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Part 2: The Tribute

The Untimely Death of Albert Kuhn

The Albert Kuhn Memorial Pergola at Kempner Park

Following the sudden passing of Albert Kuhn in December of 1910, the directors of the Galveston Garten Verein wasted no time in planning a memorial to their fallen friend.

In February of 1911, a five-member committee was appointed to decide on the form the memorial should take and direct its execution. The members were Frederick Huber, Maurice S. Ujffy, Donald N. McKenzie, Henry L. Ziegler, and Ulrich Muller. Several tentative plans were considered, but ultimately the type of tribute came down to two possibilities. One was an antique sun dial to bear a plate with a memorial inscription. The other, also to include an appropriate dedication, was a metal arbor upon which flowers would be trained.

On Sunday, March 12, 1911, a meeting of the Garten Verein directors was convened to finalize the plans, and a memorial pergola, a variation on the metal arbor idea, was formally adopted. One of the members of the planning committee, Donald McKenzie, was both a director of the Garten Verein and a Galveston architect, and it was McKenzie who designed the pergola and drew the plans. The site was selected, and it was also proposed at the meeting that vines be planted around the pergola so that in time the greenery would form a bower.

Construction soon commenced and proceeded according to McKenzie’s specifications. By the end of July, the new pergola was nearing completion:

As was decided some time since in a meeting of the Verein directorate, the memorial is to take the form of a charmingly designed pergola, bearing a bronze tablet inscribed with “Erected to the memory of Albert Kuhn.”

The pergola is of solid construction, each column founded upon a base of concrete. The general type of architecture is Doric, and the pergola’s dimensions are fourteen feet in width by thirty-three feet in length.

The structure consists of four square corner columns, with twelve round columns properly spaced between these corner columns. The round columns are each eighteen inches in diameter, and are ten feet and six inches in height. The big corner columns are two feet square, and will bear up the wooden beams upon which will be placed the wooden rafters. Across these vines are to be trained. These wooden beams and rafters are to be stained dark. There will be a concrete seat in each end of the pergola, the floor of which will also be of concrete.

Finally, on Wednesday, August 23, 1911, the Galveston Tribune announced that the memorial was finished and properly dedicated:

The attractive memorial erected by the directory of the Garten Verein at the garden is completed….

The pergola bears the inscription, “Erected to the memory of Albert Kuhn.”

And with that, the sad story of Albert Kuhn came to a bittersweet end.

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Today, the once dark-stained rafters of the Albert Kuhn Memorial Pergola have been painted a soft green, the floor is now tile instead of concrete, and there is no verdant bower of flowering vines overhead. The two concrete seats at either end are also no longer present, perhaps as a result of deterioration due to weather or to create more space for wedding parties since the pergola has become a popular venue for nuptials. All fine.

But what became of the bronze plaque dedicating the pergola to the memory of Albert Kuhn? What was intended by those who loved him to be an everlasting tribute is now a beautiful but anonymous ornamental feature in a quiet public park. The striking absence of any inscription to the very man for whom it was built in the first place is more than a mystery. It’s a shame. Because, but for the untimely death of one Albert Kuhn, a noble spirit and beloved friend once named the Father of the Garten Verein for his tireless efforts on behalf of that venerable institution, there would be no lovely pergola gracing the grounds of Kempner Park. Shame, shame, shame.

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This story was written in memory of Albert Kuhn.

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Did you miss it?
The Untimely Death of Albert Kuhn, Part 1: The Assault

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