was 64 years ago and the building was well over 100 years old by then. It was critical to do it now.”
The work is now under the careful watch of John Klein, of SKT Architects, who has overseen much of the work done at Pioneer Museum.
“We began consultation with a firm in San Antonio that was recommended by the City of Fredericksburg Preservation Officer Anna Hudson,” Hoover said. “They are providing an expert in historic preservation and have worked under John to observe every step of the way.”
The Kammlah House will be closed to the public until about mid-November, Hoover said.
First on the repair list is help with the structure’s integrity by fixing crumbling chimneys and compromised sills at the base of the wall and repairing windows and doors for security and rain protection.
The wood being used is a 4x6-foot beam that was pressure treated to allow contact with the ground.
“The wood will not rot so we can come back in 150 years and it will be in good condition,” Klein said.
As renovations began, carpenters found a piece of timber that touches the ground under the door frame that is likely to be an original piece of wood from 1847, Hoover said. That was also the same year that Abraham Lincoln was elected into his first term in the United States Congress, to put things into perspective.
“It is amazing how well the structure has served for 172 years,” Hoover said. “The quality of the original construction was amazing, using materials like field stone and oak trees. The lumber was hand hewn.”
After those repairs are made, work will be done to mitigate the source of future damage, mainly dealing with drainage.
“This is all infrastructure work to preserve the building,” Hoover said. “The average visitor might not notice much difference but what we hope they notice is how this lovely old building is being cared for.”
The Kammlah House is the oldest historic structure owned by the Gillespie County Historical Society.
Henry Kammlah began building the structure in 1847 and opened the front room as a store in 1870. It was in operation until 1923.
“The family added on to the original structure through the years but the majority of the work being done is on the oldest part,” Hoover said.
It is on the Department of the Interior’s National Register of Historic Places and is a Texas Historical Commission Landmark building.
In addition to the restoration of the Kammlah House, the Gillespie County Historical Society is working on other projects that will be completed by 2021, for the 175th anniversary celebration, Hoover said.
Projects are being funded through private donors at the museum’s annual Tannenbaum Ball fundraiser as well as through Hotel Occupancy Tax funds through the City of Fredericksburg.
The Vereins Kirche, which served as the first church, school and community center, will have new historic interpretation.
Renewal of the historic interpretation of all eight historic buildings on the Pioneer Museum grounds will also be done.
Those looking to contribute to future projects are asked to call Hoover at 830-990-8441.