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Bandera is the County seat of Bandera County, in the Texas Hill Country, pop. 857 in the 2010 census.
Legend has it it was so named because back in the 19th century, a flag was placed at the top of a path that came to be called Bandera Pass, due to bandera being the Spanish word for flag.
Bandera was the starting point of the Great Western Cattle Trail, during the second half of the 19th century.
Bandera is about 2 hours southwest of Austin. and 47 miles northwest of San Antonio, on the Medina River. We chartered a tour van to take us from Austin to Bandera for the day. We wanted to see Bandera because it is known as the "Cowboy Capital of the World". On Sunday mornings, Bandera is a popular destination for motorcyclists from San Antonio, known as the Bandera Breakfast Run.
Our first stop along the way is in San Marcos, home to Texas State Universityabout 30 miles outside Austin. We go to the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, formerly the Aquarena Center, on Spring Lake, to take the Glass Bottomed Boat tour. The tour lasts about 30 minutes. Since 1945, the glass-bottom boat tours in San Marcos have given folks of all ages an "in-depth" look at the timeless beauty of the San Marcos river. As the boats glide across the crystal waters of Spring Lake you'll see why ancient peoples revered this place. You'll also see some of the 1,000 springs that form the headwaters of one of the most beautiful rivers in Central Texas; and catch glimpses of the inhabitants here too. Bluegill Sunfish, Channel Catfish, Soft Shell turtles, all call Spring Lake home.
We pile back into the van after coffee and a nosh and head straight through to Bandera., where we stop at Brick’s River Cafe for lunch. Then back into the van to the Frontier Times Museum. As visitors walk through the museum’s doors, they are transported back to the days when museums served as cabinets of curiosities, displaying wonderful and weird treasures. Museum founder and luminary, J. Marvin Hunter, Sr., never said no to a gift to the museum’s collection. He felt that if the artifact was important to the donor, then it should be important to everyone. This resulted in the museum’s eclectic and eccentric collection that has amazed visitors for 80 years. Today, the museum also serves to honor the legacies of the American cowboy and our ranching traditions with displays on local rodeo champions, the Harvey Chelf Barbed Wire Collection, the Debbie Henderson Western Hat Collection, and the Frontier Times Museum Texas Heroes Hall of Honor.
Bandera's title, "Cowboy Capital of the World" originated when it became a staging area for the last great cattle drives of the late 1800s. Confirming Bandera as the "Cowboy Capital of the World", a bronze monument honoring the many National Rodeo Champions who call Bandera home, stands on the Courthouse lawn.
We did a walking tour of Bandera which included seeing some of the following:
HISTORICAL WALKING TOUR OF BANDERA
1. Schmidtke-Callahan House (McMullan Insurance) (1870): Built by James Henry White of Georgia for Charles F. Schmidtke, early-day merchant, sawmill and gristmill operator. Recorded Texas Historical Lankmark.
2. Old Jail (1881): Designed by noted English architect, Alfred Giles, who designed a lot of Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. Recorded Texas Historical Landmark andlisted on the National Historical Register.
3. Old Courthouse (JP Offices) (1865): Built by Henry White as a store. Purchased by the county in 1877 and used as a Courthouse until 1890. Recorded Texas Historical Landmark. On National Register.
4. Carmichael and Hay Store (Western Trail Antiques Mall of Bandera) (1868): Built by Henry White and operated as a general store. This structure claims the oldest elevator west of San Antonio.
5. Huffmeyer Store (Shoe Biz & The Junction) (1878): Built by B.F. Langford for Emil Huffmeyer. Recorded Texas HistoricalLandmark.
6. O.S.T. (Old Spanish Trail) (1921): Established across Main Street and moved to present location (previous site of Huffmeyer Store's wagon yard) in 1923. Building burned in 1933 but the O.S.T. continued operations in nearby location until present rock building was constructed that same year.
7. Old First National Bank (1875): Built of limestone by W.J. "Short Bill" Davenport and operated as a private bank for several years.
8. Lee Risinger Store: Second home of First State Bank. Adjacent building was Cox Hall, Bandera's first theater.
9. The Silver Dollar (1901): First as the Fox Hole and later Arkey Blue's Silver Dollar, it's the oldest continuously operating honkytonk in Texas.
10. Stein's of Bandera(1908): First housed the feed store of Henry and Tom Stevens and later was the B.F. Langford and Son Hardware Store. The Langfords also operated a funeral parlor here.
11. Oldest stone building in Bandera (1855): Built by P.D. Saner, this much altered structure was used as a courthouse, school, store, funeral home with the first ambulance/hearse in Bandera County, and residence. It was sold in 1869 to Henry Stevens, Sr. for $75.00.
12.Old First State Bank (Law Office) (1850): On a site bought by John James in 1842, the old two-story rock building was used for a school between 1860 and 1879. In the 1880s, it was known as the Bandera Institute, operated by a Professor Ryan, thought by some to be the fugitive John Wilkes Booth. Recorded Texas Historical Landmark.
13. M. Boyle Store (Antique Store) (1908): A frame building with a false front. Established by Irish immigrant brothers, it was an active turn of the century business.
14. Old Blacksmith Shop (1850s): Used by John James and Charles de Montel while surveying the town. It was used by the Methodist Church in mid 1860s; B.F. Langford's cabinet shop during the 1870's; blacksmith and wheelwright shop and later from the 1920s to 1950s it was a doctors office.
15. River Front Motel (1947): Originally the Half Circle Courts. House that serves as office was built in the 1880s.
16. Catholic Cemetery (1850s): Established after 16 Polish families came to Bandera in 1855. Names of these early immigrants are listed on a monument in front of the church.
17. Old Rectory (1930): Built from stone from a previously used addition to the church.
18. St. Stanislaus Catholic Church (1876): Established by the Polish colonists who came to Bandera in 1855. Their 1858 log building was located where the present gothic vernacular stone structure stands. It is the second oldest Polish church in Texas. Recorded Texas Historical Landmark.
19. Jureczki-Tobin House (1876): Built by Mr. And Mrs. Franz Jureczki, early pioneer colonists from Poland. Recorded Texas Historical Landmark. On National register.
20. St. Joseph's Convent-Parish Museum (1874): Originally erected for the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception as a convent; later used as a school for children of early Polish settlers. Recorded Texas Historical Landmark.
21. St. Joseph's School (Parish Hall) (1920): This hipped-roof symmetrical two story rock structure was designed from older plans of the Bandera Public School Building making it look older that it really is.
22. Carmichael Home (Mansion in Bandera) (1890): Built by H.H. Carmichael. This house was started in Medina, Texas. An Indian raid so disturbed Carmichael's wife, that he moved it down river to Bandera.
23. First Methodist Church (1867): The original frame building was later replaced by a stone structure that has since been enlarged to its present architectural plan. Recorded Texas Historical Landmark.
24. Kronkosky Library (1934): a WPA project of the great depression era. Remodeled in the 1970s and enlarged in 2002.
25. Bandera School Campus (Old High School built by WPA, 1937; Old Elementary School, 1913): The 1913 school was the first substantially built, multi-room public school in the area and is still in continuous use.
26. Cabaret (1936): Such stars as Jim Reeves, Bob Wills, Willie Nelson and many other giants of Country/Western music have played this dance hall.
27. Courthouse (1890): Designed by B.F. Trester, Jr., work started by Ed Braden and Son of San Antonio and completed by E. Huffmeyer, local merchant and contractor. Stone for the building was quarried locally and laid by itinerant Russian stonemasons. Recorded Texas Historical Landmark. On National Register.
28. First Baptist Church (1908): The entire block was bought in 1883 and given to the church by F.L. Hicks in 1884. The old church was completed in 1908 and later replaced by the present structure in1908.
29. Frontier Times Museum (1933): Built by frontier journalist-historian J. Marvin Hunter to house collections of Texana. Maintained by Frontier Times Museum, Inc. Recorded Texas Historical Landmark.
Exhausted, we piled back into the van and headed back to Austin, stopping in New Braunfels along the way for dinner at Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que.
By the time we arrived back in Austin, we were all ready to collapse into our beds to rest up for the next sightseeing trip.