Gruene, Texas: A Story of Second Chances

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Tony Maples Photography


Just a hop, skip, and a jump north of New Braunfels, TX lies Gruene (pronounced green). Now a charming historic district, Gruene was founded in 1878 by Henry Gruene, a German settler looking for a new opportunity for his family. It was here, nestled close to the banks of the Guadalupe River, the towns founder opened a mercantile and a stage coach stop. The history of this little gem does not stop here, however.

Guadalupe River GruenePhoto: Nomadic Pursuits

The area was originally settled by German farmers in the 1840s, and by the 1850s, was known as the Goodwin Community. Aching for acreage, Henry’s father purchased 6,000 acres of land just north of the city where he built the first Gruene family home. Henry  built his home soon after, and garnished his land with fields of cotton. Cotton quickly became the number one cash crop in the community and brought approximately 20 – 30 families to this growing town.

Henry was an ambitious fellow. After building his home and planting cotton, he went on to build three more homes, a Victorian style home, a brick home, and a frame home. Soon after, he built the mercantile and added the stage coach stop. Henry then provided land for the Thorn Hill School, built a cotton gin, a dance hall, and a saloon. In the 1880s, the International-Great Northern Railroad was completed, and the town officially received its name.

Gruene HallPhoto: alocato

Gruene became quite prosperous in its time, but in 1920, after Henry’s death, the fate of the town took a turn for the worst. The cotton gin burned down in 1922. A newer, more modern gin was built, but with the boll weevil blight followed by the Great Depression, all of the businesses in Gruene suffered and eventually ceased to exist. The only business that stayed open was Gruene Hall. By 1950, this prosperous community became a ghost town.

In 1974, an architecture student named Chip Kaufman took a kayaking trip down the Guadalupe River where he floated up onto the old Gruene water tower. Passionate about the preservation of this ghost town, Kaufman was able to convince real estate developers to discontinue their plans to build over this once prosperous city, and the developers agreed to allow Kaufman to find new owners for the existing buildings. Gruene Hall was the first to be purchased and now owns the title of being the oldest Texas dance hall still in operation.

Gruene Mansion InnPhoto: BedBreakfastHome.com

It didn’t take long for the rest of the old buildings to be purchased and re-purposed as businesses in this amazing historic district. The home of Henry Gruene is now home to the Gruene Mansion Inn. The old Victorian house is now home to the Lone Star shop of eclectic wares and the old frame home is now the Gruene Haus, specializing in antiques and collectibles. The mercantile is now the Gruene General Store. The site of the old cotton gin is the Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar, and the later built cotton gin is now the Adobe Verde, which features Tex-Mex favorites. The old water tower? Well, it’s still a water tower.

Gruene has since been added to the National Register of Historic places, and its old buildings have been awarded the Texas Medallion from the Texas Historical Commission. Gruene is proof that second chances do exist, but it couldn’t have happened without big Texas hearts and the passion to preserve the history of how this great state was founded.


Gruene, TX
Texas State Historical Association