Established in the 1820s, early settlers were wealthy Anglo-American plantation owners, followed by German immigrants in the 1840s. In the 1880s, the community built a precinct courthouse on the town square. The two-story, white clapboard building with a red roof and a square cupola burned in 1924 and was rebuilt. The replica still serves the community. East of the courthouse, bordered by a split-rail fence, is Henkel Square, a collection of early farmhouses and outbuildings constructed by Anglo and German craftsmen from the 1820s to the 1870s. The buildings were moved to the site to form a village museum. Art galleries, restaurants and gift shops fill the surrounding streets all of which bustle twice a year during the Round Top Antiques Fair. Overnight guests stay in the many surrounding quaint bed-and breakfast accommodations.
For the musically inclined, the International Festival Institute, just a mile from downtown, is a 200-acre complex of restored buildings and a world-class concert hall—think Europe meets Central Texas in the rolling hills between Austin and Houston. The dream of renowned classical pianist James Dick, the Institute presents concerts and choral performances year around, and hosts a summer program for international music students and faculty.
If Shakespeare is more to your liking, visit the Winedale Historical Center, four miles northeast of Round Top. From late July through mid-August, University of Texas students perform Shakespearean plays in repertory in a former hay barn dating to the 1880s. The 225-acre campus of the Winedale Historical Center was a former stagecoach stop and farmstead bequeathed to UT by Houston philanthropist Ima Hogg. The complex preserves a 19th Century farm community for the study of Texas history and culture and the decorative arts. Some barns, residences and outbuildings are original to the site; others were moved there. A nature trail, herb gardens and wildflowers contribute to the pastoral setting.