Rounding Out Round Top
Anyone who has a passion for antiquing has at least heard of Round Top. Most have made the journey before, to the more rural hilly-side of Texas that lies halfway between our beloved bayous and the steep inclines of Austin. Amidst the fields of blooming bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes, there is a speckled series of small towns and farms, all catering to this demographic of shoppers, who pile in twice a year from across the state and beyond. Those looking for antiques, artisan-made furniture and restored pieces can never go wrong at this biannual event.
While Round Top began in the town of the same name, with the Original Round Top Antiques Fair, that central point has grown rather posh in recent years. So this year, when I made the pilgrimage with some family members, we decided to sample the outer rim of the pseudo-festival and hit up some of the less-curated, more quirky places.
STOP 1: La Bahia
After getting up at 6 a.m. (oh yeah, we’re dedicated) to slap ourselves awake and down some morning java, our party was on the road by 7, and we reached our first destination at close to 9. Though location in ?Burton, La Bahia is one of the first big antique areas on the farm road that threads through the heart of the Round Top antiques fairs, and it offers wares both in big white vendors tents, as well as playing host to a large barn-turned-market building that houses different counters and booths inside.
I climbed out of the car as the sun finally rises, only to find myself stepping through a portal and into the past. Each vendor and artisan seller has pieces that can date anywhere from the 1980s to the 1780s depending on their specialty—and everyone has a specialty. Stands full of old, colored glassware, a corner dedicated to blue china, a man peddling some original illustrations of roaring 20s art deco fashion, and countless display cases filled to the brim with antique pearls, polished silver, and expertly carved glass.
At La Bahia, there is always something to find, and find we did. I won first purchase of the day by picking up a great monocle repurposed as a pendant necklace, while my aunt followed up quickly, snagging milk glass vases in preparation for a wedding in her friend circle.
STOP 2: Blue Hills at Round Top
This farm is a newer establishment, only a few stops up the road from La Bahia. We arrived around 10:30 a.m., and were easily able to stroll the property and browse at our own leisure. Blue Hills is also a smaller stop on the antique swath, but it is still worth your time to check if you’re making the trip out.
Blue Hills specializes in English and French pieces. Their antiques and wares had a heavily French influence this year, as one of the bigger purchases made for us involved giant wine bottles from the Bordeaux region. But one other vendor had a library of vintage prints and original illustrations from many British manuscripts and publications. If you’re a fan of ink etchings and those really old encyclopedia drawings that look fantastically cool, if not anatomically incorrect according to modern science, then get over to Blue Hills. I found some amazing prints for as low as $10, and one of them was from the early 1700s. Definitely a good find for framing and classing up your home.
STOP 3: Royer's Pie Haven
I know, I know, I said we didn’t go to the Round Top tents. And we didn’t. Not really. On a day as long as this one was—because no one casually ‘goes antiquing’ for an hour or two—it is important to know where to stop for a refresh. Food and water are big needs, as well as a good, clean place to hit up a restroom. The town of Round Top happens to be home to a local joint called Royer’s, which is one of the best mid-day pick-me-ups you can ask for.
While the main Royer’s Café is closed for lunch during Antique Weeks (as the locals call it), they do have a special little establishment set up called Royer’s Pie Haven. Their mission is to give you the best pie you can ask for, and they deliver every time. Be it a classic like cherry or peach pie, or one of the in-house specials, Sweet & Salty Pie (a miracle from above that is pretty much a salted caramel brownie in a crust), no one can walk out of Royer’s Pie Haven disappointed.
So go have yourself a pie, antiquers, you’ll need it.
STOP 4: Marburger Farm
Marburger is one of the main attractions on Antique Road which opens only for the four-day weekend (some more casual etsablishment open a week or more in advance of the main event) and charges admission. This seems a little unfair, but Marburger only charges $10 per person.
Marburger is home to rows and rows of huge white tents, all big tops and sturdy canvas walls. In and amongst their tents are venders who tend to sell a higher caliber of product. With a paid entrance free, Marburger can afford to be home to venders on a larger scale. Pressed Roman coins that have been converted to necklaces, crystal glass decanters for all of your whiskeys, scotches, and specialty liquor needs, and even some 1890 Moore & Calvi playing cards (of which I bought three) are all lurking in the corners and counters of Marburger’s tents.
While it might require an up-front fee, Marburger is worth the stop. They have unique collections, and even a large food vendor area if you wanted to eat here instead and never interrupt your shop-a-thon. We got to Marburger at about 1 p.m. and didn’t leave until after 4.
STOP 5: Warrenton Fields
While we all know the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game, in the antiquing would you have the “Six Degrees of Warrenton.” Every vendor found in La Bahia, Blue Hills, Marburger, Big Red Barn, Arbor Antiques, even Round Top OG had already been to the filds of tents in the neighboring town of Warrenton and scalped some of the deals available. The various fields of antiques in Warrenton stretch for miles—some say they never really end, they just take a break somewhere around the La Grange city limits. Most of the individual (though hard to tell apart) fields open up to two weeks before the more established fairs.
Yet Warrenton's fields is always worth the stop, because you can find simply sensational treasures for some of the lowest prices you can find in the Texas antique scene. I was lucky enough to find a complete collection of Shakespeare’s works with ink etched illustrations, originally printed in 1864. After adding in a composition notebook turned scrapbook from 1906, I spent only $15 for the pair!
Heading to Warrenton was a good choice for us, and the perfect place to end our day. With fun finds and spectacular treasures, there was no way we could go wrong, and just about everyone in the group found something fun to take home. A framed beetle, vintage wine box tray, needlework stool. We essentially made out like bandits before finally collapsing into the car and heading home at about 6 p.m.
It was a tiring day of trekking through the oldest retail purchases in Texas, but it was a great day and I brought home some priceless bounty.