Deep in the heart of central Texas is a land of rugged natural beauty and historical importance known as Hill Country. Sprawling across 25 counties, Hill Country is as much a state of mind as a place. Well-preserved 19th-century towns beckon city dwellers with a relaxed pace and an image of an America that has largely vanished. Springtime is the ideal season to visit Hill Country. It is when the state flower, the bluebonnet, and a multitude of other wildflowers bloom, spangling the rolling countryside with color. Fredericksburg, with its 350 bed-and-breakfasts and guesthouses, is the perfect base for exploring the area. Like several towns in the region, Fredericksburg originated as a German pioneer community in the 1840s, and the Teutonic flavor is still strong. German with a Texas twang can be heard at schutzenfests (shooting fests), sangerfests (singing fests), and wurstfests (sausage fests). This intermingling of European culture with frontier days, rodeos, and cowboy sensibility offers visitors a unique A merican experience.
The Pioneer Museum
One of the best ways to experience the special history of Texas Hill Country is to visit the Pioneer Museum Complex, located on Main Street in Fredericksburg. Scattered over a 3.5-acre site are some 10 structures, all illustrating different facets of late- 19th- and early 20th-century life in the area. Entry to the complex is through the Kammlah House, constructed in 1849 as a one-room fachwerk, or half-timbered, cabin. It is indigenous to the site.
Other structures include the Kammlah barn, the Fassel-Roeder House (both also original to the property), a one-room schoolhouse, an 1880s log cabin, a wagon shed, a smokehouse, and a fire-department museum. One of the highlights of the complex is the circa 1904 Weber Sunday House. This 16-foot by 20-foot structure represents a form of architecture unique to the Fredericksburg area. Between 1890 and 1920, local farmers built tiny houses to serve as places to eat and rest when they came to town on weekends to worship and socialize. Virtually all the Sunday houses have been either demolished or converted to full-time use, leaving only this example and one other in original condition.
The Comfortable Legacy
Located a half-hour’s drive south of Fredericksburg, Comfort is a quiet town that has one of Texas’s most intact 19th-century historic districts. There are about 100 turn-of-the-century buildings within walking distance of the town center. Among those, several are connected to the Ingenhuett family. Peter Joseph Ingenhuett was an enterprising German immigrant who arrived in Comfort in 1863 and established four businesses. Two of them, a livery stable and a saloon, are no longer in operation, but a hotel (now a bed-and-breakfast called Comfort Commons) and the Ingenhuett Store are still in business. Today the store is run by the family, continuing a 130-year legacy.
Peter Ingenhuett’s homestead still exists as well, although it is now owned by antique collectors Bill and Hellen Meyer. Their house–a circa 1888 Victorian–was actually the Ingenhuetts’ third home in Comfort, where the family and descendants lived for more than 80 years. The second Ingenhuett home–currently uninhabited–sits in the backyard: a 25-foot-square, 1880 cottage originally finished in fachwerk (half-timbered) style. Their first family home was a suite of rooms over the store.
Originally, the 1888 house had five rooms on one level with clapboard sides and a shingle roof, but it was altered by previous owners in the late 20th century. A sleeping porch was walled in to create a new kitchen and dining area, and the lofty attic was converted to include two bedrooms and a bath. Stucco siding and a metal roof replaced original materials. The furnishings in the house are a combination of family pieces and antiques.