Spend a day in Chappell Hill
Spend a day in Chappell Hill

Thomas Manthei demonstrates the art of steel nail-making, using a reproduction of a portable forge with bellows, during a Living History Saturday event at the Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site. The exhibitions, usually the third weekend of the month, document Texas pioneer life from 1835 to 1846. Camille Wheeler photos

Soak up the town’s history, shopping and dining

By Camille Wheeler

From its lone stoplight where U.S. 290 meets FM 1155, Chappell Hill opens like a history book. The two-lane road serves as both Main Street and a stretch of the Texas Independence Trail reaching into the Washington County countryside. On this general path, Stephen F. Austin established his first colony in 1821. A small community with an estimated population of 1,000, Chappell Hill has numerous homes and businesses with national and state historic designations. The unincorporated town traces its beginnings to a time when riverboats on the Brazos River carried cotton to market. In 1838, Tennessee native Robert Wooding Chappell arrived in the area, building a cotton plantation on an original piece of Austin’s colony. Chappell’s granddaughter, Mary Hargrove Haller, bought 100 acres there in 1847, and two years later began selling lots to Chappell Hill’s first residents. Today, the community welcomes thousands of visitors annually for its Bluebonnet and Scarecrow festivals, and Independence Day Parade. With its backdrop of rolling hills and the alluring historic Main Street area, Chappell Hill is a popular weekend getaway. After soaking up the town’s history, shopping and dining, head 20 miles northeast on FM 1155 to the birthplace of the Republic of Texas in Washington.


School replica
A replica of a 1950 classroom is among the exhibits in what was the Chappell Hill Public School, built in 1927. Today, the building is the Chappell Hill Historical Society Museum, the jewel of the city’s historic district.

Visit the Chappell Hill Historical Society Museum, 9220 Poplar St., from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday. Built in 1927 as the Chappell Hill Public School, the building is home to the nation’s largest collection of paintings by renowned Black folk artist Johnnie Swearingen. Call 979-836-6033 to take a society-sponsored tour of the Main Street Historic District — where some restored structures date to the mid-to-late 1800s. Other stops on the tour include historical society-preserved sites Providence Baptist Church, built in 1873; the Circulating Library, with its original book collection dating to the 1850s; and the Rock Store, originally a general store built in 1869 from locally quarried sandstone and hand-hewn timbers. Wall tapestries there depict the town’s history. Another historic stop is Chappell Hill Bank, 5060 Main St., circa 1897; the original teller stations and vault are still in use; 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Friday, 8:30 a.m.-noon Saturday.

Some renovations are underway at the 293-acre Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site, where 59 delegates signed the Texas Declaration of Independence in 1836. The Star of the Republic Museum and the Visitor Center are scheduled to reopen in 2025, but visitors can stroll the rest of the complex to see how settlers of that era lived. 23400 Park Road 12, Washington. Get more information at www.thc.texas.gov/historic-sites (scroll to the bottom of the page and click on Washington-on-the-Brazos.)

Chappell Hill Lavender Farm, 8 miles north of town, offers events, classes and a gift shop; check chappellhilllavender.com for information, blooming season updates, plant availability and days/hours of operation; 2250 Dillard Road, Brenham; 979-251-8114.


Dining options ranked in Tripadvisor’s top restaurants are:

Bevers Kitchen & Gifts, 5162 Main St., popular for its chicken-fried steak and rich assortment of pies; 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday.

Chappell Hill Bakery & Deli, 8900 U.S. 290 E., has its own butcher shop and serves up barbecue and pastries; 6 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
Chappell Hill Sausage Company, 4255 Sausage Lane, makes its own smokehouse meats; restaurant open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday; retail shop open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.

Grapevine on Main
At wine bistro Grapevine on Main, employees retrieve bottles behind the bar by climbing a wooden ladder made in the late 1800s.

While in town, you can sample the 59 Delegates wine, plus other handcrafted selections, at Texas Star Winery, 10587 Old Chappell Hill Road, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Also get a glass at the Grapevine on Main wine bistro, 5120 Main St., open daily, live music Friday and Saturday evenings; call 979-777-3112 for lunch and dinner hours.


The Brazos Star, 5101 Main St. Handmade items galore, vintage kitchenware and homemade pickles — ask owner Mary Louise Young about her professional bowling career, too, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.

Bluebonnet House & Garden Center, 5095 Main St. Native and tropical plants, collectibles, locally made gifts and more, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday.

The leather goods are all made by hand at Chupacabra Leather Co. on Main Street, where founders and owners Steve Moreland and Stefan Akers produce specialty items such as gun belts and holsters. 

Chupacabra Leather Co., 5088 Main St. Gun holsters, knife scabbards and belts are made in the shop, 1-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, 1-4 p.m. Sunday.

Cotton Pickin's Boutique & Market, 5145 Main St. Women’s linen clothing, home decor, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, noon-4 p.m. Sunday.

Other shops worth a stop: Kippers Kountry Store, 5084 Main St., noon-4 p.m. Thursday and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, and DLS Interiors, 5075 Main St., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday.


Relax with friends at Carol’s Ice House, 5090 Main St., where owner Carol Salah is always behind the bar; noon-10 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday.

This is part of an ongoing series featuring communities in the Bluebonnet region.