Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"Gently Resisting Change Since 1872"

Gruene, TX, is a gem.

There is something about a town whose motto is "Gently Resisting Change Since 1872." Something about a town that is not on the map, yet certainly exists. Something about a town whose address is another town--Gruene, New Braunfels, Texas.

In a setting much like I imagine Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon to be, the Gruene Mansion Inn welcomes visitors to Gruene (pronounced "green"). The Inn was built in the 1850's by Henry Gruene, the second son of Ernst, who founded the town.

The first mercantile store (now Gruene General Store) was built in 1878. The fellow and the little dog served as the greeters for the General Store.

Once inside the General Store, the soda fountain served as another form of greeting--an invitation to return to days goneby. Somehow the invitation was a bit difficult to accept. The counter was covered with packages of candy, so it was a bit difficult to imagine ordering a milk shake. The license plates on the floor may have been typical of days gone by, but I would rather hear the floor creaking than clinking as I walked to the stools.

Construction during the late 1800's included a dance hall and saloon (Gruene Hall), which became the center of the community's social life. It is Texas' oldest dance hall where George Strait, Lyle Lovett, and Hal Ketchum got started.

As the town continued to prosper, a new mercantile building (now The Gruene Antique Company) sprang up in 1904.

Except for Gruene Hall, the stores of Gruene gradually fell on hard times following the 1930's and eventually all closed. It wasn't until the mid-1970's when Pat Molak purchased Gruene Hall and with the help of his friend Mary Jane Nalley, changed the town's future. They worked to preserve the authentic, turn-of-the-century look and feel of Gruene by purchasing and repairing several of the town's most notable structures and transforming them into thriving businesses.

The four-block center of town is on the National Register of Historic Places, but there is a quirky side to this town. The best example of this aspect of Gruene is Gruene Gardens and its array of pottery.

These are just two photos of the variety of pots, planters, and containers. I spent several minutes here just enjoying the shapes, sizes, and colors of the artists' work.

As we were leaving town, we noticed one last bit of whimsy on a resident's part. On first glance it appeared to be an outhouse. Upon closer look, we found its identity.


Gently resisting--but not ignoring--change.


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