Winedale - Buildings & Decorative Arts -
Wagner House and Its Log Kitchen and Smokehouse
The Wagner House is the centerpiece historical structure at Winedale. The Wagner House and the Four-Square Barn are the only two nineteenth-century structures at Winedale which are located on their original sites. The house is now named for the Wagner family who lived in it for eighty years beginning in 1882, but it was built by Samuel K. Lewis, a local surveyor and cotton farmer, after he acquired the property in 1848.
The origins of the Lewis Farmstead go back to 1831, when the Mexican government granted brothers John and William Townsend adjacent grants of a quarter league each (1,107 acres) in the Austin Colony. The property passed through several hands until it was acquired in 1848 by S. K. Lewis. Lewis constructed his two-story dog-trot home in two phases, first the east section and then the west. It is a braced timber frame structure constructed almost entirely of cedar with thirteen-foot ceilings upstairs. The house was decoratively painted by the Melchoir family, local German immmigrant artists. Sam Lewis raised mules and developed a large cotton farm on the property. In the late 1850s he was able to have a public road located in front of the main residence. By 1860 this road served as a stagecoach route from Brenham to Austin and the Lewis residence became known locally as Sam Lewis's Stopping Place. The Lewis Farm served as a place for the stagecoach to stop and for passengers and animals to briefly refresh themselves.
Samuel Lewis died in 1867, but his heirs retained the house until 1882, when they sold it to Joseph George Wagner, Sr. A cobbler from Prussian Silesia, Wagner immigrated to Texas in 1853 and resided in the Round Top area and later the adjacent Nassau farm prior to acquiring the Lewis property. Members of the Wagner family, including children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, lived in the home for the next eighty years. During that time the Wagners added a kitchen, dining room, and pantry to the Lewis House and constructed several other buildings on the farmstead, including the Spies House, which currently houses Winedale's administrative office and visitor center; the Alfred Wagner Farm House, which was renovated to serve as a Winedale dormitory and dining hall; and a small structure that housed an African-American family who worked for the Wagners. The Wagners operated several small family businesses, including a cotton gin and grist mill, a general merchandise store, a tin shop, a garage, and a service station. Prior to World War II, the general store of Joe Wagner, Jr., served as the social center of the community, selling flour, tobacco, cloth, hardware, and other staples, as well as produce from area farmers. The tradition continued after World War II when Lee Wagner opened a general store in 1950 across the road from his father's former store later adding a cafe and pool hall for evening and weekend gatherings.
The Wagner family sold its Winedale property to Mrs. Hazel Ledbetter of Houston in 1961; she in turn sold it to Miss Ima Hogg in 1963. Miss Hogg's intention was to restore and furnish the home to its mid-nineteenth-century appearance, the time when the residence was owned and occupied by the Samuel Lewis family. Restoration of the Wagner House took more than two years and involved the use of materials and construction techniques employed by early Texas craftsmen.
The outstanding feature of the interior of the Wagner House is its extensive decorative wall and ceiling painting, especially evident in the upstairs parlor. The scrolling and floral and fruit designs are the work of Rudolph Melchior, an artisan who immigrated to Fayette County from Magdeburg, Prussia, in 1853. Although no record exists of how the house was furnished when it was occupied by Samuel Lewis, Miss Hogg chose to furnish the house with furniture made by the nineteenth-century German craftsmen of the region, including several pieces once used in the house by former owners, the Wagner family. Most of the furniture is in the early nineteenth-century Biedermeier tradition of Central Europe.
The log kitchen and smokehouse located separately behind the Wagner House were added in 1966 during restoration of the main residence. The log kitchen was originally a house probably built about 1875 by Paul Koneschik and his father-in-law, Christian Mertz, between Industry and Shelby in Austin County. Originally a single-pen log structure without a fireplace, it represents the twilight of log cabin construction in the late 1800s. Ima Hogg purchased the cabin from the Giese family in 1966.
The present smokehouse, a typical single-room vernacular log building of mid-nineteenth-century Texas, was the early dwelling of German immigrant August Boecker. The cabin, originally located near the Welcome community in Austin county, featured hewn half-logs and half-dovetail notching in its construction. Miss Hogg acquired the building from the Thieleman family in 1966 and moved it to Winedale so that it could be interpreted as a smokehouse, a characteristic feature of frontier Texas farmsteads. The underground water cistern, original to the site, was excavated and rebuilt at the time of the house restoration.
The Wagner House was recorded as a Texas Historic Landmark in 1967 and entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.
The ongoing preservation and maintenance of the historic Wagner House is made possible by the generous support of Ruby D. and Alfred Wagner, Jr., the latter a descendant of Joseph George Wagner, Sr., whose family occupied the house from 1882 to 1961.