Charming. Historic. Quaint. These were my first impressions of Fredericksburg, Texas.
Located in the Texas Hill Country a little over an hour from San Antonio and one and a half hours from Austin, Fredericksburg has a long and storied history. It was founded in 1846 by a man named John O. Meusebach, born Baron Otfried Hans von Meusebach and one of 120 German immigrants who migrated from 19 different regions in Germany to Texas.
Their establishment in Texas is significant, in that its founder is credited with originating a peace treaty with the Native American Comanche Indian tribe here in 1847, a treaty that, even today, is considered to be the only one in the U.S. that still stands. As you might expect, the Germans brought a great deal of their own traditions, skills, cooking styles, clothing, textiles and the like with them, which they infused into every aspect of the emerging cultural landscape here. Much of it remains through a collection of authentic preserved structures, the culinary scene and other entities, which lends a great deal to the town’s present-day historic charm.
Because it is so close to San Antonio and Austin, Fredericksburg is very popular with residents of those cities for day and weekend trips. In fact, an estimated 60 percent of their visitors are from the state of Texas. Additionally, because the Texas Hill Country—which encompasses 15,000 square miles and 119 counties—is only 22 miles off Interstate 10, which stretches from California to Florida, about 25 percent of their visitors travel here from out of state, primarily from Louisiana, Oklahoma, Colorado, Arkansas, other parts of the Midwest, Florida, New York and California. International visitors are plentiful as well, coming from Germany, Canada and further afield.
A wealth of history and charm
For a little town of only about 24,000 denizens, Fredericksburg has a great deal to offer. I spent four days here, absolutely loved it and feel like I only scratched the surface. One of the most endearing aspects is the over 700 historically significant structures located in the Fredericksburg Historic District. There is even a self-guided tour that takes visitors to approximately 30 of them, each featuring its own architectural style and unique slice of history.
The main drag through the Historic Downtown District is well, Main Street (Main Street/Highway 290), an expansive thoroughfare that was originally designed to accommodate the abundance of oxen cart traffic and commercial activity back in the day, with an abundance of secondary streets jutting off of it, forming a parallel and perpendicular grid on either side.
I didn’t know this until I came home, but there was a great deal of thought put into the original naming of the streets, with those leading west and east along Main Street spelling out “ALL WELCOME”—Adams, Llano, Lincoln, Washington, Elk, Lee, Columbus, Olive, Mesquite and Eagle—and “COME BACK”—Crockett, Orange, Milam, Edison, Bowie, Acorn, Cherry and Kay. According to the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, the Germans were very warm and welcoming people, so much so that the founding fathers were really forward thinking about sharing their hospitality.
Yet despite Main Street being wide enough to handle two lanes of traffic in both directions like most big city streets, the architecture and entities themselves—over 150 specialty shops ranging from clothing, upscale home accessories and furnishings to unique collectibles, antiques, etc., oodles of cafés, restaurants, wine bars, and the like (and no chains!)—lend a small town flavor and flair that draws you into the intimate ambiance.
A big part of this is that the town is very pedestrian-friendly. My fellow travel writers and I walked almost everywhere when we visited the town, and there are no open container laws, so residents and visitors alike are free to leisurely meander and enjoy amazing wines and beer as they shop.
The clientele is a nice mix of primarily early to more mature baby boomers, and during spring break and in the summer, it is more of a family atmosphere with people who visit with small children.
Speaking of wine and beer, the Texas Hill Country is one of the fastest-growing wine destinations in the country, and the craft beer scene here is big as well, with Fredericksburg as the home of the oldest and most acclaimed brewpub in Texas (we’re going to delve more into this later—you know how I roll). Because of this, the region is becoming more popular with thirty- and forty-somethings, yet it still maintains a mature “grown folks” vibe.
If you appreciate art and creativity, then Fredericksburg is your kind of place. The art and home furnishings scenes here are fantastic, and I was really surprised at not only the number, but also the scope—both in artistic style and price—of the offerings.
As far as the art, I read somewhere that Fine Art Connoisseur magazine called Fredericksburg “The Little Jewel of Art in Central Texas.” And the town’s creativity is aptly displayed in the large number of home décor and furnishing, antique, German import, kitchen and bath, lawn and garden, and other boutique stores. Moreover, there are many people who come to Fredericksburg just to purchase items with which to furnish their homes and businesses located across the country.
Another surprising aspect for a town this size is that it offers an astounding number of guesthouses, inns, and bed and breakfast accommodations—350 of them—plus a range of hotels, motels, RV parks and campgrounds.
One of the most popular accommodations are what are called “Sunday Houses,” small, in-town houses built by the early settlers who lived and worked on their farms outside of Fredericksburg during the week. On the weekends, they used these homes so they could stay and relax for Sunday church services, community fellowship and to shop for supplies to take back to their farms. Among the distinctive characteristics of these homes are the lean-to kitchens at the rear, outside staircases and second-story sleeping quarters.
More to come!
Fredericksburg is awesome, and I can’t wait to go back! But you can go with me when next time we delve into the life and legacy of its hometown hero, President Lyndon Johnson, one of the most significant museums in the country and a great deal more.
Lysa Allman-Baldwin writes for numerous online and print publications, including as the cultural travel writer for www.Examiner.com and as a senior travel writer for SoulOfAmerica.com, an Afrocentric travel website. Lysa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fredericksburg Convention & Visitor Bureau : 888-997-3600, 830-997-6523, www.VisitFredericksburgTX.com
Texas Hill Country: www.hill-country-visitor.com, www.texashillcountry.com