Neuhaus General Store – Hackberry

A sixth-sense told me that driving down FM 532 would reveal a gem of a building.    I was more than gratified to find this well-preserved example of mid-Nineteenth Century Texas vernacular architecture.  The false front of the building was a commonly-used device in the design of commercial buildings of the mid-Nineteenth Century.  It implied a much taller building, the artifice of which was only revealed when the viewer turned the corner.  In all likelihood, the General Store was flanked by other buildings, which may have helped preserve the illusion.  I particularly like the additional architectural touches of  applied wooden louvers at the “attic level” and faux shuttered windows on the “second level”.  But the design element that most enhances this building is the three-part covered porch topped by a delicate wrought-iron railing.  I wish we knew what stood on either side of this building.

Hackberry is on Farm Road 532 eleven miles northeast of Hallettsville in northeastern Lavaca County.  It was settled in 1847 by L. E. Neuhaus on land he purchased from Stephen F. Austin.  Neuhaus farmed the property for several years before opening a steam sawmill-gristmill in 1853.  He added a cotton gin several years later.  A Methodist church was built in the community in 1861, and this building was also used as a school until it burned in 1896. Hackberry, named for a grove of hackberry trees near the Neuhaus home, received a post office in 1862.  In 1865 Neuhaus built a general store, which was rebuilt in 1880 as a large two-story building. In the 1860s substantial numbers of German immigrants settled in what had been a predominantly Anglo community.  By 1884 the town had an estimated population of 300, seven steam gristmill-cotton gins, two churches, a school, a saloon, a blacksmith shop, and a tin shop.  Successive new school buildings were put up in 1896, 1904, and 1928.  Hackberry had 119 inhabitants in 1900, and the post office closed in 1906.  By the 1930s Hackberry’s population had fallen to seventy-five, and in 1940 the community had a school, a cemetery, a business, and a number of scattered dwellings.   The school had been consolidated with that of Hallettsville by the 1960s, and in 1981 Hackberry had a few scattered homes.  It was still shown on state highway maps in 1992.

REFERENCES:  Mark Odintz, “HACKBERRY, TX (LAVACA COUNTY),” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hrh03).  Published by the Texas State Historical Association;  Texas Escapes.com