The Twin Sisters Dance Hall By Patrick Cox, Ph.D.
A one. A two. And away we go with the flow of Texas music on a Saturday night at the Twin Sisters Dance Hall, located just off US Hwy. 281 about six miles south of Blanco. The region is a hotbed of dancehalls that includes venerable venues in nearby Kendalia, Luckenbach and Fischer. Twin Sisters fits right in.
The nineteenth century dance hall stands among the stately Live Oak trees. The exact date of the venue’s origin is undetermined, but most estimates cite the mid-1870’s. The hall’s exterior is a checkboard tin pressed in the pattern of stone blocks and is multicolored from years of exposure to the sun and rain. Multiple casement windows surround the building to allow sunlight during the day. At nighttime inside the dance hall, thousands of tiny white lights wrap around the wooden columns and are strung across the ceiling to illuminate the aged wooden dance floor that dates back to 1911. On either side of the interior floor, dancers and visitors sit at long communal tables – just as their predecessors have done since the 19th century.
When German immigrant Max Krueger moved to the Texas Hill Country west of New Braunfels, he built a structure and a tradition that remains active to this day over 140 years later. Krueger’s Twin Sisters Dance Hall, originally named the Twin Sisters Hallen Verein, dates from the 1870s. He held regular dances and events and imported beer from St. Louis to sell to his thirsty patrons. Krueger’s dancehall gained notoriety during his lifetime and built a tradition that has lasted for generations. (Krueger also built a traditional bowling alley adjacent to the dancehall, which burned down in 1967).
The name “Twin Sisters” originated from the two identical peaks located in the nearby hills. When Krueger moved to the sparsely settled region, he established his ranch, a warehouse, a gristmill, cotton gin and other structures to help build the small Twin Sisters community.
Today, the Twin Sisters Dance Hall is owned and operated by the Twin Sisters Hall Club, a non-profit corporation. Jo Nell Haas, the current president of the organization, stated, “Since the 1900s, Twin Sisters Dance Hall has maintained a tradition of families coming together to enjoy music and dance. This community gathering place provides a focus on cultural education, historic preservation and a way of life in the Texas Hill Country.”
Over the years, the Twin Sisters Hall has hosted many special events in addition to Saturday night music and dances. Community organizations utilized and continue to use the building for meetings, educational sessions, social affairs, weddings, and fund raising events. People from church and school groups, private parties and family reunions have consumed untold quantities of barbecue, chicken, pies, beans, potato salad and, of course, cold beer. The Twin Sisters Hall is also available for private functions.
Jo Nell Haas is proud of the long tradition of the historic dance hall. She said, “Max Krueger and Henry Bruemmer, Jr., the founders, set in motion for future generations the tradition of music/dancing/history/community and families.” Krueger sold the hall and 2.5 acres to Henry Bruemmer who later sold the hall in 1915 to the Twin Sisters Club for five dollars. The Twin Sisters Dance Hall is now owned by the non-profit organization that plays its role protecting and promoting the heritage of the facility. “So many people are trying to find their roots and their place in life,” Haas noted.
Jo Nell and her husband Joe have a strong, sentimental connection with Twin Sisters Dance Hall. “My husband has been involved with this dancehall since he was a very young boy and has served on the board/membership for over 30 years,” she stated. Recalling some of her ownfond memories of the hall, she said, “I grew up dancing there and met Joe there at the dance. Both of our girls had their wedding reception there.” However, Haas noted that although women participated over the years in events, working and volunteering, women “were NOT allowed to bemembers until the late 1990’s.” That has changed. “Now, I have been involved since then and have been Board President for two years.”
“So many people I have met, talked with, and or know learned to dance on their parents’ feet or slept under the tables while their parents danced the night away,” she added.
Jo Nell’s husband Joe recounted a colorful story about his grandfather coming to the Twin Sisters Hall. “As a young man he rode many miles to the dance. The next morning after the dance he woke up after he had fallen asleep on his horse standing in front of their gate,” Joe Haas recalled. At least he made it to his horse.
Other stories from long ago shed light on some of the rowdy Saturday night gatherings at Twin Sisters Dance Hall. Founder Max Krueger wrote that in the early days “a great many pistol-toters and bullies flocked to the place from more distant settlements, and after they had imbibed copious drams of bad whiskey which they had brought with them, the usual brawls and fights started.” We should probably blame those events on the substandard alcohol. Fortunately, the Twin Sisters Dance Hall today is a more peaceful, safer and family-friendly venue than in Krueger’s day.
As President of the Board, Haas said the organization has a number of goals. Maintaining a historic structure is expensive. The Twin Sisters Dance Hall has a leaky roof and needs a new one, along with restoration of the numerous exterior windows. “We also are working with the Texas Historical Commission to obtain an official historical marker,” she stated. As a recognized 501 (c)(3) organization they accept charitable donations that are tax deductible and which can be made online .
Haas said that despite all of the hard work and volunteer time, the effort she and other board members and volunteers make is well worth the effort. They are also members ofTexas Dancehall Preservation, Inc. “I feel we have to protect and restore these historic halls and keep them in the public eye to keep our true meaning of Texas heritage and music,” Haas stated. “It is a Texas Culture.” And a Texas treasure.
Patrick Cox, Ph.D. a current TDHP Board Director, is a recognized and award winning historian and author. He is currently President of Patrick Cox Consultant LLC, a sixth generation Texan, and resides with his wife Brenda on their ranch near Wimberley, Texas.