Gruene, Texas is a lively and vivacious community nestled in Texas hill country within the city limits of New Braunfels. Gruene’s history speaks of the rise of a town, its fall from prosperity, and its reinvention in the 1970s, turning it into the remarkable place it is today.
In 1872, first generation German American farmer Heinrich D. Gruene purchased 6,000 acres of farmland and planted cotton. It was Gruene’s second son, Henry D. Gruene that made cotton the number one cash crop in the area and a hub for shipping and banking. This attracted families to the surrounding areas, causing Gruene to grow. A mercantile store was built, and the town sprang forth, prosperous and successful. Unfortunately, the Depression and other economic factors led to the collapse of the family business in 1920. The town fell into disrepair and became a shadow of its former self.
It remained so until 1974, which brought about the arrival of Pat Molak. Seeking an environment different from that of the big city, Molak discovered the ruins of the once-thriving Gruene, and began to breathe life back into the flourishing community that stands today. Molak restored the town’s genuine look by renovating many of the buildings and houses and turning them into prosperous businesses. It is interesting to note that several of the houses that Henry D. Gruene originally built are still standing and in use today. A large frame house that Henry built for the foreman of his farm is now Gruene Haus and his Victorian cottage is now Lone Star. What is now Gruene General Store was once the town’s first mercantile store, and the cotton gin, which was powered by the Guadalupe River, is now Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar. Gruene Hall was once a dance hall and saloon, the small community’s main source of entertainment at the time.
Because of Molak’s work, Gruene has been added to the National Register of Historic Places, and many of the buildings that were rescued have been awarded a Texas medallion from the Texas Historical Commission. It is also sought by visitors and is thought of as a premiere attraction. Beginning with Gruene and carried on by Molak, this is truly a Southern treasure!