This week in Brazos County history

City of College Station's 75th AnniversaryNOTE: 2013 marks the City of College Station’s 75th year as an incorporated city. In recognition, we’ve highlighted some interesting moments from our past.

This blog was authored by Henry Mayo, a surveyor and long-time resident of the Bryan-College Station area. As a surveyor and historian, Henry retrieves information from local, state and national resources to assemble a series of history-themed messages for email subscribers. To subscribe to Henry’s series, click here.

 Cornerstone for Sbisa Hall installed with Masonic ceremony on May 26, 1913

cornerstone

cornerstone2

Sbisa

Although clearly dated 1912, according to page 23 of the Centennial History of Brazos Union Lodge No. 129 A.F. & A.M. (1854-1954), the Masons “convened as a Grand Lodge May 26, 1913, for the purpose of laying the cornerstone of the Dining Hall at A & M College.”

BrazosUnionLodge

The grand, old mess hall burned on Nov. 11, 1911, so A&M planned and built Sbisa Mess Hall, which stands today.  Austrian-born Bernhard Sbisa came to A&M from New Orleans in 1879. He served as supervisor of subsistence at A&M for more than 40 years.

OldSbisa

The photo above from the Cushing library Flickr site shows Mr. and Mrs. Sbisa in front of the old mess hall not long before it burned.

In the heart of the French Quarter in New Orleans, you can still find Café Sbisa, in the same location since 1899. I assume it’s in the the same family.  I found the following information on the New Orleans Sbisa family on ancestory.com: “Most of the Sbisa family came from Rovinj/Rovigno on the Istrian Penninsula of what is now Croatia. It was Austrian in 1852. Rovinj is a Venetian town of antiquity and most residents speak an Italian dialect. The name probably comes from an area at the north of the Adriatic, Bisiacaria.”

As a side note, the same page of the Masonic Lodge history mentioned above states that the cornerstone for Harvey Mitchell Hall at A&M was set with ceremony on May 27, 1912, 101 years ago this week.  Mitchell Hall was razed in 1972, but today its cornerstone is sitting on a pedestal at its former site, along Military Walk next to the Beutel Health Center.

Have a great week,

Henry Mayo
 
Henry Mayo
Surveyor and Historian | email
 

One response

  1. It was appropriate that the Masonic Grand Lodge of Texas leveled the cornerstone for Bernard Sbisa Dining Hall, as Sbisa, like so many other members of the College faculty and staff, was a member of the Masonic fraternity. He received the three degrees of Masonry on 28 Nov 1899, 9 Feb 1900 and 9 March 1900 at Brazos Union Masonic Lodge No. 129 in Bryan. The question of Bernard Sbisa’s ethnicity has puzzled me. Was he Austrian, as is usually stated, or was he Italian? His family was counted twice in the 1880 U.S. Census–once on the A. & M. Campus, and again a couple of days later at their home off campus, where Mrs. Sbisa’s mother lived. I believe they were not home that day, and Mrs. Sbisa’s mother, Francesca Carvera, must have been the respondent who spoke with the census-taker. And so, “Rovinia” appears as Bernard Sbisa’s place of birth on that second census report. (The campus census says he was born in “Austria.”) Although Rovinia (or “Rovinj”) is in what is now Croatia, in the 1800s it was part of the Austrian Empire, and previously had been part of the Republic of Venice. This explains why most of the residents spoke Italian. I found the passenger manifest that lists the arrival of Bernard and John Sbisa at New York City on 8 March 1852. The ship arrived from “Trieste, Italy,” only 100 km. north of Rovinj. There were only five non-crew passengers on board the ship “Arlington,” and Bernard and John Sbisa were the only two on board named Sbisa, and the only two listed as “Austrian.” So the two boys, listed as 10 and 11, apparently traveled by themselves. The only place that I have found Bernard Sbisa’s full birth date is on the official record of U.S. citizens arriving in New Orleans from Havana, Cuba, on 3 Jan 1925 aboard the S.S. Cartago. He made several trips to Cuba during the 1920s, when his son-in-law was working as an engineer with a sugar company in or near Havana. Sbisa’s birth date on that document is given as 27 Nov 1843. This would have made him only 8 years of age, and not 10, at the time of his original arrival in the U.S., in New York City, on 8 Mar 1852 (above).

    April 12, 2014 at 5:02 pm

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