Winedale Historical Center, in northeast Fayette County near Round Top, includes several outstanding examples of early Texas architecture. The Samuel K. Lewis house, a two-story frame house of eight rooms with a galleried porch across the front and an open hall or dogtrot through the center of the structure, combines both Anglo-American and German architectural features. The original portion of the house was probably a one-room house built by William S. Townsend in 1834. Townsend sold the farm in 1840 to John York, who in turn sold it to Samuel K. Lewis in 1848. Lewis enlarged the house to its present form. Utilizing a braced frame construction, the house was built of local cedar sawed in heavy square timbers. The plan of the house, with a central open hall, two rooms on each side of the hall, and chimneys in the gable ends, is typical of the Anglo-American house, while the window details and woodwork suggest the work of German craftsmen. In the mid-1850s the public road from Brenham to La Grange was relocated to run by the Lewis farm, and for a brief period it served as a depot on the Sawyer and Risher stage line from Brenham to La Grange to Austin. The Lewis home served as an inn for stage travelers during this time. It is also believed that the Lewises were responsible for the remarkable interior decoration, a feature that adds much distinction to the building. The decoration consists of a painted ceiling, borders, and overmantel panels found in the major rooms. The most elaborate work is on the ceiling of the second-floor parlor; a green parrot appears in the center of the ceiling. The paintings, consisting of a classic medallion and garland design with a floral border, are the work of a skilled professional painter and are believed to have been done by Rudolph Melchior, a member of a family of German artists who came to the United States in 1853 and settled at Round Top in the 1860s.
In 1882 Lewis's heirs sold the farm to Joseph G. Wagner, whose son lived there until his death in 1961. Shortly thereafter philanthropist Ima Hogg purchased the property, which consisted of more than 130 acres of land and several related buildings, in order to preserve the Lewis home. Under Ima Hogg's direction, an extensive restoration program was carried out. The search for materials began at Winedale, where timber was cut on the Lewis farm itself (as was the original cedar in the house), and extended to Massachusetts, where square nails similar to those in the old building were found. The timber, all cedar, was put together in the medieval carpentry style of notched and pegged joints. The siding was made of cedar, and the roof was of cedar shake. Much of the original iron hardware-doorknobs, locks, and hinges-remained. In 1965 Hogg gave the property and buildings to the University of Texas to be used as an outdoor museum and study center. In addition to the Lewis house, the Lewis-Wagner farmstead included two barns. The older one, a transverse-crib barn, was composed of two double log cabins covered by one large roof; the cabins were oak with cedar roofs. The other barn, made of timber trusses, featured an open, central space. Both barns were restored, and the larger one was equipped with two dressing rooms and a stage for the presentation of programs. Also on the grounds were a log kitchen, where open fireplace cooking was done, and a smokehouse, which was used for curing meat and storing preserves.
After 1965 additional buildings were moved to the site. These buildings included Hazel's Lone Oak Cottage, a typical Texas dog-run house, built by Franz Jaentschke in 1855 two miles from Winedale. A gift of Hazel Ledbetter, it was moved to the Winedale property in 1965. Lauderdale House, a Greek-revival farmhouse built in 1858 by a Somerville, Texas, planter, was restored for use as a dormitory for visiting scholars. It was destroyed by fire in 1981. The McGregor-Grimm House, an elaborately decorated two-story Greek-revival farmhouse built in 1861 by a Washington County planter, was moved in 1967 and restored and opened to the public in April 1975. The Friends of Winedale, created in 1970, purchased and donated an additional sixty acres of land, including a small lake, in 1972. The rest of the Wagner property, including the Wagner Store, was purchased in 1989, bringing the total acreage to 215 acres. The Winedale School, a one-room schoolhouse built in 1894 one mile from Winedale and last used as a school in 1942, was restored and moved to the center in 1992. Events hosted by the center include the Winedale Spring Festival, Weekend Farmers' Seminar, Winedale Octoberfest, Eeyore's Birthday Party, Gardeners' Seminar, Christmas Open House, and a variety of craft shows. University of Texas at Austin classes are also offered. Since 1971 the Theatre Barn has been home to Shakespeare at Winedale, a six-week performance workshop directed by James B. Ayres, professor of English literature at the university. Students present their work free to the public at the end of the summer. The university's school of architecture offers a course in historic structures, and there is also a seminar on historic preservation. The Wagner Dining Hall and Dormitory and the Meadows Foundation Education Center were built to accommodate the classes and can also be used by nonprofit educational groups. A newsletter, the Quid Nunc, is published by the center quarterly. In the 1990s Winedale was made a division of UT's Center for American History.