Heidemann-Barrera Historic Ranch Conservation Research

Saturday Feb. 15, 2014 , All Day
Details of log construction.

Students in Senior Lecturer Fran Gale’s Lab Methods course explored the 19th century Heidemann - Barrera Ranch Complex, located 30 miles northwest of San Antonio in the Texas Hill Country near Boerne, Texas.


The property was originally purchased by Prussia immigrant William Heidemann and his business partner William Hausmann in 1856. Heidemann operated a cattle ranch and grew Indian corn, sweet potatoes and hay there. The property was divided in 1873 between Heidemann and Hausmann, with Heidemann receiving over 170 acres. The land remained in the family for 137 years until 1993 when the last family member sold the property to Roy Barrera, Sr. Jewell Heidemann continued to live on the property until she passed away in 1999.


The ranch is one of several German complexes in the vicinity representing early settlements by German immigrants. Today, the property is comprised of 175.51 acres of the original 320 acres purchased in 1856. Historic structures on the property are partially enclosed by a low dry-laid limestone wall. The cleared landscape is filled with live oak trees punctuated with pecan and fruit trees. Members of the Barrera family live on adjacent properties.

During the spring semester, Fran Gale’s Lab Methods students will examine historic building materials of several circa 1860s structures located on the Heidemann-Barrera Ranch complex. The Lab Methods course provides an introduction to architectural materials conservation, with classroom lectures and laboratory exercises to familiarize students with basic techniques used in examining and testing paints and coatings, mortars, wood and other building materials.


This project was initiated by Patricia Ezell of the San Antonio Conservation Society who contacted Gale in late 2013. During the site visit, UTSOA students met Susan Beavin, chair of the SACS Historic Farm & Ranch Complexes Committee, and several members of the Barrera family. Carmen Barrera Ramirez and Robert Barrera kindly provided a tour of their property, starting with the 1893 Heidemann cemetery where Heidemann, his wife and six family members are buried. Students investigated the circa 1860 log house, limestone barn and smokehouse and took material samples. The one-story modified dog-trot log house, which was the heart of the ranching operations, is an excellent example of vernacular architecture in northern Bexar County.