Sunday afternoon, I headed back up the road to Gruene, Texas (pronounced "green"). Gruene is just on the north edge of New Braunfels but it has a unique feel all of its own. Parking of the streets is really limited but there a couple of large, free parking lots screened by bushes that provide easy access. I pulled into the back of the main one close to the entrance to Gruene Gardens which sells native plants to begin my stroll. Gruene is very interesting to visit even without the added incentive of the monthly market weekend.
"Arriving in Texas in the mid 1840s, German farmers became the first settlers of what is now known as Gruene, Texas. Ernst Gruene, a German immigrant, and his bride Antoinette, had reached the newly established city of New Braunfels in 1845, but acreage was scarce. Thus, Ernst and his two sons purchased land just down river, and Ernst built the first home in Gruene in early fachwerk style. His second son, Henry D. Gruene, built his home (now Gruene Mansion Inn) and planted his surrounding land with cotton. Having become the number one cash crop, the cotton business soon brought 20 to 30 families to Henry D.'s lands.
"Henry D. built houses in various styles -- a Victorian cottage (now Lone Star), a large brick home, and a frame house (now Gruene Haus) for the foreman of his farm."
These buildings are now businesses or serve as bed and breakfast accommodations. Some may appear rough on the outside but are very nice inside and definitely give you a feel for earlier times in Texas history.
"The first mercantile store (now Gruene General Store) was built in 1878."
"A cotton gin (now Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar) powered by the Guadalupe River was added soon after."
"Further construction during this profitable time included a dance hall and saloon (Gruene Hall), which became the center of the community's social life." Gruene Hall continues to be very busy with music playing every weekend. Lots of big names got their start here. It's worth a visit just to see all the posters inside even if someone is not playing.
"As the town continued to prosper, a new mercantile building (now Gruene Antique Company) sprang up in 1904."
"However, the death of Henry D. in 1920 marked the downfall of Gruene's development and good fortune. In 1922, the original cotton gin burned and was replaced by a modern electric model down the road (now Adobe Verde). Yet, the economic disasters of the boll weevil and the Depression were too much for the family businesses and they went under, except for Gruene Hall, which never closed.
1974 - Today
Today, Gruene is once again a thriving community, but for decades it was little more than a ghost town. This changed the day that Pat Molak, frustrated with big-city life, wandered into town and began to breathe life back into this piece of Texas history.
Molak purchased Gruene Hall in 1975. A few unavoidable repairs were made to the Hall, but little else was necessary. Left uncorrupted, the 6,000 square-foot, open-air dance hall became a virtual magnet, a starting point for many of Texas' up-and-coming performers, and once again, the heart of Gruene.
With the help of his friend Mary Jane Nalley, he worked to preserve the authentic, turn-of-the-century look and feel of Gruene by purchasing and repairing several of the town's most notable structures and transforming them into thriving businesses. These developments seemed to rekindle the spark of Gruene, and soon the town's familiar charm began to shine again.
Gruene itself has been added to the National Register of Historic Places, and many of the buildings that were rescued by Molak and Nalley have been awarded a Texas medallion from the Texas Historical Commission. It has also been recognized by the Texas travel industry as a premiere attraction for visitors, which is no surprise to its merchants and guests.
Even with the remarkable growth of this once sleepy little town, the main focus of Gruene is, and continues to be, bonafide Texas. Everything from the wares they sell to the music they play speaks to Molak and Nalley's commitment to preserving the authenticity of Gruene and providing its guests with an experience that has the signature seal of the Lone Star State."
Strolling on through town, you will find lots more to see. This may not be Cabela's or Bass Pro but they do have a fair amount of merchandise.
You will find places serving Texas wine where you can sit inside or out under shady trees at picnic tables.
As you stroll down the hill toward the river, you'll find another winery to visit.
Gruene is also famous for other summertime activities. Although this is near the end of September, the river still draws tubers. Although we haven't had rain for a long time, there is still enough water here to enjoy a float.
You will find several outfitters down the hill from the main part of town that provide tubes and transportation back once you float on down the river.
Continuing around the loop, Buck's Pottery is both a place to buy as well as to see pottery being made.
The Tea Room closes well before dinner so you might want to visit here earlier in the day.
We are now in "Uptown" Gruene where the monthly Market Days are set up. There are lots of tents with lots of goods for sale. Entrepreneurs are busy marketing their often homemade crafts.
If you need a "pick-me-up" coffee, you'll find the Gruene Coffee Haus open for business--market days or not. They roast their own beans and serve a wide variety of refreshments. Another bonus is the choice of inside or outside seating. You might also want to visit the "Pickle Haus" right next door for everything you can imagine pickle-wise.
There are other shops such as Cactus Jacks available even when it is not market weekend.
Have you ever seen wind chimes this large? They make a wonderful deep sound when there is sufficient wind to move them.
I always enjoy visiting Gruene even when monthly market days are not in session. It's a nice walk around the time with interesting things to look at so I hope you'll get a chance to visit too. See http://www.gruenetexas.com/ for more information.