Gruene, Texas

Gruene, Texas

Gruene (like the color "green") is a ghost town in Comal County, Texas. Once a significant cotton-producing community along the Guadalupe River, the economy is now supported primarily by tourism. Gruene lies entirely within the city limits of New Braunfels. Much of Gruene was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on April 21, 1975.

History

Establishment and rise to prominence

Gruene's history begins in 1872 when German farmer Heinrich (Henry) D. Gruene purchased of farmland three miles (5 km) north of New Braunfels along the Guadalupe River. He built his house and planted his surrounding land with cotton. In 1878, Gruene opened a mercantile store to serve the several dozen or so families sharecropping on his land. The town benefitted by its location along the stagecoach route between Austin and San Antonio, the store thrived for many years and stimulated local commercial growth. Gruene Hall opened in 1878, and the Thorn Hill School and three large cotton gins soon followed. By the time the International-Great Northern Railroad was built across Comal County in the 1880s the small community was bustling with commercial and farming activity, and officially took the name Gruene after its founding father and most prominent citizen.

Decline and abandonment

By 1900, Gruene was a prominent banking, ginning, and shipping center for area cotton farming. Though it never had a post office of its own, the community did possess 2 freight rail stations by the 1910s. Gruene was decimated, however, by the boll weevil blight of the 1920s, and further doomed by the effects of the Great Depression. By 1930 the population had fallen to 75, and post World War II highway construction bypassed the town. By 1950 Gruene was essentially abandoned and had become a ghost town.

Revival and renaissance

As a result of the restoration of area structures, such as the Gruene Hall and old mercantile store, Gruene began a re-birth of sorts in the early 1970s. Redevelopment and restoration of the area continued throughout the 1970s and 1980's and today, and though no longer an autonomous community (it was absorbed by New Braunfels several years ago) Gruene maintains a thriving tourist business. Many original structures from the town's heyday still exist, including the Gruene Family Home, a Victorian-style edifice built in 1872 which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and today operates as the Gruene Mansion Inn. A historic water tower rises above Gruene Hall, and other buildings at the heart of the district have been renovated into shops and restaurants. There is also a wine-tasting room.

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