Heinrich Portscheller (1840–1915) was a German architect and builder. He moved to Mexico and later Texas between 1865 and 1866 and soon joined the Mexican Army, participating in the battle of Santa Gertrudis on June 15, 1866. Following his military service, Portscheller worked as a brick mason at Fort Ringgold and Starr County and Mier, Mexico.
In 1879, he married Leonarda Campos, and the family lived in Mier before relocating to Roma. There Portscheller established a brickyard to manufacture the unique salmon buff, sand struck, large bricks, which were pressed and molded. In addition to the Manuel Guerra residence and store, Portscheller built the Pablo Ramírez house, Antonia Sáenz house and Nestor Sáenz store, and the Silverio de la Peña Building (Rio Grande City). Portscheller and his craftsmen also constructed many of the tombs and vaults in Roma's cemetery.
In 1894, Portscheller and his family followed the subsequent building boom in Laredo. He is credited for several more structures in Laredo, including the St. Peter's Catholic Church (1898).
Old Roma Convent
Old Roma Convent was built by Heinrich Portscheller ca. 1880. The convent is a one-story narrow brick building with a pitched roof features a primary facade porch supported by two rows of wooden columns. Interestingly, it has two brick chimneys and it's small wooden cupola survives today. The Old Roma Convent is located-on Roma’s Historical District.
The convent was established by the Sisters of Incarnate Word, who were replaced by the Sisters of Mercy (1913–1940). The convent was listed as a Texas State Historic site in 1964 under the oversight of the Catholic Youth Organization and still used by the parish today.
Silverio de la Peña Building
According to the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS TEX 3136) compiled for the National Park Service in 1962, "Silverio de la Peña was the son of Augustln de la Peña (named changed from August Furstein). Silverio de la Peña became a successful druggist... Enrique (Heinrich) Portscheller was commissioned to execute a building for the de la Peñas, which could contain facilities for a drugstore below, with space for postal services, and a residence above."
The Silverio de la Peña Drug Store & Post Office was designed and built in 1886 by Portscheller, and it is considered to be some of his most extraordinary work. It was constructed of molded brick that was hand-formed onsite and laid with mortar that included fermented cactus juice. The wraparound iron balcony is also a notable feature.
Learn more from the HABS document.
Manuel Guerra Store & Residence
The Manuel Guerra Store & Residence is a Texas Historical Landmark located at 701-703 Garcia St., Roma, Texas.
The Manuel Guerra House and Store like the Silverio de la Peña building, featured a commercial retail space on the first floor and residential space on the second. It was designed and constructed by architect Heinrich Portscheller between 1878 and 1884. The building extends half a block and an iron balcony wraps around the second story.
The building is both a Texas Historic Landmark (1973) and a National Historic Landmark (1962). (See also Manuel Guerra Store & Residence, 2022).
Gerald Moorhead et al., "Silverio de la Peña Building", [Rio Grande City, Texas], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—.
Heinrich Portscheller. Society of Architectural Historians (website).
Historic American Buildings Survey, C. & Portscheller, H. (1933) Silverio De La Pena Drugstore & Post Office, Main & Lopez Streets, Rio Grande City, Starr County, TX. Rio Grande City Starr County Texas, 1933. Documentation Compiled After. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress.
National Park Service. American Latino Heritage: Roma Historic District, Roma, Texas.
Silverio de la Peña Building. (2022). Historical Marker Database.
[Historic Marker Application: Manuel Guerra Home and Store], text, 1973; University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History; crediting Texas Historical Commission.
Heritage, 2015, Volume 4, periodical, 2015; Austin, Texas. University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History; crediting Texas Historical Foundation. Texas