Deep in the Heart of Texas

Today’s Post by Ken MacAdams

When is Green not Green? When it’s Gruene, Texas, of course! Gruene’s an eclectic little town in the heart of Texas, nestled about halfway between Austin, and San Antonio, on the edge of the West Texas hill country.

Gruene’s history dates back to the 1840s, when Ernst Gruene, a German immigrant, bought land here and began farming cotton. The Gruene Mansion Inn, Lone Star, and Gruene Haus , were built by Ernst’s son, Henry. The first mercantile store, which is now called the Gruene General Store, was built in 1878. Soon after, a cotton gin, powered by the Guadalupe River, was built. Devastated by a fire, this structure was abandoned, and what’s left of the building has become the Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar. About the same time, Henry built a dance hall and saloon called the Gruene Hall, which became the center of the community’s social life.

Economic disasters, a fire at the gin, the boll weevil, and the Great Depression all took their toll on the little community, and by the late 1920’s all the businesses closed, except for the Gruene Hall. The Gruene Hall is one of the Lone Star States best preserved and original dance halls.

In 1974 an architecture student, Chip Kaufman, kayaking down the Guadalupe River, was drawn to investigate the old water tower visible above the treetops. Surprised, he came upon the old late 1800’s and early 1900’s buildings, and recognized their importance to the Texas Historical commission. To save the turn-of-the-century buildings, Chip enlisted the aid of an investor, to preserve and repair some of the town’s most notable structures.

Soon the old Gruene spirit came back to life and with the help of the Texas travel industry, this once sleepy little renovated town became a destination point. While touristy, the charm of the gift shops, the old dance hall, and the General Store exudes genuine Old Texas! The best way to experience Gruene is by walking the heart of the downtown area. I shot with a Panasonic Lumix G85, and Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4 ASPH Power OIS lens, which is a lightweight and unobtrusive combination.

Whether you drop in for a drink at the old Gruene Hall, or a soda and ice cream at the General Store, you’ll be sure to experience some authentic Gruene!