Deep in the “Alps” of Texas: What’s Up in Alpine, Part One

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The museum also highlights the history of the Buffalo Soldiers, fort outposts, a surprising twist to the story of Pancho Villa, hazardous mercury (cinnabar) mining during World War I and II, and the authentic interior of a general store circa 1920, donated by the family of an area shopkeeper.

Their collection “Five Centuries of Mexican Maps” recently debuted and is on display until December 15, 2019, featuring rare cartography over the centuries. Matt Walter, Curator of Collections, says of the museum, “This is where you get the picture of the Big Bend, and then decide where to explore from there. ‘We tell the story’ is our motto.”

Deep in the "Alps" of Texas: What's Up in Alpine, Part One

Photo: John Spaulding.

The Ritchey Wine Saloon and Beer Garden offers food and drink only a short walk across the railroad tracks that bisect the town. In fact, the railroad established the need for Alpine and other whistlestop settlements, beginning in the 1880s. A dependable water supply in places like Alpine enabled the steam engines to refill and continue their journey. And The Ritchey structure is one of the last remaining railroad hotels still operating in the Trans-Pecos region. During its heyday, The Ritchey catered to the working class who made their livelihoods through railroad-related activities. While it does not offer hotel rooms for the evening, it features an old-fashioned bar and upstairs parlor and regularly plays host to musicians in the courtyard.

Deep in the "Alps" of Texas: What's Up in Alpine, Part One
Photo: John Spaulding. The busy courtyard of The Ritchey, where performances are featured several times a week.

Owner Mattie Matthaei completed the building’s renovation and opened in March 2018. When asked what she enjoys about The Ritchey, she says, “There is some kind of gentleness and joyfulness in this building. My customers walk in and soften—they smile and are happy to be here.” She is also proud to carry the most extensive beer and wine collection in the Trans Pecos, without any of the snobbery.