Ludwig Mahncke was born in Mecklenburg-Strelitz (now Germany) in 1846. Mahncke married Katarina (Kemp) in 1871 and the couple had two daughters. The family left Germany and arrived in the United States in 1882, settling in San Antonio shortly after. Mahncke became a well known hotelier and restaurateur, and he was a popular figure in San Antonio business and social circles. He served two terms as a member of the city council and chaired the city's parks committee. He was first appointed to the position of parks commissioner in 1901.
Ludwig Mahncke was close friends with businessman and philanthropist George W. Brackenridge, and in 1999 he encouraged Brackenridge to donate to the city a tract of 199 acres along the San Antonio River, to be used as a park. As parks commissioner, the development of the site, later known as Brackenridge Park, fell to Mahncke, and he was directed to open the park immediately. Though he was first given a budget of only $2,500, he quickly developed a plan to create a "driving park," and seven miles of roads were designed and constructed. A fenced deer preserve was built by 1902, and by 1906 the menagerie included buffalo, elk, goats, sheep and fowl.
While Brackenridge Park was Mahncke's most well-known accomplishment, he was also responsible for landscaping many public areas throughout San Antonio. Cypress trees transplanted from the Guadalupe River under his direction can still be seen today along the San Antonio River. After his death in 1906, a bust of Mahncke was erected in 1909 in Brackenridge Park; it was later moved to this park donated by Brackenridge and named in Mahncke's honor.