Discover Austin: Gruene Historic District - Episode 56

Just an hour south of Austin, along the Guadelupe River, sits a cluster of buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s.  We're in the historic district of Gruene for this road trip episode of Discover Austin.

If you'd prefer to read about Gruene, the transcript can be found below the video.

Greetings!  I’m Craig Smyser.  Located along the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels is a collection of buildings built in the 1800s and early 1900s.  We’re going to visit the Gruene Historic District on this road trip episode of Discover Austin.

Preserving some gorgeous buildings built well over a century ago, the Gruene Historic District is a quaint area full of shops, restaurants, and a pretty important dance hall.  Located less than an hour south of downtown Austin, it makes for a great little getaway. 

The most famous of the buildings is Gruene Hall.  Built in 1878, it is Texas’ oldest continually operating dance hall.  It’s 6000 square feet and intentionally has not changed much since it was built.  The main hall has a distinctive high-pitched tin roof and has hosted thousands of musicians.  Gruene Hall focuses on booking artists who play original material and once-unknowns like Lyle Lovett, George Straight, and Hal Ketchum played here in their early days.  Big names like Willie Nelson, Aaron Neville, the Dixie Chicks, Garth Brooks, Bo Diddley, and Jerry Lee Lewis have also graced the Hall.  The sides of the hall are open letting in a nice cross breeze.  The bar is in the front and serves up all kinds of cold Texas beer.  There’s also a great outdoor garden.

The Gristmill is the most well-known restaurant in Gruene.  The town’s original cotton gin burned down in 1922 and only the three-story brick boiler room survived.  The Gristmill opened in the ruins over 50 years later in 1977.  Since then, the restaurant has expanded to cover 10 separate dining areas over multiple levels and really is a beautiful building in a wonderful setting.  The menu is full of great Texas fare including their well-known onion rings. 

When you’re done shopping and you’ve eaten your fill, take a tubing ride down the Guadalupe River.  It’s a great way to relax on a hot day!

Gruene was established in 1845 by German immigrants.  Cotton was the primary crop and the area thrived until the 1920s when boll weevils destroyed the crops throughout the area and the Depression settled in.  Every business besides Gruene Hall went belly up.  Skip forward to 1974.  Developers were planning to tear down the buildings to build condos.  A visiting UT student realized the historic significance of the buildings.  Seeing a chance to protect the buildings and enhance their development plans, the developers sold the buildings to several people including Pat Molak and Mary Jane Nalley.  Molak and Nalley were instrumental in not only creating the Historic District as it is known today, but also getting Gruene on the National Register of Historic Places.

Whether you come for shopping, dining, or dancing, you’ll have a great time in Gruene.  I’m Craig Smyser, thanks for joining me for this road trip episode of Discover Austin.

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