Winedale Historical Complex, Round Top, Texas
One of the signature teaching and research collections of the Briscoe Center for American History at The University of Texas at Austin, Winedale collects, preserves, and makes available for study important examples of nineteenth-century Texas architecture and decorative arts. Houston philanthropist Miss Ima Hogg’s vision for Winedale was a laboratory for university students to explore a variety of disciplines.
The Winedale complex features 10 historic buildings that were moved to the area by Miss Ima in the 1960s. It now represents the critical importance of preserving the built environment and material culture in the investigation of our past. The Winedale site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a designated State Antiquities Landmark. The Lewis-Wagner House is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark. Winedale’s value as a historic site and research collection includes the importance of the buildings, the collection, and its illustration of the development of the preservation profession.
Welcome to Winedale
The “Winedale” community began around 1868 as a tiny German settlement called Trübsal (“Affliction”), located just across the Washington County line about two miles from the Lewis-Wagner farmstead. So fond were the local farmers of making good wines from mustang grapes, dewberries, peaches, mulberries, and raisins, that the name soon changed to “Winedale.”
Winedale Visitor Center
The Spies house, now the Winedale Visitor Center, was built by Alfred Wagner (1891–1956) around 1930 for Adam and Christina Spies, the parents of his wife, Lina, and his sister-in-law, Leona. The house was originally located near the Wagner general store until Miss Ima Hogg had it moved to its present location. While part of the National Register’s Winedale Historic District, the Spies House is considered a non-contributing building due to its lack of historical or architectural significance. As such, Miss Ima chose to remodel the house by adding a side porch and a second floor with four dormers, adding considerable charm to the building. Such alterations would not be appropriate on a building designated as historically significant. For many years, it served as the caretaker’s cottage until it became the Winedale Visitor Center in the 1970s.
The pollinator garden in front of the house was created by the Gideon Lincecum Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists in 2017. A guide to the plants in the garden can be found in the brochure holder on the front porch of the Winedale Visitor Center.
The porch ceilings at the Visitor Center and those of several other structures are painted a light blue. This shade, called “haint blue,” is common in the American South. According to folklore, the blue color is believed to ward off evil spirits, blue representing water, which spirits cannot pass. “Haint” is a variant of “haunt,” referring to a ghost or a restless spirit of the dead. The blue allegedly also repels insects, supposedly because the original milk paint mixtures included lye or because insects confuse the blue for the sky.
Hazel’s Lone Oak Cottage
This house was built in mid-1800s on Jack’s Creek about two miles south of Winedale on land that was originally part of the old Nassau farm, which served as the headquarters of the German Emigration Company in the 1830s and 1840s. Due to their efforts Round Top became a largely German community by the 1860s. The structure is now named for Hazel Ledbetter, who presented it to Miss Ima Hogg’s Winedale project in 1965. Hazel’s Lone Oak Cottage has been authentically restored to the simple architectural beauty of a dogtrot style common to the home of an early German Texan settler in the mid-nineteenth century. Notice the decorative woodwork on the outdoor staircase located in the central breezeway, or dogtrot, of the house as well as the notched columns on the porch.
The two front rooms of the cottage feature the “Winedale Story” exhibit with the history of the region and community and how Miss Ima fulfilled her vision assembling representative structures into a historical complex to serve as a teaching laboratory for students. The exhibit can also be found online at www.briscoecenter.org/winedale.
William Townsend was an early settler who received a Mexican land grant in the Austin Colony in 1831 at the present site of Winedale. Following his marriage in 1834, Townsend built a large room with a fireplace and a sleeping loft.
Samuel K. Lewis purchased the Townsend property in 1848 and developed it into a large cotton plantation worked by 13 enslaved people. Lewis expanded the original structure, which is located in the left section of the house, turning the loft into a full second story and adding an identical section to the right with a breezeway between the two sections. Across the front, he added the first- and second-story porches with cedar pillars. Lewis’s house and the nearby Transverse Crib Barn are the only buildings today that occupy their original sites.
In the mid-1850s, Lewis lobbied for a public road to pass in front of the house, which served as a stagecoach stopping place between the towns of Brenham and La Grange. The Winedale community relocated to cluster around this stop. Lewis died in 1867, but his heirs retained the house until 1882, when it was purchased by Joseph G. Wagner, a cobbler from Breslau, Silesia (modern day Wrocław, Poland).
Through the first half of the twentieth century, the Wagners farmed their land alongside several black tenant families and ran a number of local businesses, including a cotton gin, feed and grist mills, tin shop, gas station, blacksmith shop, a general store, and a saloon that became a favorite Winedale gathering place. Today, the Lee Wagner House, the store, and the gas station, seen across the highway from the Lewis-Wagner House, are used as workshops and storage facilities.
By the late 1950s, local agriculture and the businesses that served it had waned. The Wagner family sold the property in 1961 to preservationist Hazel Ledbetter, who showed it to her friend Ima Hogg. Captivated by the decorative paintings of Rudolph Melchior on the interior, Miss Ima decided to buy the house with the initial thought of relocating it to Bayou Bend, her home and future site of the decorative arts gallery of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. When that proved impossible, she set out to restore the house as a showplace for the nineteenth-century Texas handcrafted furniture and crafts she had been collecting. Ongoing preservation of the Lewis-Wagner House is supported in part by the Alfred Jr. and Ruby D. Wagner Endowment.
The Lewis-Wagner House exhibits German architectural features with the window details and woodwork. The columns of the house were painted to give the effect that they had been beveled. You can see the internal structure of the porch by looking up at the ceiling by the right column of the front porch. The Lewis-Wagner house features a dogtrot: a breezeway between the two sides of the house that provides shade and can be closed off with doors. Dogtrot houses were common in Texas during the middle of the nineteenth century.
This structure was built entirely by hand. To see the early milled large beam and wooden peg construction technique, walk to the left side of the house and lift the panel in the siding. Then, turn the corner and notice the gutter extending from the right side of the roof to the cistern in the rear of the house. Water from wells was for consumption, while cisterns were built to capture rain water to bathe with or to water garden crops.
Koneschik Log Kitchen and Boecker Smokehouse
When facing the log cabins, the building on your left was originally a house built about 1875 by Paul Koneschik on land between Industry and Shelby in Austin County, about ten miles from present-day Winedale. It is a single-pen Post Oak log structure that represents the twilight of log cabin construction in the late 1800s. Miss Ima purchased the cabin from the Giese family in 1966 and relocated it to Winedale to serve as a demonstration kitchen for the Lewis-Wagner House.
A typical single-room log building of mid-nineteenth-century Texas, the present smokehouse was the home of German immigrant August Boecker in 1866. The cabin was located near the Welcome community in Austin County, about 14.5 miles from present-day Winedale. The Bybees purchased the cabin from the Giese family in 1966 and donated it to Winedale, where it was rehabilitated to represent the Lewis-Wagner farmstead’s lost smokehouse.
Both structures feature half dovetail notches formed by interlocking pieces. Half dovetails are more common historically and have the advantage of draining water better than a full dovetail notch since the angle allows the water to flow away from the structure.
Texas A&M AgriLife Orchard
Created in partnership with the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center, the goal of this orchard is to provide a modern experimental orchard where regional residents can learn techniques of pruning and see how well new varieties of peaches, figs, pomegranates, and jujubes grow in this area. The Winedale community earned its name from the wines produced. It was common for homesteads in those days to have orchards and gardens for personal use.
The Theater Barn was originally a hay barn built by the Wagner family in the 1890s from timbers derived from the cotton gin on the property. In the 1960s, Miss Ima converted the hay barn into a theater for plays and concerts. The original sides were extended with vented panels, the loft was partially removed to make room for theater balconies, and a two-tiered stage was built to accommodate dramatic productions. Over the years, many different types of performances have been held in the Theater Barn, the most notable of which is The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Liberal Arts’ Shakespeare at Winedale program, which began in 1970.
Transverse Crib Barn
The Lewis family built this barn sometime prior to 1869. Constructed entirely of hand-hewn timber, the barn is one of the last remaining structures of its kind in Texas. Two pairs of cribs separated by aisles under one roof create four areas for storing corn, cotton seed, and other products. The far corners of the barn were originally used for blacksmithing and cabinet-making. It is a versatile structure that is accessible from all four sides.
Gideon Lincecum Nature Trail
Naturalist Gideon Lincecum (1793–1874) brought his knowledge of Choctaw herbal healing from Mississippi to Long Point, just a few miles from Winedale, in 1848. He collected hundreds of plants in Central Texas and wrote extensive commentaries on their medicinal qualities. The Gideon Lincecum Arboretum was originally created in the late 1970s with markers for native plants, trees, and grasses. In 2017, the Gideon Lincecum Master Naturalists revived the trail on a smaller scale and relocated the marker to a more accessible area. As part of the Blackland Prairie and Post Oak Savannah ecosystems of Texas, the trail provides access to native grasses, wildflowers, trees, and pollinator bushes leading to a natural pond where bald cypress and dragonflies abound.
This vernacular Greek Revival farmhouse was built in 1861 by Gregor Carmichael McGregor, a doctor and land speculator who came to Texas and married Annie Portia Fordtran, daughter of wealthy German immigrants. Featuring a simple floor plan with a central passageway and rooms on either side, this style was common across the nation between 1820 and 1840. The house was divided sharply into formal and informal spaces typical of upper-class houses in the mid-nineteenth century. The formal rooms, including the entrance hall, parlor, and dining room, were richly decorated and furnished to entertain guests and used for special occasions, while the informal rooms were modest for daily life.
It was difficult to obtain fine building materials in Central Texas, so the house was made entirely of native wood and featured faux painted details on the exterior and interior to replicate expensive materials. The pine front doors were accented with painted wood graining to resemble oak with rosewood paneling. The chimney bricks were made of stone then plastered and stenciled over with a red brick pattern. The entrance hall was decorated with columns painted on the walls, and the wood fireplace mantels were painted to look like marble. Additionally, some rooms feature painted ceilings and decorative borders by Rudolph Melchior, the same artist who decorated the Lewis-Wagner House.
The family occupied this house until 1873 when Dr. McGregor retired from his medical practice and they moved near Waco. The town of McGregor was named after him when he donated some of his land to create a railroad right-of-way. Dr. McGregor sold the house to Mary Schloeman. In 1912, the property was sold again to Charles Grimm, serving as a tenant house until Miss Ima Hogg acquired it in 1968. Originally situated near the Wesley community, Miss Ima moved the house to Winedale and furnished it with Texas German furniture from her collection to illustrate the lifestyle of an affluent German-American family around the Civil War time period.
This board-and-batten structure—referring to the exterior siding that has alternating wide boards and narrow battens—was constructed in 1868 a quarter mile northeast of its present location. It was dedicated in 1869 as the Evangelical Lutheran Trinity Church Congregation for the German community.By 1894, the building was utilized as a one-room schoolhouse in addition to hosting church services. In 1943, the Winedale School was consolidated into the Burton Independent School District. After World War II, the building was converted into a hay barn before it was moved to its present location in 1992. Former Winedale School students restored the building and donated it to The University of Texas at Austin in 1994. Its ongoing preservation is supported in part by the Winedale School Endowment established by Mrs. Ruby D. Wagner.
Joseph Biegel House
Built in the 1830s by Joseph Biegel, Fayette County’s first German settler, this cabin is a log construction with full-dovetail cornering. Donated to Winedale by the John Schumacher family in 1976, the house was removed from the old Biegel Settlement near Halsted in Fayette County before the area was flooded by what is now Cedar Creek Reservoir. It now serves as a residence for visiting scholars. The Ragsdale Foundation, with additional contributions from Dr. Michael and Judy Koehl, has established an endowment to help support ongoing preservation of the Biegel House. Gifts to the endowment are welcome.
Lauderdale House Chimneys
The Lauderdale House was built about 1858 by James Shelby Lauderdale (1812–1908) when he settled near Long Point in Washington County, about 17 miles from present-day Winedale. The house’s imposing pediment porch reflected the filtering of Classical Revival architecture into the area. Ima Hogg purchased the house in 1963 and moved it to Winedale before its original location was flooded to create Lake Somerville. The Lauderdale House served as a residence for visiting artists, scholars, and seminar students until it was destroyed by an electrical fire in 1981. Only its two chimneys are left standing.
Site of Winedale Cotton Gin and Feed Mill
Cotton was the predominant cash crop dating back to the days of Stephen F. Austin’s colony. The Wagner family worked the land and ran several local businesses during the first half of the twentieth century. The family operated the cotton gin and feed mill from 1928 to 1956. Agriculture and related businesses waned, and the cotton gin and mill were dismantled in 1958 and sold to central America for continued operation. What remains are the Bessemer diesel engine mountings of the cotton gin and feed mill.
Self-guided walking tour
Download a copy of the self-guided walking tour here.
This self-guided tour highlights a brief history and exterior features of a selection of structures. For more information on the history of Winedale, the structures, and historic preservation in the area, visit here.
For a guided group tour of the interiors and collection of decorative arts for ten or more people, please schedule an appointment by calling (979) 278-3530 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.