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SAENGERHALLE

Saengerhalle
Photograph, Saengerhalle. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

SAENGERHALLE. Established as a German singing club venue in 1959 on the outskirts of New Braunfels in Comal County, Saengerhalle is located about one mile east of Interstate 35 just off of State Highway 46. Through the years it also has served as a community meeting and dance hall and, by 2007, as a church.

New Braunfels, one of the earliest German settlements in the state, has a rich heritage of German singing groups, beginning with the establishment of the Germania, the first German singing society in Texas, on March 2, 1850. Soon after in 1853 singing groups from across the state came to New Braunfels and participated in Saengerfest, the first German singing festival. So successful was Saengerfest, originally held on Herman Seele’s property, that Seele built the first Sängerhaus (singer’s hall) in 1855. The Saengerfest tradition spread across the state and continued for many years, hampered only by bad weather, difficult traveling conditions, and the disruption of the Civil War (see TEXAS STATE SANGERBUND).

Fort Sam Houston
Photograph, Fort Sam Houston. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

The current Saengerhalle was built to continue the community traditions supported by the original hall. Constructed of several army barracks that were moved from Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Saengerhalle was established in 1959 on land donated by Gilbert Becker to a group of five German singing clubs. Becker himself was a local German farmer, singer, and director of one of the singing clubs. The hall was run by the singing clubs which formed themselves into a nonprofit corporation. The white clapboard hall, which featured an oak dance floor, housed numerous community events from weddings to family reunions to concerts.

Saengerhalle was sold to Bob and Shirley Saulle in 1996. The Saulles remodeled the dance hall, adding air-conditioning units, televisions, modern bathrooms, modern sound equipment, and a beer garden. The addition of five air-conditioning units is perhaps what gave Saengerhalle its nickname as the “Coolest Dance Hall in Texas.” The Saulles hosted numerous acts in their attempt to resurrect the hall, ranging from Ray Wylie Hubbard, Gary P. Nunn, and Lloyd Maines to Jimmy LaFave and the Sisters Morales. Unfortunately, as the club failed to draw large enough crowds, the Saulles decided to sell the hall.

Eric and Terrie Chase and Justin Jones purchased the property in August 2002, hoping to revive the dance hall and the live music scene in New Braunfels. Their renovations included restoration of the original sign, addition of a 2,500-square-foot deck, removal of the televisions, and display of historical documents and photographs. Under the ownership of the Chases and Jones, Saengerhalle hosted songwriters’ night each week, provided dance lessons, introduced new bands to the public, and brought numerous popular musicians such as Robert Earl Keen to the stage. Despite these efforts, the Chases and Jones placed Saengerhalle on the market in the spring of 2006. Saengerhalle’s final show, on June 11, 2006, featured Stoney LaRue, Cody Canada, and Wade Bowen, who played for five hours to an audience of approximately 700 people.

Church of Christ in former Saengerhalle building
Photograph, The Church of Christ, which is housed in the former Saengerhalle building. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

In July 2006 Saengerhalle, by then a 12,000-square-foot building, was purchased by the Church of Christ at New Braunfels. At that time, according to Evangelist Lynn Parker, the church was making an effort to maintain much of the building’s history and had covered the 600 to 800 square-foot dance floor with carpet until they could afford to restore the wood. They also preserved numerous memorabilia, such as photographs and ribbons from the original members, in the church’s foyer. Although the new owners remodeled some of the interior, no further additions were made to the building. Their plan, however, was to accommodate the church’s growth by adding on to the building when deemed necessary.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Austin American-Statesman, August 15, 2006. Jean M. Heide “Celebrating ‘Das Deutsche Lied’ in Texas,” Journal of Texas Music History, 3.2 (Fall 2003). New Braunfels Herald–Zeitung, July 16, 2006. Lynn Parker, Evangelist of The Church of Christ at New Braunfels, Telephone Interview by Jacob Mankovsky, March 28, 2007. Lone Star Music, “Saengerhalle” (http://www.lonestarmusic.com/index.php?file=v-venue&iVenueId=1403), accessed January 2, 2012. Geronimo Treviño III, Dance Halls and Last Calls: A History of Texas Country Music (Plano: Republic of Texas Press, 2002).

Jacob Mankovsky

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Handbook of Texas Online, Jacob Mankovsky, "Saengerhalle," accessed October 23, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/xds06.

Uploaded on April 30, 2015. Modified on May 4, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.