Round Top — the biggest little city in Texas in April
Round Top, Texas: Population 77
On one square mile of land at the eastern edge of Fayette County, Texas, the town of Round Top came to life in the 1830s as “Townsend Settlement.”
According to legend, the town’s modern name derives from a local house that served as a stagecoach stop. From its high, round top, settlers would keep watch for the inbound stage on the chance that it needed defense from raiders.
Historically the town has never been large, except when measured by influence.
Virtually every seriously researched publication on the history, arts, architecture, decorative arts, culture and civilization of early Texas mentions the activities of Round Top. The spring from which Round Top’s influence flowed was a distinctive local culture with roots many thousands of miles away in Central Europe.
Specifically, during the second half of the 19th century, German immigrants settled in and around the town. As their numbers grew, the new German-Texans began impressing their culture on the area. As their population swelled to 250, they developed an extraordinarily colorful community, with a town square bordered on three sides by a commercial district that had a doctor’s office, a bank, businesses of various types and a variety of popular saloons.
Round Top is much different today, though no less cultured and colorful. On week days, time moves slowly and gently. Direct descendants of the town’s early German-American settlers can be seen gathering each morning for coffee and conversation. Visitors might easily underestimate the town’s population, which stands at 77.
Weekends in Round Top are another matter. A community of professionals from Houston, San Antonio and Austin arrives each Friday evening. Men, women and children pursue every definition of leisure and retreat, before heading back to the hustle of big-city life on Sunday afternoon. Indeed, Round Top lives up to its sobriquet, “The biggest little city in Texas.”
Several times annually Round Top and its neighboring communities swell by many thousands more. Visitors are drawn from across the United States in search of great deals on art, antiques and collectibles because the spring and fall antique shows attract numerous quality dealers. They’ll also find actors filling the town with instruments, melodies and soliloquies. Shakespearean dramas are on stage in nearby Winedale and world-class orchestral and chamber music is at Festival Hill.
The two largest of the antiques show in Round Top, which take place the first week in April, are highlighted below. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. For miles in every direction you will find field after field of vendors set up and selling, with a flea market atmosphere. The towns of Round Top and Warrenton literally are taken over with vendors, so plan more than one day if you can. It can take a week or more to take it all in.
And lucky the visitor to the spring shows — the fields are alive with bluebonnets, the state flower of Texas.
Most of the events can be reached easily from State Highway 290 or FM 237. Some of the smaller fields open up the week before, so call in advance, check the Web sites listed, or contact the Round Top Chamber of Commerce for more details.
The Texas Pioneer Arts Foundation contributed to this article, visit www.texaspioneerarts.org.
Round Top Area Chamber of Commerce
PO Box 216
Round Top, Texas 78954
Original Round Top Antiques Fair
“We had an incredible show,” said Round Top promoter Susan Franks, referring to the fall version of her Original Round Top Antiques Fair. “Our remarkable dealers came through under such adverse conditions,” she said. With the hurricanes arriving in late August and then again in late September just prior to show time, many Round Top exhibitors were affected. Still, pointed out Franks, her dealers are professionals. “Our dealers are a close-knit group, very supportive of each other,” she said. Despite the devastation, “our show space sold out in every location.” Even better, the show’s attendance was down only slightly.
There are four sales locations that make up the Round Top Antiques Fair: the Big Red Barn, the Rifle Hall, the Great White Tent and Carmine Dance Hall.
For nearly 38 years, folks have come to the Round Top Antiques Fair to find true antiques. True Americana is the specialty at this nationally recognized show. Dealers throughout the October show reported selling top-quality period furniture, both formal and country, as well as fine accessories. Dealer Marion Atten, of Antiques at Hillwood Farms, has been showing at Round Top for years, and said, “It ranks high on my favorites list. I would not be driving from Illinois twice a year to Texas if it wasn’t such a worthwhile show.”
Ohio dealer John Orban sold his huge, beautifully hand-carved Black Forest bear for its asking price within five minutes of the fall show’s opening. It was a museum-quality piece, just the kind of one-of-a-kind antique for which Round Top has become known.
With more than 300 booths, Round Top offers fine antiques in a wide variety of categories. It’s not just a country antiques show. One can buy glass and china, quality jewelry, sewing tools, early advertising, and English and European antiques, just to name a few examples. Opening day is always hectic with heavy buying, and many dealers come prepared with additional stock to fill in the empty spaces from the first day’s sales. Customers often return to the show several times, as they know they’ll see antiques they didn’t see earlier. It’s a Mecca for serious antiquers willing to spend thousands of dollars, yet fun shopping for first-timers with more modest budgets. The show has such a strong reputation for affordable, real antiques that some customers actually plan their vacations around the show dates.
Held twice each year in April and October, the next Round Top Antiques Fair will be April 6-8. It’s an easy show to find — midway between Austin and Houston, on Highway 237 just off Highway 290. Tickets can be purchased at any of the show’s four sites, and are good for entry to all parts of the show. To make it even easier, each ticket has a map on it showing all sites.
For more information, contact show promoter Susan Franks at (512) 237-4747, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marburger Farm Antiques Show
Marburger Farm Antique Show’s gone country? Yes, we mean the show where otherwise perfectly polite Texans arm wrestle over ormolu, and bergere chairs depart in battered pickups.
And yes, the April 4-8 version of the show has sort of “gone country,” if you mean English country, Italian country, Swedish country, country French, a little Chinese country and what’s being referred to these days as Continental Country. Of course, that’s along with dozens and dozens of the very best dealers in American country antiques in the country, and the show’s special guest, Country Living magazine.
Marburger Farm Show owner John Sauls plans to roll out a red carpet (over the hay) to Country Living magazine, which will be live on location at Marburger Farm on opening day April 4 and again April 5. Shoppers will be greeted by Country Living editor Nancy Soriano and her team for a book signing and interactive decorating and antiques demonstrations, as well as craft and cooking projects. The 375-dealer blockbuster show then continues on through April 8.
“At Marburger Farm,” said Sauls, “many shoppers mix formal and country antiques. We’ll have it all, from the Santa Monica shop Urban Country to the 150 crates of country smalls that Shirley and Peter Pjinappels are packing up from the Netherlands.” When asked “What are you bringing?” the Pjinappels answered, “How about huge old antler chandeliers from Belgium and the Black Forest? They invented country.” Also in those 150 containers will be early fireplace irons, chocolate molds, carnival and carousel figures, enamelware and cement and iron garden antiques from Germany and France.
Garden and architectural antiques draw crowds at the spring edition of the twice-yearly show. Calvin Murphy of Yarbro’s Antiques in Jackson, Tenn., calls it “outdoorsy-type stuff, all over 100 years old. What I’ve put back for Texas is a big trellis, pots, concrete, garden chairs. And I’m trying to pull out an old store counter in early white paint, I mean early.”
Robin Morgan of Richmond, Texas, takes the same approach, dismantling house parts from Pennsylvania for new Texas homes. Morgan will offer “an architectural dream” — an over 8-feet-tall, drop-front cupboard in nine colors of flamed and ebonized early paint. “I dreamed about it,” she said, “for two years before I decided to buy it. It’s a beaut.”
The Marburger Farm Antique Show opens April 4 for early buying at 10 a.m. with $20 admission. Regular $8 admission starts that day at 2 p.m. Show hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. Admission is good all week with 27 acres of free parking.
For information on maps, travel, lodging, bus trips, on-site shipping and food, call Sauls at (800) 947-5799, or see www.roundtop-marburger.com.
Where to start
Abbieland Antique Show
B Bar B Events
Blue Hills at Round Top
Cole’s Antique Show
Cummins Creek at Round Top
DYD Square Fair
Marburger Farm Antique Show
Old Depot Antiques
Round Top Folk Art Fair & Creative Market
Round Top Hill Antiques & RV
The Original Round Top Antiques Fair
Bo & Susan Franks
Shelby Antique Show
Labahia Antiques Show & Sale
More fields can be found in Burton, Carmine, Fayetteville, Oldenburg, Round Top, Shelby, and Warrenton.