A Note From Our Director
What a delight it is to see our new web site evolving. In working with our new provider, Centerpoint Connect L.L.C., we are able to directly enter each of our portals and update the web site so that we can continue to offer a variety of venues for our many visitors. Thus far it has been very well accepted and we certainly invite your observations and comments.
Additionally we have incorporated Facebook to round out our different media venues. Thus far the visits and “hits” have been very promising.
As this site develops we have plans on the table to make it more interactive with the public. Earlier this year we experimented with Mystery History and it has been very well received. Another venue we are exploring are more interactive venues for youngsters and adults. For those who participate we hope you will share your experiences with us as well as how we can improve the venues.
To me one of the most exciting things about beginning and continuing this new journey is that the website will continuously be a work in progress. As we go into 2011 and beyond we hope you will enjoy returning to our website and when possible, put the museum on your calendar for a visit. We host special tours for groups and certainly enjoy young students from pre – K through college and post graduate studies to come and learn about the rich multi cultural history of our town, our county, and our region.
Thank you for visiting us. Please share your thoughts and your observations about our site, your site, and we’ll indeed be back in touch with you.
John Gesick, Director.
The Seguin-Guadalupe County Heritage Museum, a museum oriented towards preserving and conserving the rich multi-ethnic heritage of the South Central Texas Region, is directed to coordinate with, work with, and share with all peoples and institutions whose historical collections are representative of this region. This empowerment will be sensitive to and responsive to the conditions and needs of historical collections of all groups within the resources of the museum’s ability to administer.
The Seguin-Guadalupe County Heritage Museum is dedicated to its collection of, and preservation and conservation of historical materials representative of the South Central Texas Region. This includes but is not limited to the areas of business, religious denominations, the arts and sciences, education, technology, agriculture and other institutions which have contributed to the history of this region.
The Heritage Museum is housed in the former Red and White Grocery Store owned by the Baenziger family of Seguin, Texas. Mr. Henry Troell constructed the red brick building in 1898 on the north-west corner of North River Street and East Gonzales Street. It is a two-storey structure with a balcony facing River Street.
Originally, the building was a series of small businesses on the ground floor such as a haberdashery, furniture store, and clerical business. Upstairs served as the Kempenstein Opera House for many years. The floors are pier and beam and are constructed of loblolly pine. They are still in use today. The high ceilings were decorated with ornately designed pressed tin popular during the Victorian Era of architecture. The red bricks were manufactured in Seguin and remain in use today.
In 1932, Otto Baenziger bought the building that became the Red and White Grocery Store. Otto’s son, Harold, and his family’s small beginnings in the building expanded until the first floor was a fully operational grocery store. A hand drawn freight elevator was built to haul equipment and produce to the upper floor. It is still in place today and hopefully will be converted to an elevator.
Eventually, the upstairs became a poker parlor, a furniture warehouse, and finally Strom’s Black Belt Academy. The Baenziger family moved to another location in 1952 and leased the building to S&H Greenstamps, Strom’s Black Belt Academy, and several other enterprises.
In 1992, the Baenziger family offered to donate the building to a private group if it would convert the building into a museum. The Seguin-Guadalupe County Heritage Museum, Inc. applied for and received non-profit 503(c)(3) status from the Internal Revenue Service and was recognized by the Texas State Comptroller as a tax-exempt entity. The next five years were spent by many Seguin volunteers and the Seguin Area Chamber of Commerce Leadership Class renovating the building as a museum.
Between 1991 and December 1997 the Baenziger Building was leased to a number of different small businesses, including Strom’s Black Belt Academy. This leasing program enabled the Museum Committee to build up a modest cash reserve and to begin planning for its eventual opening.
Thanks to the 1996-1997 Seguin Area Chamber of Commerce Leadership Class great inroads were made in preparing the Museum for its “soft opening” during the 1997 Christmas period. The false ceilings were removed and the Victorian era pressed tin ceilings were once again exposed for the public’s enjoyment. Several layers of linoleum tiles were removed from the loblolly pine floors and, with the exception of a few planks, the wooden floors were in remarkable condition. The floors were scrubbed, revarnished, and then polished thus bringing them back to their original dull sheen. The walls had several layers of plaster removed and once again, the original Seguin bricks were revealed for the public’s enjoyment.
The “soft opening” was a modest event. The Seguin Gazette-Enterprise Newspaper allowed the Museum to set up its extensive model railroad set and accompanying scenes. In addition, donated items began to come in from the community that were placed on display. Teatro de Artes de Juan Seguin loaned a number of artifacts reflective of the proud Hispanic contributions to Seguin and Guadalupe County. he Seguin Conservation Society loaned five small exhibit cases in which were housed Native American artifacts from this region as well as German contributions.
The “soft opening” lasted throughout the Christmas season. The Museum was well enough received that it has not shut its doors since. In April 1998, the Museum had its official opening when it was selected for the Seguin Area Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Mixer. Over one hundred Chamber members attended the celebration and the Heritage Museum was well on its way to becoming a cultural attraction for not only Seguin, but, as experience has now shown, for visitors from truly all over the United States and the world.