Texas Traveler: Chappell Hill

If you decide to head up to Lavenderfest, you might be wondering what else you can do to make your drive worthwhile.

It turns out that Chappell Hill, home of Lavenderfest, is one of the most interesting almost-ghost towns in the Houston area. Once, it was one of the largest towns in Texas, with a population of 3,000 people around the time of the Civil War. The town suffered massively during the yellow fever outbreak of 1867 and never quite recovered, but its Main Street retains the stagecoach-y charm of the old community enough that it is listed on the National Register of Historical Places. You can read more about the odd, versatile history of the town at the Handbook of Texas Online.

On the way up 290, be sure to stop at the Chappell Hill Sausage Factory for some mystery meat to take home. They sell everything from garlic links to cheese to jerky and ready-to-eat cold cuts.

In town, you can easily waste a couple of hours checking out turn-of-the-century antiques at half a dozen different shops, or you can take your newly-purchased lunch meats to The Masonic Cemetery (established in 1855) to commune with the dead in a beautiful and not-too-eerie setting.

A number of nearby towns are host to B&Bs (you can even stay in an old plantation) and if you're there on a Sunday, look into attending Mass at the St. Stanislaus Parish, established in 1889 by Polish immigrants, the bringers of kolaches to Texas. Next month the church will host its 71st annual community bazaar.

And before you hit the highway back to the drone of city life, make one last stop at one of the area wineries. Windy Hill Winery is one of the few who grown their own grapes on premises. Drive down the long road with back-bending tress that give the winery its name and you can enjoy a standard tasting or fancier, more expensive tasting which includes a cheese plate and other snacks. Texas Traveler thinks their Tejas Port is delicious.

On August 8-9, the weekend of Lavenderfest, they'll be hosting a grape stomp, where you can mash the fruit with your toes just like Lucille Ball.

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