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Round About Round Top — What’s New, What’s Next in America’s Antiques Mecca

Stylish Hotel Cottages, Lee Ellis' Smokehouse, Minden Square, The 303 and More

BY Catherine D. Anspon and Anne Lee Phillips // 10.22.20

Editor’s note: With Round Top’s 2020 Fall Antiques Show underway, Catherine D. Anspon and Anne Lee Phillips take a look at what’s new and what’s next in America’s antiques mecca.

La Dolce Vita Round Top

“A full-service hotel experience and a little dolce vita” is how Cinda Palacios describes her most recent Round Top endeavor — a project she shares with her husband, restaurateur Armando Palacios.

As you read this, they’re racing to unveil Hotel Lulu, timed for an early 2021 opening. Sited in the heart of Round Top on a one-acre property (formerly Bybee Square), the 13-room hotelcita is adjacent to Cinda and Armando’s popular Lulu’s Italian restaurant (the couple also owns Mandito’s Mexican restaurant and Popi Burger in Round Top and Armandos restaurant in Houston).

Hotel Lulu’s six vintage guest cottages were once small shops in Bybee Square and the interiors have been restored and updated by designer Richard Holley who worked hand-in-hand with Cinda, an architect by profession. A wash of charcoal-gray paint ties the cottages together, while lush grounds, an herb garden, and a meditation water garden encircled by walls of jasmine were designed by Melissa Flowers of Brenham-based Glasco.

Shimmering within the gardens is the town’s only pool. Expect people gazing in a Slim Aaron’s kind of way. Hotel Lulu’s mindset is inspired by ’60s/’70s Italian culture — the concept of settling into a dark corner of the hotel bar with no plans of going anywhere while Domenico Modugno croons in the background — something nostalgic for experienced travelers and refreshingly cool for a younger crowd.

The pool, the herb garden, the formal garden, the restaurant, and the intimate bar, Il Cuculo, that make up Hotel Lulu embrace slowing down. Armandos Round Top Houses, consisting of three vintage homes located just blocks away, will now come under the Lulu lodging umbrella as well.

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  • Post Oak Hotel - 29 Degrees North
  • Post Oak Hotel - 29 Degrees North
  • Post Oak Hotel - 29 Degrees North
  • Post Oak Hotel - 29 Degrees North
  • Post Oak Hotel - 29 Degrees North
  • Post Oak Hotel - 29 Degrees North

Hotel Lulu, 204 E. Mill Street, Round Top; room rates $175 to $350. Catherine D. Anspon

Brandi Harper and Mike Wallace for The 303

Christmas Comes Early

Kevin and Brandi Harper, along with partners Steve and Lisa Khoury, are developing the old Merry Christmas space on North Washington into a retail venue dubbed The 303. When we spoke to them, the Harpers had already moved four buildings to the property, with an additional three on the way.

The seven buildings, preserved from area farms, are all more than 100 years old, including a 1907 Montgomery Ward kit home. In the restored buildings, which is in its soft opening, the Harpers will sell their own Worn & Weathered handmade and vintage clothing and furniture, and host other vendors including Age of Industry and Design, Mallory et Cie, Teal Sky Studio, and Bombshell Betty jewelry.

Also coming this fall is Bandanas bar and restaurant, serving up drinks from a converted chicken coop turned bar, with plenty of porches, gardens, and al fresco places to enjoy chef Eddie Hill’s tomahawk steak (on weekends) and other offerings.

The 303, 303 N. Washington, instagram.com/the303roundtop. Anne Lee Phillips

Mark Massey, developer of the new Minden Square. (Photo by Jack Thompson)

Minding Minden Square

One of Round Top’s most exciting destinations debuts this fall with Minden Square opening. Two years in the making, the new nexus at the intersection of South Washington and Austin streets in the center of town was dreamed up by Mark Massey, who also owns The Compound, Henkel Square, and Rummel Square.

Massey has transformed Minden Square with three handsome 19th-century/early-20th-century houses, moved then restored on site by custom contractor/builder David Stone. Round Top Brewing is in the Victorian-era Peake House, neighbored by the Lillitop Sweetshop in a circa-1900s structure; the third building, the Menn House, dates from the 1860s. (Stay tuned for more Round Top real estate updates at PaperCityMag.com.)

When Brooke and Paul Michie open Round Top Brewing this winter, Minden Square will return the town to its 100-plus-year heritage as a haven for brew masters and taverns serving up locally made beers, lagers, and ales. Paul Michie grew Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse into a brew-and-food empire. An antique bar back holds pride of place — a pedigreed piece from Paul’s great-grandfather’s railroad saloon in Missouri.

Of their decision to leave dual careers in Austin, Brooke says, “We’ve dreamed of doing something like this for over a decade but began putting the pieces together in 2016. We moved out to Round Top last year after being weekend warriors renovating an old farmhouse near Shelby.”

Paul and Brooke Michie are opening Round Top Brewing. (Photo by Jack Thompson)

The beers on tap are named for the landscape, people, wildlife, and culture of the area.

“First up,” Brooke says, “we have Brown Top, a reference to not only Round Top, but to a type of grain used to create cover and feed early in the year for quail, duck, deer, and game. It has a malty, cool-season flavor to pair with game. And Snake Oil Stout, a simple and classic deeply malty brew, with notes of dark chocolate and coffee that soothes the soul, references area apothecaries and healers known for peddling their tinctures and medicines.”

The beer is paired with fresh breads and house-made spreads, such as Paul’s famous pâtés, sausage, and kraut with fresh pretzels, topped flatbreads, panini, and salads and soups.

“We love the idea of  keeping it fresh and creative, so there will bedaily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal menus,” Brooke says. “For winter, we‘re working on game-inspired dishes with local duck, venison, quail, and herbs.” The wraparound porch and ample green space call for lawn games and darts — a nod to a classic biergarten.

While Round Top Brewing won’t be on tap until after the antiques show, you’ll find the Michies at the neighboring Lollitop Sweetshop, which opened earlier this month. Inspired by Paul’s mom, Sherry Michie, and her many decades as a caterer, there will be candies, baked goods, coffee cakes, seasonally inspired  muffins, bars, and cookies. Catherine D. Anspon

Compound Interest

As the antiques shows kick into high gear, The Compound continues to expand. Show producer/director Kathy Johnston gave us a peek at some of the most exciting new dealer arrivals. From Austin, Michael B. Montgomery stocks his collection of hand-honed artisan furniture. Beaumont-based Julie Bailey Burns is also a must-shop; a stint of living in Europe translates into the wares filling her Burns Antik Haus booth — Country French, garden furniture and objets, and architectural flourishes.

At newly minted Fickle Barn, H.H. Walker and Company from North Carolina returns with treasures from the past. The dealer’s calling cards include custom lamps that pair sculptural antique bases with designer shades. L. Harrison Fine Art, in from Kansas, offers 20th-century abstract and cubist works. roundtopcompound.com. Catherine D. Anspon

Round Top Festival Institute celebrates 50 years. (Courtesy Round Top Festival Institute)

50 Candles for Festival Hill

The year 1971 was a very auspicious and melodious one for Round Top. Festival Hill, aka Round Top Festival Institute, was founded by James Dick, a piano prodigy who had wowed international audiences at the Tchaikovsky Competition in 50 Candles for Festival Hill Round Top Festival Institute Courtesy Round Top Festival Institute Moscow.

Five decades later, countless concerts have been orchestrated in the fields and performed at one of the most handsome concert halls in the world. Numerous illustrious scholarship students have flocked to the bucolic grounds of Festival Hill for its renowned summer conservatory program led by musicians who perform with America’s greatest symphonies.

Now a party is in order. Originally scheduled for April 2020, Festival Hill’s grand soirée, its 50th Anniversary Gala, chaired by Lilla Blackburn-Sivek and Lisa Mayer, is now rescheduled to take place Saturday, April 17, 2021, fittingly beneath a commodious tent footsteps from its lyre-topped concert hall.

While the gala is completely sold out, underwriting opportunities remain, so you can still participate in funding one of Texas’ cultural treasures for the next 50 years. Info, Pat Johnson, gala@festivalhill.org. Catherine D. Anspon

Bader Bulletin

Katy Bader of The Frenchie and Bader Ranch has news on both fronts. At Bader Ranch antiques emporium, a new local chef, Tamatha Mills, uses seasonal produce she grows on her nearby farm to craft four-course dinners served nightly at the ranch October 16 through 31. Reservations recommended, via shoproundtop.com.

The Frenchie, Bader’s 1890s farmhouse turned chic B&B/boutique hotel, has a pool, outdoor kitchen, and pool cabana in the works, along with lawn games and an antique vending machine that might just be stocked with French speedos. The Frenchie Guesthouses, 311 Live Oak St., Round Top, thefrenchieguesthouses.com. Anne Lee Phillips

Henkel Square Happenings

While mayoral candidate Mark Massey’s commitment to preservation and commerce hums along at his Rummel and Minden Squares, big changes are in store at his Henkel Square Market.

Melissa Ellis debuts Melissa Ellis Fine Art, melding a gallery space with her clothing and jewelry boutique. She and fellow Henkel Square retailer Wimberly Shook Tribble will also open a cheese/charcuterie shop adjacent to the gallery (ETA December).

Lee Ellis (Photo by Jack Thompson)

Meanwhile, Melissa’s husband, Lee Ellis, an accomplished restaurateur, dishes up barbecue Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at his Ellis Motel, as well as his pop-up Round Top Smoke House behind Henkel Square Hall, serving brisket, pork ribs, sausage of the day, turkey, beef ribs, and smoked chicken from his custom Mill Scale metalworks smoker from Lockhart. Follow @roundtopsmokehouse on Instagram for details.

Finally, Henkel Hall is revamping into Round Top Antiques & Design Center — a 6,000-square-foot design space created by Massey’s mother, Susan Massey. The Compound’s Kathy Johnston co-curates the dealers.

Signed up are Suzanne Coppola’s Laurier Blanc from Houston, stocking her European Hunt Collection of antique hunting trophies from German and Austrian nobles; Brooke Drake Design from Dallas, with European, Asian, and mid-century finds and curiosities; and LooLoo Design from Connecticut, purveying  garden and architectural antiques, textiles, and vintage plumbing fixtures and hardware. henkelsquareroundtop.com. Catherine D. Anspon

Courtney Barton (Photo by Jenny Antill Clifton)

Rounding Out Round Top Village

One of our favorite Houston textile designers, Courtney Barton, opens her 800-square-foot store at Round Top Village. Barton, who describes her new shop as a sunny jewel box, stocks her multitude of soft cotton Dohar blankets, block-print pillows, Kantha quilts, and charming objects and furnishings.

Another  former Houstonian, Sarah Bray, pops in from her home in Bermuda for a Sarah Bray x Courtney Barton will pop-up on Tuesday and Wednesday, October 27 and 28. Bray — a former editor at Elle Decor, Veranda, House Beautiful, and Town & Country — is packing up her sustainable sunhats and caftans made from vintage fabric for her trip to the drylands.

Tracy and Brian Keith recently purchased Round Top Village and created a new retail venue composed of five Marfa-style casitas with a modern rustic design, housing Richard Schmidt Jewelry; Second Market & Company; Simple Rags; Bella’s Candles; and Cottonseed Trading Company.

The shops are open Thursdays through Sundays year-round, with expanded schedule during show time. Round Top Village, 609 N.  Washington Street, roundtopvillage.com, shopcourtneybarton.com. Anne Lee Phillips

For more on Round Top, go to RoundTop.com. To read about PaperCity‘s Round Top plans, check out the full story.

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