This was a find. Originally, we had planned to cruise on down to San Antonio—see the riverwalk, take the Alamo tour. But a couple of native Austinites said the traffic in San Antonio was horrendous, which is really saying something after maneuvering the streets of Austin. Since we are wanting to take it easy on the bus and my heart, we stopped short of San Antonio at New Braunfels. I’m glad we did.
New Braunfels was founded in 1845 by German settlers and much of the heritage has been retained in architecture and, judging by the number of breweries, drink. Camping in this area is not easy to do. Even though you may not know New Braunfels by name just yet—wait. It is the second-fastest growing city in the US. Like most of east Texas, it is getting crowded. The downtown German district, Gruene Street is vibrant with shops and eateries and a surprising amount of parking.
But if you leave Gruene and Main streets and continue on down the road a little bit, you’ll find a real hidden gem—The Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture. Miracle found them via Harvest Hosts. In exchange for taking a tour, you can park out on their land overnight. Despite being surrounded by city, you feel secluded. We had a Barred Owl that kept us company and a fleet of deer meandered through. We smelled a skunk once, but thankfully did not see it. The land is lovely. We sat underneath a giant oak working on the podcast and doing planning.
When the time came to take the tour, we were not disappointed. The buildings on the property are well preserved and contain fine specimens of, well, Texas handmade furniture. You may not think you have an interest in Texas handmade furniture; I can’t say that I did. But I do love antique furniture. And I love history. Geography. Nature. And, as dumb as I might sound professing this, I was pleasantly surprised how this seemingly narrow sliver of specimens branched out into each subject: How German heritage changed and adapted; what woods were available; how furniture was designed for the house; how the house itself was designed and hybridized as a German/Texas. It was fascinating. Oh, and there’s a restored Texas Ranger station on the property. Really, you have to come see this place.
It helps that the people who run this nonprofit are passionate about what they do. As cities continue to grow, it is important to preserve these bits of history, these places where giant oaks still stand.