In the early 1800s, Round Top, Texas wasn’t a town yet. In fact, the tract of land it now sits on was part of the American colony Stephen F. Austin established in the Tejas province of Mexico. James Winn acquired 4,428 acres in 1831, where Round Top stands today. The small community was originally known as Townsend, after an early settler named Nathaniel Townsend (whose original house still exists as the Texana Lodge). But the town was later renamed “Round Top,” in reference to the house the postmaster lived in, which featured a round tower.
The area was first settled by Englishmen who came from other parts of the United States. Later, the English were supplemented by Germans, contributing to the local food and culture of the area today. By 1850, the population in Round Top was 150, and the town had two stores, two blacksmith shops, two taverns, and a post office. According to some sources, the first Round Top Fourth of July celebration, held in 1851, gave the town the distinction of having the oldest continuous Independence Day celebration west of the Mississippi. As far as historical buildings, Round Top is home to Bethlehem Lutheran Church, the oldest active Lutheran church in Fayette County, and Moore’s Fort, the oldest building in Fayette County. Round Top is also the smallest incorporated town in Texas with a full-service public library and a local historic district.
Music and the arts have always been important to the town of Round Top. Clara Rummel, known as “the poetess of Texas,” (and for whom Rummel Square is named after) called Round Top home, and the town was proud of its string band. Today, Round Top is an internationally-recognized hub of arts and education through the Round Top Festival Institute, and draws thousands of people each year to the annual Antiques Show and performances through Shakespeare at Winedale.