A painting by Lee Ethel of the historic RM Burrier Company (Priess Building).

The RM Burrier Company with Klondike Buggies, circa 1985, by Lee Ethel.

Fredericksburg has a long history of attracting enterprising people looking for land and new opportunities. During the 1840s, thousands of Germans immigrated to Texas and, under an effort led by the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas, the town was founded on May 8, 1846, by Baron Otfried Hans von Meusebach.

Named “Friedrichsburg” to honor Prince Frederick of Prussia, the settlement was situated 4 miles north of the Pedernales River between two creeks. Settlers were given town lots and 10 acres on the outskirts to start their new lives in Texas.

To mark the 175th anniversary of its founding, Fredericksburg is celebrating with a yearlong tribute, beginning this month. Each month’s festivities have a different theme spotlighting local interests like the arts, music, education, health care, innovation, and land stewardship. Here’s a selection of what not to miss when the celebration kicks off this weekend.

Lee Ethel’s Fredericksburg: His Paintings and Archival Sources

On May 7, this art exhibit debuts at Appretiare Fine Art Framing & Appraising, sponsored by the Pioneer Museum and Gillespie County Historical Society. Ethel was a prolific local painter whose work depicted the life and architecture of Fredericksburg from 1974 through 1992. During that timeframe, Ethel painted more than 300 paintings, 37 of which are on display in the exhibition.

“We launched a city-wide treasure hunt about a year and a half ago in search of his paintings,” says Lee Ann Whatley, Ethel’s granddaughter. “Immediately, we got phone calls from lots of people saying they had one.”

Ethel’s paintings on exhibition demonstrate his Fredericksburg: architecture, historical homes, and family ranches around town, painted with detailed precision that are very much like the illustrations he made as a graphic design illustrator in Dallas before moving to Fredericksburg in 1973. Corresponding archival material is on display alongside artwork so viewers can see vintage photographs that were the inspirations for Ethel’s paintings. The exhibit runs until Sept. 15. And if you stick around this Friday night, May 7, you can see a fireworks show taking place at Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park.

Founders Day Wreath-Laying Ceremony and New Walking Tour

This Saturday, May 8, marks exactly 175 years since Fredericksburg was founded, and a commemorative Founders Day wreath-laying ceremony takes place in the morning at the town’s Marktplatz on Main Street. Afterwards, visitors are encouraged to stop by the Pioneer Museum to learn about German-Texan heritage, or stop by the Visitor Information Center to learn about the new, self-guided walking tour through town.

“We have about 700 historically significant structures in the downtown historic district, so this self-guided tour really helps you break it down by how far you want to walk and your interests,” says Amanda Koone, director of communications for the Fredericksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s really customizable and an awesome way to experience the history and heritage of Fredericksburg any day of the week.”

The Art of Fredericksburg: 175 Years

This art show opens this Saturday, May 8, in the George H. W. Bush Gallery at the National Museum of the Pacific War, located on East Austin Street. More than 60 pieces by 29 artists are on display, with works dating from 175 years ago to modern day. The free exhibit features sculptures, oil paintings, original sketches, and watercolors, with artwork all from local artists or artists who came to Fredericksburg frequently to do their work.

Steering Committee member Marty Kaderli says some must-see pieces include early originals from Seth Eastman, a U.S. Army officer and illustrator who was stationed at Fort Martin Scott in the 1840s; mid-1800s pieces from Hermann Lungkwitz and Richard Petri, brothers-in-law who immigrated from Germany together; paintings from Father Peter Tarrillion, a former priest of St. Mary’s Catholic Church; a life-size clay sculpture of Lady Bird Johnson by Texas State Artist John Bennett; and cloudscapes from Phil Bob Borman. The exhibit ends Sept. 19 and, with space limited, reservations are recommended. Reserve your tickets here.

This story is part of our ongoing coverage of Fredericksburg’s 175th anniversary. Read more stories about the beloved Hill Country destination here.

The June 2024 cover of Texas Highways: Treasures from the Coast

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