Shopping, dining, wine tasting and walking in the historic town of Gruene, Texas
The historic town of Gruene, with its western style and Victorian buildings, unique shops, wineries and restaurants, is a popular day trip in Texas’s Hill Country. Gruene, pronounced “green”, is listed among the Historic Places in the National Register and lies within the city limits of New Braunfels along the Guadalupe River. It is 25 miles north of San Antonio and 40 miles south of Austin.
The area around Gruene was settled by German farmers. Ernst Gruene and his sons bought land and opened businesses in the latter part of the 1800s. The community of Gruene was established in 1872 and served as a commercial centre for cotton farmers in the area until the 1930s.
The first mercantile store (now Gruene General Store) was built in 1878 by H. D. Gruene. Later the store moved across the street to the Gruene Antique Store building.
Economic disaster from boll weevils in the 1920s followed by the Depression resulted in the closure of the various businesses and Gruene became a virtual ghost town. In the 1970s, an architecture student working with the Texas Historical Commission discovered Gruene while kayaking on the Guadalupe River. His delight with the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century buildings eventually led to Gruene being listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 as an entire district. Developers moved in and worked to preserve the turn-of-the-century feel of the town.
The modern-day shops of Gruene carry an eclectic mix of goods – art, kitchenware, home decor, clothing, tourist trinkets and antiques. I visited Gruene with a group of women friends and the theme on that particular day seemed to be “shabby chic”.
Gruene Hall, a bar and dance hall, was built in the 1880s. Gruene Hall never closed when other business did in the 1930s. It now bills itself as the oldest continually run dance hall in Texas. Many country-singing stars and legends have performed here over the years, including Willie Nelson, George Strait and Lyle Lovett. A complete list of singers is displayed inside the hall.
By design, not much has physically changed since the hall was built. It has a 6,000 square foot wooden dance floor and a high pitched tin roof. It has wooden walls with wide side flaps for open air dancing.
The Grapevine, a wine tasting room in the heart of historic Gruene, has a large selection of Texan wines available for tasting or purchase. You can select three for a free tasting, pay for additional tasting, buy a bottle to take home, buy a glass to sip on the premises, or get a glass to go and sip as you explore the town. There are also a couple of wineries in the town.
The Gruene cotton gin processed crops until 1922 when the wooden structure burned to the ground. All that remains of the water-powered mill today is the three-story brick boiler room, which has become the Gristmill Restaurant & Bar. The multi-level restaurant has lots of seating, both indoors and out, on tiered patios.
Gruene makes a nice day trip from either San Antonio or Austin. Have you visited Gruene?