Updated: Nov 20
Few and far between are the Laura Ingalls Wilders and other autobiographers. Most of us don't document our lives like that. We document our lives in pictures.
My studio is in a historical home in downtown New Braunfels. Much of the town's rich history is well documented and even has a very well thought out museum downtown, the Sophienburg Museum. However, for some reason, any information about this home on Union Avenue is very poorly documented and I have yet to find a picture of the home more than a few years old. So for posterities sake, I'm going to document what I've found here on my little corner of the internet. Because just like your story, the story of the people who called that house a home deserves to be told. (Everything documented here is things I have found by digging through historical documents such as marriage licenses, birth and death certificates, and ship logs. So if anyone knows the story of this family more intimately and I have made a mistake, I am happy to edit my findings.)
The property at 1100 Union Avenue was bought by the Otto Stratemann family in 1907. He was born in 1877 and was the son of Adolph Stratemann and Louise Freidrike Wilhemine Hoffman Stratemann. Adolph worked as a wagoner and his parents were born in Prussia. Adolph and Louise were married on March 26, 1865 had 6 children, of whom Otto was the youngest. Louise was born in Braunschweig/Brunswick in 1847.
Otto Stratemann was married to Henriette Stollewerk Stratemann on August 20, 1898. Henriette was born on January 7, 1878 in Germany to Gustav Stollewerk and Augustine Juliane Luetgen Stollewerk. She had three siblings who all together with their parents immigrated from Germany in 1891 on the ship called Noorland of the red star line.
Unfortunately, more of the family's early history and genealogy is recorded than the actual lives of Otto and Henriette. Some sources say that they only had one child, Elsie Sue Stratemann Alves (August 15, 1910 - November 27, 1991) but I have some sources that indicate that they also had an older daughter Laura Stratemann Schnabel. They began construction on the home on Union Avenue and it was completed in 1909. The house is believed to be a kit from a catalogue. Elsie was born in 1910 and it must have been a very happy time for the Stratemann family with a baby in their new and beautiful home. Unfortunately, Otto would pass away from pneumonia the following year on January 11, 1911 at the young age of 34 and he is buried just down the street on Peace Avenue.
Henriette then raised her daughter independently although both her and her husbands extended family likely lived very nearby. One newspaper article I found with her name in it seems to indicate that she owned part of a local feed store which was likely the source of her income after her husband's untimely death. In the 1920s the address changed as the city grew and became 118 S Union Avenue New Braunfels, TX as it is today. Henriette continued to live in the home until her death on March 8, 1948. At that time, the home sold several different times and was temporarily divided into two apartments. The history of the house after that becomes completely unknown becoming less of a residence and more of a commercial property in the 1980s.
It has recently become the Union Street Stop and Shop and is the home to a couple boutiques, a bakery, an air B&B, and of course my studio. The house is in need of a story. It needs life, laughter, and memory to fill its halls, and I look forward to contributing to that.
If we take nothing else from this story of a family gone many years ago, it's that documenting your life is important. Write an autobiography if that's your thing. But if not, (or in addition to), take the pictures. Be in the pictures. Print the pictures. Pass them down and make sure that in a years to come or a century from now, when someone wants to know more about you, they have a photo of the beautiful face given to you by your Creator and can know a little more about your time here. Your story is special. Your story is worth documenting. If you need help capturing your beautiful story, send me a message. I know a girl 😊