In our quest to get out and see more of Texas, we headed for the former town of Gruene. Located about 25 miles Northeast of San Antonio, Tx. Gruene is no longer its own town, it is a historic district with ion the city of new Bruanfels, Tx. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Gruene is now a shopping and entertainment district. Gruene began as a settlement to early German pioneers who settled near the Guadalupe River. Over time, the area evolved into a small town with a general mercantile, a cotton gin, and a saloon in the 1870’s. For several decades, it degenerated nearly to ghost town status. Today, the mercantile is known as Gruene General Store and the cotton gin is a very popular restaurant known as Gristmill.
The entertainment venue, Gruene Hall, The oldest dance hall in Texas. Willie Nelson, George Strait, Garth Brooks and Lyle Lovett have all performed in Gruene Hall. In fact, there is a great story about the tradition of singers walking through the audience to get to the stage. When Willie Nelson preformed there last, his security folks were really concerned about him walking in through the audience. So Gruene Hall simply cut a hole in the wall near the stage so he could get in. To this day it is known at the Willie nelson Door.
What really got us going to Gruene today was market Days. The third Saturday of every month from February to November vendors and crafter set up their booths. They are filled with over 100 handcrafted artisans and craftsman, whom are required to sell only the finest products and art in Texas. A couple of my favorites of the vendors were “My Burnt Offerings” and “Hill Country Beef Jerky”. These two vendors impressed me with the creativity and quality of what they are doing.
We took a break from the Texas heat in the Gruene General Store. Henry Gruene established the Gruene General Store to serve the needs of the sharecroppers who lived on his land and raised cotton. The general store was brought back to life in 1989 as the abandoned town center was brought back to life. Featuring souvenirs and Texas made products along with an old-style soda fountain. The antique fixtures and wall hangings together with the wooden floor patched with license plates add to the experience.
Other things to do after you finish your visit to Gruene include a tube float down the Guadalupe River or Comal River. There are a number of outfitters that can set you up with floats lasting from 2 hours to all day.
Head to Gruene for an original Texas experience. The town is really a step back into at least the look and feel of the company towns of the early 20th century. It really is a piece architectural history here is South Texas.