The Beat Goes On: Round Top Dance Hall
The Round Top Dance Hall was either built in 1907 or 1916 depending who you ask. While its age may be disputed, no one contests its origins.
“It served as the community hall in Wesley, Texas,” said Jon Perez, owner of the Round Top
Dance Hall and the Stone Cellar, a Texas-style pub and pizzeria, which is located on the same property. The Stone Cellar inhabits the refurbished La Grange train depot built in 1861, which was moved to the site 23 years ago.
As a side note, Wesley (population 60) is eight miles southwest of Brenham. The Czech community, established in 1859, was originally named Veseli, which means “joyous” and was the site of the first Czech school in Texas as well as the first Czech Protestant and Moravian Brethren congregation in North America. The Wesley Brethren Church, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is an example of the region’s painted churches.
“The dance hall, originally referred to as the Airway Hall, was moved to Round Top to serve as an antiques show venue 22 years ago by Howard Konetzke, the property’s previous owner,” said Perez, who has owned the business for the past two years.
According to Historic Dance Halls of East Central Texas, the Airway was so named because “. . . when its windows are raised, it appears ready for take-off.” Like all the historic halls, the Airway (aka the Round Top Dance Hall) was built prior to air conditioning, so big windows and high ceilings helped draw in the breeze to keep dancers cool.
What makes owning and running a historic dance hall special is that every one of them is a direct throwback to the day when community dance halls were the heart of the town and the main source of entertainment. They were a place of family and friends: first dances, first dates, first kisses. It’s less about what they are, although they are wonderful old structures, and more about what they represent. They are what Texas is all about.
Originally, the dance hall was used four to five times a year. It was the site of the twice-yearly antiques show as well as a handful of private events. Perez is busy breathing new life into the old hall.
“I plan to host a dance every other Saturday night—with a headliner at least quarterly,” he said.
In late May, Perez joined forces with the Texas Dance Hall Preservation Association and held a fund-raising dance featuring Asleep at the Wheel. The event sold out, and the hall was filled with dancers who love authentic country music and the feel of a time-worn wooden floor beneath their boots.
“This place was alive with music, laughter and dancing,” Perez said. “Historic halls have
always been a place for people and friends to gather. It’s all about celebrating life.”
Patrons can find out what’s happening at the Round Top Dance Hall by going to www.stonecellarwines.com or The Stone Cellar Facebook page. In addition to dances, Perez is planning a multitude of other events for the venues ranging from wiener dog races, to a gumbo cook-off, Mardi Gras bash and the semi-annual beer and wine festivals.
Round Top Dance Hall
550 N. Washington Street, Round Top, Texas 78954
The hall, depot and pavilion are available for private events.
Fayette County is home to more historic dance halls than any other county in Texas. Each one has a story. Whether they were founded by a local social club, benevolent organization or private individuals, they served as community gathering places.
Unfortunately, today many historic dance halls are disappearing because the times they are a changing. Those that continue to thrive are often used for more than dancing.
Also read about the Round Top Rifle Hall that continues to pulse with life, laughter and lots of happenings. Enjoy learning a little about their history—and attend some of their events to ensure the beat goes on.
Asleep at the Wheel in La Grange
On November 12, Asleep at the Wheel, the kings of western swing, will be headlining a fundraising dance benefiting the Texas Dance Hall Preservation Association. The dance will be held at Pavilion Hall in La Grange. While details are still pending, rumor has it that the event will open with a polka band. For more information, see texasdancehall.org .
by Lorie Woodward Cantu
photos by Anna Spencer Morse and Gary E. McKee