THE SOUND OF MUSIC
Bougainvillea and blooming cacti burst from wooden barrels along the streets of Gruene, a tiny community in Comal County that’s long on history, music and charm. Downtown Gruene is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Come for a day -- or spend a night or two in a historic bed and breakfast inn; shop for antiques and Gruene memorabilia; launch a tube and float the Guadalupe River; boot scoot to your heart’s content at Gruene Hall, and enjoy special events such as the Texas Clay Festival in October, a celebration of potters and pottery.
The town is named for Ernst Gruene, a German immigrant who settled along the Guadalupe River near New Braunfels in 1845. The first store was built in 1878, followed by other businesses and Gruene Hall, a dance hall and saloon that became the town’s social center. The town fell into decline in the 1920s, but the emergence of the preservation movement in the 1970s provided the perfect platform for the resurrection of Gruene. Ernst’s son Henry Gruene’s former home is now the Gruene Mansion Inn Bed and Breakfast. The original mercantile store constructed of wood now houses the Gruene General Store, which sells souvenirs, gourmet foodstuffs and boasts a retro soda fountain. A second mercantile store, built in 1903, is now the Gruene Antique Company. The town’s former cotton gin has found new life as the Gristmill Restaurant, where diners watch the Guadalupe River flow by while downing a beer and baby back ribs that fall off the bone. One property that has endured for parts of three centuries is Gruene Hall. Its rustic charm remains — false front with asymmetrical windows that seem to dance, shutters that open to let in the breeze on warm nights. It’s the oldest continually operating dance hall in Texas, and one that helped launch the careers of songwriters and musicians such as George Strait and Lyle Lovett.