If you’ve been in the heart of Fredericksburg, you’re probably aware of the Vereins Kirche by sight, if not by name. This unique octagonal structure stands as the official town symbol, and is known as an icon throughout the Hill Country. But what are the origins of such an unusual building? What was its original purpose, and what does it represent today?

Fredericksburg was founded in 1846, named after Prince Frederick of Prussia. Along with other Hill Country towns like New Braunfels, it was founded with strong German nationalism in mind. Members of the German Mainzer Adelsverein (“Nobility of Mainz,” a city in Germany) set out in 1842 to settle new communities with traditions from the old country. One official of the Adelsverein was a Dr. Schubert, who played a prominent role in the creation of the Vereins Kirche.

It was decided the new town of Fredericksburg would need a central hub, and Dr. Schubert designed the building intended for those purposes. Using a German architectural style known as the Carolinian Octagon, the Vereins Kirche (“Society Church”) was built with a foundation of eight walls, each 18 feet wide by 18 feet high. An octagonal roof ten feet high rose at a slant above those walls, with ten-by-ten-foot walls rising vertically from there. All this was capped with an angle-roofed cupola seven feet high, and a rooster-shaped weather vane. The new Vereins Kirche topped out at just under fifty feet high when it was completed in 1847.

The new structure became the center of Fredericksburg in a variety of ways. Congregations from the Lutheran, Methodist, and Catholic churches used it for services until they could build their own churches. The Vereins Kirche served as Fredericksburg’s first school and town hall. The only change of note came in 1862, when the weather vane was destroyed by lightning; it was replaced by a cross.

When Dr. Schubert designed the Vereins Kirche to be the center of Fredericksburg’s town affairs, he wasn’t kidding! Its original location was literally in the middle of Main Street. In 1897 this was considered such a disruption to downtown traffic that the structure was torn down; it had also fallen into a state of disrepair by this time. It may be unthinkable now, but for almost 40 years there was no Vereins Kirche in Fredericksburg.

In 1934, the newly-found Gillespie County Historical Society decided to recreate the Vereins Kirche in time for the Texas Centennial in 1936. They faithfully rebuilt the structure from its original plans, using the first building’s cornerstone. They used all stone for the foundational walls; the originals were half-timber and half-stone. Fredericksburg’s Pioneer Museum was housed here until it moved to a new location in 1967, and currently the Vereins Kirche has its own museum, along with offices for the Chamber of Commerce and Gillespie County Archives. It was designated a Texas Historical Landmark in 1967.

If you’d like to visit the Vereins Kirche Museum, it’s open to the public Monday through Saturday from 10 AM to 5 PM. It’s located at 325 West Main Street, and the phone number is (830) 990-8441. Lots of events take place throughout the year in the Marktplatz that surrounds the Vereins Kirche, too! For more information, check the Fredericksburg events listings on the Texas Hill Country Travel App!