Recently we enjoyed an evening with friends spent in what’s known as Gruene Historic District in New Braunfels, Texas. We had a wonderful time checking it out and learning a little of its history. In the mid 1800s, German farmers settled in what is now known as Gruene, Texas.
The first mercantile store (now Gruene General Store) was built in 1878 and a cotton gin (now Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar) powered by the Guadalupe River was added soon after. Further construction during this profitable time included a dance hall and saloon (Gruene Hall), which became the center of the community’s social life. However, the economic disasters of the boll weevil and the Depression were too much for the family businesses.
With the exception of Gruene Hall, they were all shut down. In 1974, Chip Kaufman, an architecture student at UT Austin working with the Texas Historical Commission learned that a group of real estate developers had purchased Gruene’s historic buildings, and planned a housing development, he convinced the developers of the significance of the buildings in Texas history and worked to place Gruene on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 as an entire district. The developers agreed to let Kaufman find new owners interested in the old buildings for new commercial ventures which would provide a core for their new housing development. Pat Molak purchased Gruene Hall in 1975. The 6,000 square-foot, open-air dance hall became a starting point for many of Texas’ up-and-coming performers, and once again, the heart of Gruene. With the help of Mary Jane Nalley, he 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.
We ate supper at the Gristmill River Restaurant, where we sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful sunset. The perfect end to a perfect evening.