Round Top's 1880's Historical Victorian Treasure
Retreats, Antique Fair, International Festival Institute
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 Round Top, Texas

 

The photo above is taken of the prolific wildflowers that surround the Belle and below is an article about Round Top that came in the mail yesterday in our local Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative magazine called "Texas Coop Power" that really does a wonderful job of covering the highlights.  The article is titled "Ya'll Come Back, Now, Texas tourist towns that treat you right" and was written by Melissa Gaskill.

"When budgets get tight, luxury vacations to exotic destinations become harder to swing.  But in a state as big and varied as Texas, finding a weekend getaway is as easy as opening the map.  Small and big towns offer reasonable prices, friendly folks and many one-of-a-kind attractions.   Just in time for warmer weather, here are five places that would love to have you for a visit. (Bandera, Corpus Christi, Round Top, Amarillo and Jefferson)

                                      Small town packs a big cultural punch.

The tiny town of Round Top enjoys widespread renown for, of all things, performing arts.  How did this happen?  Distinguished pianist James Dick, dreaming of a summer place where young musicians could receive intensive training and put on performances, founded The International Festival Institute at Round Top in 1971.  He acquired 6 acres occupied by an abandoned school building in 1973 and began to populate the land with historic buildings, one by one.  Early orchestra performances were held on an outdoor stage.  Construction of a spectacular, 1,100-seat concert hall proceeded on a pay-as-you-go basis, with concerts held inside the walls before the building had a roof, floor or seats.  Now complete at last, the acoustically and aesthetically beautiful hall forms the centerpiece of the institute, grown to 210 acres with artists' residences, practice rooms and dining facilities.  Extensive landscaping, including herb and rose gardens, invites lingering, and beautiful stone walls, towers, walks and other surprises encourage wandering the grounds.  "It is all open to the public.  You can come and take a tour or just walk around," says Alain Declert, program director.  Events happen year around and include a Theatre Forum and Choral Festival in November,  the Nutcracker Ballet in December, guitar festivals, poetry readings, symphony performances and forums, culminating in the Institute's raison d'etre, a six-week long summer music festival.  The 39th season coming this summer promises works by Tchaikovsky, Strauss, Brahms, Beethoven and others, performed by an orchestra of 85 musicians chosen by auditions across the country back in January and February.  Tickets can be purchased for the entire festival or individual performances, even by spur-of-the-moment visitors. says Declert: "We always have tickets at the door."

    Round Top's population barely breaks 80, and its location on State Highway 237, miles from a major thoroughfare keeps traffic light.  So most businesses in town open only on weekends and for the area's spectacular twice-a-year antique events.  Time it right, though, and enjoy shopping that runs the gamut from European linens, to cigars, wine, art, soap and jewelry.  Royers Round Top Cafe on the square is known for its pies, and Klump's Restaurant, across from the tiny Chamber of Commerce office, bucks the weekend-only policy, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.  Popular with locals, thanks to a folksy charm and hearty food, Klump's dishes up barbecue at noon on Saturday, catfish on on Friday night and specials every Sunday. 

    Across the square, Henkel Square Museum Village re-creates 19th-century Texas German pioneer life and architecture.  Thursday through Sunday, enter the apothecary building for self-guided tours of the eight restored homes, barn, school-house and church, encircling a large open space where re-enactments and other events often take place.  The town's name, incidentally, comes from an early stagecoach stop, a house with a round top.

    A few miles down the road, structures from the 1800s constitute Winedale village, a division of the Center for American History at The University of Texas in Austin.  A German community cultivated grapes here in the late 1800s.  Houston philanthropist Ima Hogg purchased the land, part of Stephen F. Austin's original colony, and donated it to the university in 1965.  Each July and August, the site hosts Shakespeare at Winedale, plays presented by university students in a 19th-century barn converted to an Elizabethan theater.  Other programs go on year-round, and the visitor center is open weekdays, with docent-led tours available by prior arrangement.  Otherwise, visitors may stroll the grounds without entering the half-dozen historical structures and enjoy the small lake and picnic area. 

    If the small-town charm and high-fallutin activities make it hard to leave, no problem. The rolling hills around Round Top harbor dozens of bed-and-breakfast establishments."