Having expanded his business from new York City to New Braunfels Texas in the spring of 2016, Lark Mason discovered an original settlers house was to be destroyed. With the help of local historians and a remodeling team, Mr. Mason ensured not only its survival but the essence and charm of the original design.
In a remarkable engineering feat, the 67-foot long house was lifted from an empty field and driven through the historic streets of downtown New Braunfels to an empty lot one block from the town's center.
Repurposing the house to be both a home and area to house his art collections, a team of architects, engineers, historians, and city council members worked to design an exciting structure. The house would be set atop a large basement area opening to a sunken garden, and instead of the traditional German "lean-to" at the back of the house, a 67 x 30 foot covered porch would be built.
In “Phase 1,” Nathan Feingold and New Braunfels Remodeling excavated the basement space and poured a new foundation.
“Phase 2,” the exciting transfer of the house onto the new basement space, can be seen in the video below.
“Phase 3” is completing the new additions as well as restoring and conserving the original structure. Nathan’s team has done an amazing job creating a beautiful space for previewing fine art and antiques.
The Historic Settler's House
The Mill Street house had originally been built on Hunter Road in typical German construction. The original house was comprised of a wide hall serving as a family room flanked by two bedrooms, all in German fachwerk style, with a back porch lean-to. As the family grew and gained financial stability, two rooms were added to the left and the entire long house was fronted by a beautifully balustered porch.
The week after Christmas, the Masons and their remodeling team began the process of repairing and conserving the historic porch. The porch supports included original fir logs and “mortise and tenon” construction. The team kept many of the original beams in place while adding new supports of pressure-treated pine for reinforcement. This allowed them to keep the integrity of the German design including some beams still marked with Roman numerals, and meet modern structure requirements.
It was during the porch renovation that the Masons and team made an exciting discovery. “When the porch was removed, we noticed that the structure of the porch subflooring was different from the main house. We also noticed that the roof line was lower for the first added room,” says Lark. Hidden beneath the plaster, they discovered the middle room of the historic house had fired mud bricks covered with straw and mud sealed with limestone wash, but in a completely different style than the older adjoining structure to its right. It seems that the middle room had been an existing separate structure that was connected at an early date to make a three bedroom house. Mason supposes this addition was most likely in the 1860s. What was thought to be a single building is two different early fachwerk buildings of historic New Braunfels! Finally, around 1890 a pine-board room was built on the left end, completing the five room house.
The New Braunfels remodeling team also designed a new roof over the original cedar shakes, which was discovered to be near 50% still extant. This historic roofing can be still seen, thanks to an innovative new roof design.
The Masons would like to thank Martha Rehler, Director of the New Braunfels Conservation Society; Kathy Nichols, Executive Director of the Heritage Society of New Braunfels; Ronnie Schmid, an expert in early German architecture; and Nathan Feingold of New Braunfels Remodeling. Without their shared knowledge, these priceless details would have been missed. Be sure to follow Lark Mason Associates on Facebook and stay tuned for more updates as we continue work on this historic project.