Gruene Historic District
“Quaint” can have negative connotations (think frilly quilts, tea sets, doilies), but when combined with the authentically rustic, it can be downright charming. The modest Gruene Historic District (Gruene is pronounced “green”), located just a few miles northwest of downtown New Braunfels, is one of the finest heritage tourism destinations in the region.
Resisting the temptation to go overboard and “cute” things up, this several-block area retains much of its authentic character from the late 1800s, when German immigrant Henry D. Gruene built a mercantile store and later a cotton gin and dance hall to serve the sharecroppers who settled in the area. The small community was bustling until the 1920s, when the Great Depression and a nasty plague of boll weevils wiped out the cotton business and, consequently, the town.
In the 1970s, several San Antonio and New Braunfels entrepreneurs determined that the abandoned buildings had potential, and their instincts proved right when recreational tourists on the nearby Guadalupe River added shopping and dancing to their weekend itineraries.
The district’s most remarkable structure is Gruene Hall (1281 Gruene Rd., 830/606-1281, www.gruenehall.com), the oldest continually running dance hall in Texas. This magnificent 1878 building is a Hill Country treasure—the sturdy German-constructed wooden floors and long tables have witnessed more than a century of honkytonkin’ boot-scootin’ country and roots-rock music. Overlooking the scene are authentically reproduced beer and soft drink ads offering two-steppers a step back in time. Americana artists play Gruene Hall several nights a week and include some well-known regional acts (Robert Earl Keen, Bruce and Charlie Robison, Delbert McClinton) and some heavy-hitting national stars (George Strait, Lyle Lovett, Jerry Jeff Walker). Check the website for upcoming performances.
Shopping in Gruene isn’t too overwhelming—there are only a couple main streets and the historic buildings are spaced fairly far apart. One of the highlights is the 1875 Gruene General Store, containing everything you’d expect to find in an old-time mercantile business, from candy and trinkets to home décor items and clothing. Other noteworthy shops in the district include The Grapevine, a wine-tasting store featuring quality Texas wines, specialty beers, and gourmet gifts and food; the Gruene Antique Company, an enormous space containing antiques and collectibles housed in H. D. Gruene’s 1903 mercantile building; and the Tipsy Gypsy, a funky boutique with new and consignment items.
© Andy Rhodes from Moon Texas, 6th Edition