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Texas | Columns

"Hindsights"

Looking back at:

The Girl Scout Cabin

By Michael Barr
Michael Barr

The first Girl Scout troop in Fredericksburg, The Sunflower Troop 1, held its organizational meeting in March 1922 in a classroom at the public school. For the next 25 years the girls met at different locations around town until the community raised money for the Girl Scout Cabin in 1947.


Fredericksburg TX - Girl Scout Cabin
Girl Scout Cabin
Photo by Michael Barr, June 2023

Parents saw the value of the Girls Scouts from the start, and by 1932 the Sunflower Troop 1 numbered 20 girls divided into 4 groups: Goldenrod, Blue Bonnet, Wild Rose, and Indian Paint Brush Patrols. Troops also organized in other parts of the county.

Beginning in the 1930s, the girls met in the Agricultural Building behind the courthouse (today a parking lot) or at the American Legion Hall. The Nimitz ballroom hosted the bigger events.

Each year the numbers grew, and by 1947 the Gillespie County Girls Scouts numbered 200 girls and adult leaders. The girls needed a place of their own, but businesses and local governments had little extra cash to spend on non-profits like the Girl Scouts. Then Dr. Lorence Feller, the local chairman of the county-wide Girl Scouts organization, took on the task of finding the girls a permanent home.


First Dr. Feller located a small town lot at the corner of North Crockett and West Austin Streets, with Town Creek forming the back border. Dr. Feller used his formidable powers of persuasion to convince the local Lions Club and the Chamber of Commerce to donate funds to buy the property from owner Fred Koennecke.

The Fredericksburg Standard described the site as "conveniently located to both the public school and St, Mary's School and is easily accessible to out-of-town Girl Scout organizations."

At about the same time a search began for a suitable building. The cost of new construction being prohibitive, Dr. Feller hoped to buy an existing building and move it to the site

And not just any building would do. It would have to be long and narrow to fit the oddly shaped lot wedged between West Austin Street on the front side and Town Creek on the back.


The search for a building led Dr. Feller to Bastrop County, 28 miles east of Austin where in 1942 the US Army established Camp Swift as a training facility and a German POW camp. At the end of the war, when the property reverted back to private ownership, hundreds of wooden military buildings at the former Camp Swift immediately went up for sale at a fraction of the cost of new construction.

Those buildings relocated to towns and school campuses all over Texas. The gymnasium went to Whitney and is still used today.

In 1947 the Fredericksburg Standard reported "a barrack, 20 ft. by 80 ft., ideal as a meeting place for all the local Girl Scout troops, will be moved to Fredericksburg from Camp Swift within the next 30 days."

The wooden building had a large meeting room with a fireplace, kitchen and bathroom. It had the ideal shape for the location, but it needed a lot of work before the Girl Scouts could take over.

The entire community got behind the project. Donations poured in, mostly in the form of labor and discounts.

Elgin Kuhlmann did the wiring. Harold Loitz hauled the lumber and rocks. Schandua and Reichenau (tinsmiths) donated the ventilators. Paul Lang donated wood for the mantel above the fireplace. Mutual Lumber Company and Stein Lumber Company provided lumber and other materials at a discount. City Radio and Electric Company gave discounts on wiring and kitchen appliances. A rock mason covered the outside walls with flagstone at minimal cost.


The Girls Scouts dedicated the building, located at 202 West Austin Street, in January 1948. Even with all the donations and discounts the Girl Scouts still owed about $2,500. Sources tell me that Dr. Feller quietly paid the balance out of his own pocket.

The original name of the building, the Girl Scout Hall, seemed a little too formal, and soon everyone in town referred to it as the Girl Scout Cabin. To this day it stands as a reminder of what a community can do when people put differences aside and work together.


Michael Barr
"Hindsights" July 15, 2023 Column



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