Above left: Terri Symington, designer and author of this blog to her hometown of Brenham, Texas;
Above right: A field of bluebonnets under a Texas sky
As much as I enjoy traveling or working on design projects in nearby areas of Houston or Austin, returning to my own home in the country is a pleasure and appreciation that has grown deeper within me over the past years while living here in the Brenham area. Located 63 miles northwest of Houston and 98 miles east of Austin, this is a country lover’s getaway. Life is enjoyed at a slower pace; so it is no surprise that many Houstonians and Austinites have made Brenham and surrounding areas their weekend destination with second homes that range from quaint turn-of-the-century farmhouses on a few acres of land, to large working ranches with hundreds of acres.
Springtime is a favorite season for the locals and enamored visitors when the rolling pastoral verdant terrain becomes immersed in a sea of bluebonnets. Spring is also my favorite time of year here; not just for the beautiful colors, but it is also when one of the most popular antique shows in the country occurs in Round Top, Texas. If you want to see the vivid colors of the wild flowers, now is the time to come! Anyone with a camera will be found stopped along the roads and highways (so take caution while driving). The official Bluebonnet festival is April 18-19 in Chappell Hill, here in Washington County just outside of Brenham.
From historic parks, churches, and homes, to fields of wildflowers and quarter horses, white clapboard chapels, and landmark sanctuaries, the rolling hills of Washington County offers destinations for your weekend getaway, or longer if you find it hard to leave.
Washington County was named for George Washington. The county was organized in 1837 and began as a Mexican municipality. Located near the center of Stephen F. Austin's first colony, the area was opened to settlement in 1821 under Spanish control. It is one of the earliest settled areas in Texas.
Spurred by the liberal land grants, settlers from all parts of the United States, and immigrants from western Europe gathered in the colony. The first cabins with their crops of necessity, such as corn, peas and tobacco patches, grew into ranches, plantations, and farm settlements. The early city of Washington-on-the-Brazos was started in 1821 and it developed and flourished with steamboat navigation on the Brazos River until the coming of the railroads in 1860-1880. It was also the site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence from Mexico in 1836.
In 1842, during renewed invasions by Mexico, President Sam Houston moved the capital from Austin to Washington, and German immigration began in the county in the 1850's and increased after the Civil War. Most of the large farms were divided into smaller ones and taken up by the German immigrants. The county is very proud of its German heritage and demonstrates it vividly at the annual "Maifest" celebration in Brenham.
Places of Interest to Stay
Brenham has several hotels to accommodate you; however, if you would like to experience life in the country as it is meant to be lived, you may prefer to choose from several available Bed and Breakfast locations throughout the area.
Above: A view of Country Place Bed and Breakfast
The Inn at Dos Brisas
The Inn at Dos Brisas is a secluded oasis in the Washington County countryside. With over 300 acres of rolling hills and grazing horses, the Inn and fine dining at Dos Brisas offers a culinary experience for every discriminating taste, and luxury casitas for the ultimate in weekend retreats. As a guest at The Inn at Dos Brisas you will be given the keys to the ranch, including your own Spanish-styled casita and golf cart to explore the beauty of the 300 acre ranch. Luxury accommodations offer vistas of tranquil meadows, horse paddocks and stocked ponds.
Above: Pool shot at Dos Brisas
Places to Dine
Country towns have plenty of local country style restaurants, diners and cafes, but these restaurants combine the essence of country with a contemporary blend to please the more discriminating palates.
The Inn at Dos Brisas
You can enjoy dining at Texas’ only Mobil 5 Star Restaurants (One of Houston's finest restaurants isn't in Houston at all). Tucked away in the rolling Texas countryside with flowing meadows and wildflowers, the Inn at Dos Brisas is an unusual blend of elegant sophistication and natural beauty. The Inn combines the finest amenities with rustic charm; a unique marriage of European style with down-home Texan comfort.
Eight-or five-course tasting menus that vary from night to night, and a five-course Sunday brunch menu incorporate local produce and game, as well as vegetables and herbs from the Inn's own organic garden. The exciting array of indigenous fruits, vegetables and wild game from this part of the country allows for imaginatively crafted menus that change with the seasons.
The restaurant is open for dining Thursday through Sunday from 5-9 pm, Saturday lunch from 11 am - 2 pm, and Sunday brunch, 11 am - 2 pm. Overnight stays in the luxury casitas are available throughout the week and individual meals can be prepared for casita guests.
Above: A delicious example of an entrée at The Inn at Dos Brisas
Volare Italian Restaurant
Volare promises food enthusiast a truly enjoyable dining experience. Rooted in the warm flavors of the Matera countryside, Chef Silvio DiGennaro's dishes are infused with international flavors to create distinctive tastes. Volare's menu features fresh and flavorful dishes to satisfy even the most discerning palates. An extensive wine list completes any dining experience.
Lunch: 11:00 am - 2:00 pm, Tuesday-Saturday
Dinner: 5:00 pm - 9:00 pm, Tuesday - Thursday, 5:00 pm - 9:30 pm, Friday & Saturday (Closed Sunday & Monday)
Above: Volare Italian Restaurant
The Brazos Belle is a true Country-French Restaurant located in the small town of Burton, in the rolling hills of Washington County on the scenic La Bahia Trail. Gourmet Menu worthy of Provence; fresh salmon, grilled beef/lamb, crusty breads, delicious homemade desserts served in our restored 1870-era general store!
Dinner: Friday - Saturday 5:30 pm-8:30 pm, Sunday 11:30 am-1:30 pm
Phone: (979) 289-2677.
BT Longhorn Saloon & Steakhouse
Enjoy casual dining in a historic building. Menu includes steaks, seafood, great salads, terrific hamburgers.Located at 205 S. Baylor St., Brenham.
Hours: 11 am-9 pm weekdays, 11 am-10 pm weekends, closed Tuesday
Phone: (979) 421-6700.
The building retains historical elements that have been uniquely blended with decidedly contemporary influences. The restored facade opens its many doors to downtown just off historic Main Street and facing the Washington County Courthouse Square in Brenham, TX. The interior spaces invite patrons with a whimsical mural in the Main Dining Room that encompasses the pastoral feel of Washington County.
Lunch: Tuesday-Saturday 11:30 am–2 pm
Dinner: Tuesday-Saturday 5 pm–9 pm
Sunday Brunch: 11 am–2 pm
Above top: Mural at inside Ernie's; Above bottom: the exterior of Ernie's
El Charro T Mexican Restaurant
The best Tex-Mex food you’ll find between Houston and Austin.
Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11 am-9:30 pm Friday-Saturday, 11 am-10:30 pm
3015 Hwy. 290 West, Brenham, Texas 77833
Phone: (979) 337-9515
Royers Round Top Texas
An unexpected eating experience of contemporary comfort food… from a grilled shrimp BLT on jalapeno sourdough bread to grilled pork in a Texas style café.
Cafe Hours: Thursday–Saturday 11 am–9 pm, Sunday 11 am-3 pm
Above: Interior of Royer's Round Top Texas
For humor and wit, reminiscent of the Prairie Home Companion, read the online version of “The Round Top Texas Register” and it’s archived stories: http://www.roundtop.com/
Above: Round Top family library
Round Top Family Library
A unique library in a historic building, serving children and their families with a variety of programs and resources. Also houses the Round Top Library (a regular lending library) and the Bybee Texas Heritage Collection (focuses on local history, Texas history and folklore, Texas furniture and decorative arts, as well as Texas architecture.)
Antique Rose Emporium
A garden lover’s delight! You’ll find roses of all types, as well as perennials, vines, trees, herbs, etc. Come for the inspiration and the enjoyment.
Above top and bottom: Views of the Antique Rose Emporium
Winedale Historical Center
The Winedale Historical Complex, located on 225 acres of land near Round Top, Texas, is home to historic structures and outstanding examples of early Texas furniture, decorative arts, and quilts.
Above top and bottom: A few artifacts from the Winedale Historical Center
Henkel Square Museum Village
Henkel Square is nationally recognized as an authentic restoration of Anglo-American and German-American 19th century culture where families may enjoy and experience the living tradition of Austin's pioneers. The Apothecary is the entrance to the museum village and has a wide assortment of gifts, books and displays from the Bybee Collection.
Open Wednesday-Sunday 12 pm-5 pm
Winedale: Center for the Quilt
The Winedale Center for the Quilt (WCQ) is a Center for American History (CAH) program that works in partnership with the Alliance for American Quilts to acquire, document, preserve, and present information about quilts and quilt history. The nonprofit Alliance for American Quilts, founded in 1993, is a network of scholars, curators, quilt artists, librarians, archivists, and others from around the country dedicated to recognizing quilts as works of art and as pieces of history with stories to be documented and preserved. The Winedale Center for the Quilt is one of three regional centers with which the Alliance has formalized partnership arrangements. The other two are the Center for American Material Culture Studies at the University of Delaware and the Center for Great Lakes Quilts at the Michigan State University Museum.
Shopping and Antiques
Through out Brenham and the surrounding areas you will find an endless supply of antique and collectable shops. Many of these shops are frequented by other shop vendors from metropolitan areas because of the low prices. Below are a few of my favorite shops in the area...
A designer secret for great prices on English and French antiques. Open Thursday-Saturday, or by appointment.
E. Alamo at 201 S. Market
Phone: (979) 421-6808
Above: Kellerhouse Antiques
106 Saint Charles St.
Phone: (979) 203-4099
Mary Anne and her husband Peter have created a delightful shop which attracts customers and designers from all over Texas.
Above top, middle, and bottom: Interior and exterior shots of Beadboard Upcountry
Ranch Antiques at Commerce Street
Hand selected from the owner's South American buying trips.
117 W. Commerce St
Brenham, TX 77833
Phone: (979) 277-0008
This is the place to go when you are looking for “country” antiques and collectables.
Open 10-6 Daily
3900 Hwy. 290 W Brenham, Texas 77833
Phone: (979) 830-8496
Above top, middle, and bottom: Interior and exterior shots of Leftovers
Festivals and Events
Festivals are a natural part of country living to celebrate the unique culture, qualities and gifts of the particular areas. The local chamber of commerce’s will have a complete listing of all events, as well as the individual websites listed below.
Round Top Antique Show: Semi-Annual Antique Market
As one of the most anticipated shows of the year, I can always count on the same vendors to be there year after year, spring and fall, with their best finds that they have acquired from around the world.
The communities both en-route to the show, and in the area, have special antiques and crafts events timed to occur simultaneously with the Round Top shows either in local shops or at shared locations. This is true in Fayetteville, Flatonia, Bellville, Columbus, La Grange, Brenham and Schulenburg, to name a few.
As one buyer said Marburger Farm is the destination show. Lots of people go to the surrounding fields, but the decorators and designers and real buyers go to Marburger Farm". This also happens to be the area of my choice as well, along with “Access”, which is about a mile up the road from Marburger’s.
Above top, second from the top, third from the top, and bottom:
More examples of some of the treasures to be found at the Round Top Antique Semi-Annual Show
A comprehensive guide to for sellers and buyers for the semi-annual shows at Round Top and surrounding areas: http://www.antiqueweekend.com/indexmain.html
The International Festival-Institute at Round Top
This place deserves a story all it's own and is one of the places that you don’t want to miss when you are in the area! This fabulous cultural center and institution was the vision of one man that became a reality because of his passion for music. You must check out their web site for all the events and offerings, which goes far beyond the annual music concerts.
Located in historic Round Top, Texas, The James Dick Foundation for the Performing Arts and its sole project, The International Festival-Institute at Round Top, were founded in 1971 by world-renowned concert pianist James Dick. Begun with a handful of gifted young pianists in rented space on the town square, the project is now an internationally acclaimed European-styled music institute for aspiring young musicians and distinguished faculty.
Over a thirty eight year period, and with the help of its patrons and friends, The James Dick Foundation for the Performing Arts has developed superb year round education and performance programs. It has also created a unique 210-acre campus, “Festival Hill”, containing major performance facilities, historic houses, extensive gardens, parks and nature preserves. Through its singular collection of rare books, manuscripts, archival material, music and historic recordings, photographs and objects, the Festival-Institute is also known as an important center for research and scholarly study.
Above: Festival Hill
The gardens at Festival Hill are becoming known throughout the US for their extraordinary collection of herbs, the useful plants of mankind.
In the Brenham downtown historic district, within walking distance from dining, shops and lodging you will find professional actors, directors, designers, and technicians that have come together to bring stories and characters to life. Many of these artists are acclaimed in the Texas theatre community.
Official Bluebonnet Festival of Texas
April 18-19; Saturday 10 am-6 pm, Sunday noon-5 pm Texas Highway's #7 Most Popular Festival! 300+ booths, food, live music, fun in the heart of bluebonnet country. Free admission. Downtown Chappell Hill Texas.
Phone: (979) 836-6033 or 1 (888) 273-6426
The Brenham Maifest, one of the oldest spring German festivals in the South, will hold its 119th celebration on May 8-9, 2009 at Fireman's Park in Brenham, Texas. The Maifest is a community-wide festival celebrating local German heritage through the youth of the community in light of the joys of springtime. Highlights of the Brenham Maifest include extravagant parades, elegant coronations, a children's carnival and culminates with the Maifestival. The "German Village" promotes the German Heritage of Brenham and Washington County.
The celebrations begin both days at 10:30 am in downtown Brenham with a parade. The Maifestival is held Friday and Saturday at Fireman’s Park. Beginning Friday evening at 5:30 pm you have events with music, children’s carnival, festival food and drinks. The Junior Coronation will be held Friday evening with young children participating in an elaborate outdoor ceremony, which provides entertainment and the presentation of the Junior King and Queen. On Saturday, the Maifestival will begin at 11 am at Fireman's Park with German Village and Kinder Village activities, along with German music, arts & crafts, and the Children's Carnival. The Senior Coronation will be held Saturday evening with former royalty and high school students providing entertainment for this outdoor event, the culmination of the Maifest Celebration is highlighted by the presentation of the Senior King and Queen.
Maifest's German Village seeks to tell the story of the German pioneers who came to Brenham, Washington County, and the surrounding areas between the late 1840's to the mid and later 1800's. These folks came here from a number of different areas of Germany, bringing their particular dialects and customs, and ultimately becoming uniquely "German-Texans."
Shakespeare at Winedale
Shakespeare at Winedale is a University of Texas program dedicated to bringing Shakespeare to life through performance. This institution was founded by Professor James B. Ayres on the belief that the best way to study Shakespeare’s plays is to perform them. Shakespeare at Winedale offers a unique opportunity to explore these rich and complex texts through the creative act of play. Shakespeare at Winedale is a program of the Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts, but many of its activities are centered on the Winedale Historical Center near Round Top, Texas, where for more than thirty-five years, students and audiences have come to encounter Shakespeare’s living.
Above: Shakespeare at Winedale
“The Winedale Story” is a permanent exhibit on display in Hazel's Lone Oak cottage at Winedale. The exhibit features facsimiles of photographs, maps, manuscripts, newspapers, and artifacts drawn from the Center for American History's extensive Texas history collections. The display is divided into two parts, each occupying one side of the “dog trot” or breezeway that divides Hazel's Lone Oak Cottage.
The first portion of the exhibit describes the natural setting and the history of the Fayette County area that Winedale now occupies. It features maps of roads and settlements in early Texas; entries from Stephen F. Austin's famous “List of Titles,” in which he recorded the names of settlers in his Austin Colony; and excerpts from narratives of immigrants and former slaves who lived in the area. Photographs and manuscripts also document the social and economic changes in the Winedale area during the periods of German and Czech settlement in the region, the Civil War and Reconstruction, and in the first half of the 20th century.
The second part of “The Winedale Story” explains the crucial role played by Houston philanthropist Miss Ima Hogg in the development of the Winedale property into a museum site. A noted preservationist and daughter of Texas governor James Stephen Hogg, Miss Hogg purchased in 1963 Winedale's historic Wagner House and the land on which it stood. Photographs and architectural drawings depict how Miss Hogg then assembled other area historic structures onto the property, renovated them, and then donated the entire Winedale property to the University of Texas in 1967.
Written by Terri Symington, ASID
Terri Symington, ASID is a Texas State Registered Interior Designer. Her design projects support an eclectic mix of styles and periods to create atmospheres that are original, inviting, and comfortable and do not look “decorated” or trendy; but rather seek a timeless style, which will maintain their appeal.
“I don’t have a signature “style” that defines my projects, but I do prefer to keep my designs clean and sophisticated… you won't find “cute” in my vocabulary, unless it is in a baby's nursery. It doesn't matter if a project is predominately traditional or warm contemporary, I like to eliminate as much of the unnecessary “stuff” that gets in the way of the lines of the design. Additionally, I think most people can use less visual clutter in their spaces to simplify their lives. What ultimately makes each project successful is the application and attention to the details.”
Her designs are an interpretation of the clients' visions into uniquely individual spaces; integrating architectural and interior design solutions while remaining environmentally conscience in the design choices. Environmentally conscience design does not sacrifice style or quality, and is an essential principle used in creating eco-luxury spaces that fill the functional needs and desires of the client.
T. Symington & Co. Interiors is centrally located in the rolling hills of Washington County and serving the Houston, Austin, Brazos Valley and surrounding areas.
To contact Terri Symington:
Places of Interest
Brenham, Washington County and the surrounding towns and counties are rich in Texas history, which is reflected in the local culture.
Washington on the Brazos State Historical Park
The birthplace of Texas… where the “Declaration of Independence” from Mexico was signed.
Check out their calendar of events.