Recently I fell in love with a funny old town in the middle of the Hill Country of Texas. It’s where you might stay if you want to visit the wineries, the LBJ Ranch, shop, and enjoy bakeries, breweries and peaches. It was one of the first German settlements in the 1800s and is now a booming tourist destination.
The shops are all local and cute. Really cute. It was fun to poke along the main street, packed with retail reflecting the interests and tastes of the owners. I got a kick out of fact that a wonderful furniture/home design store also sold big bling–belts, baseball caps and handbags made very heavy with rhinestones.
Some are situated in old homes and my favorite in the town’s hospital. I imagined the tiny little rooms housing gun shot victims in the heyday of this area as a wild ranching town as I meandered through the modern day kitchen store.
We didn’t have time to visit but it looked like the museum focusing on World War II would be reveal a lot of history. The National Museum of the Pacific War honors men and women who served with Admiral Chester Nimitz, the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Forces in World War II. He was born in Fredericksburg. A huge submarine sculpture dominating the entrance captured my attention.
But what fascinated me most were the Sunday Houses.
A Sunday house is a tiny structure, about 1000 square feet, built by ranchers in the late 1800s as a place to sleep on Saturday nights. One can only imagine these families, itching for a good time, swaggering into town on Saturdays from their homes miles away from town, stocking up for the next week at the store and then hitting the saloons or weekend dance or party.
On Sunday mornings they attended church and then traveled home in the afternoon ready for another hard week of outdoor work. For more than fifty years, these houses played a major role in the life of the town.
Typically the houses had one or two rooms downstairs and a sleeping loft upstairs accessed by an outdoor staircase. Often a covered porch with a swing or comfy furniture greeted the owners and guests.
More than 100 still exist and some are open for touring. Others can be rented for overnight and private residents use others.
The other thing that interested me about this town was how it morphed from small-unknown German ranchers town to major tourist destination.
Turns out it was the JFK assassination. When Lyndon B. Johnson became president, media types flocked to the area because his ranch is not far away. They stayed in Fredericksburg, wrote feature stores and generated interest in its history.