Just like the first settlers found a lifeline along the spring-fed creek in Salado, artists, artisans and makers find life-giving inspiration in a village steeped in history. The first thoroughfare, the famed Chisholm Trail, bought people, livestock and stagecoaches through Salado in the middle of the 1800s. Now Interstate 35 funnels a stream onto its tree-shaded Main Street.
Early Texas History is Salado History
In the early 1800s, Texas offered a new start in an untamed land for those who willing to stake a claim and built a life. Several, like Stephen F. Austin, negotiated with the Mexican government to establish settlements from the 1820s. Soon families took possession of a parcel of land, starting at the coast and moving inland, following the water.
As it is with Salado, when Sterling C. Robertson was tasked with settling an area in Central Texas 100 miles wide and 200 miles long. Though this task was difficult with arduous trips to Mexico and the breakout of the Texas Revolution in 1836.
The first settlers in the area utilized the Tonkawa’s knowledge of fresh water, vital for a settlement. The Tonkawa people took trees and trained the trunks to hug the ground, signaling a fresh spring.
Early settlers, many with Scottish heritage, banned together along the shores of Salado Creek. Timber-framed buildings, mills and cattle followed and it became a vital water stop on the Chisholm Cattle Trail and the Dallas-San Antonio stagecoach route in the 1850s.
Salado Museum and College Park
Learn about Salado’s history along with its trailblazing women like Grace Jones and Liz Carpenter in its museum. Both legends come alive with the storytelling talents of the museum’s director, David Swarthout.
Grace Jones started life on a Salado ranch and went on to fly WWII aircraft as a WASP. She landed in New York City to model then redefined herself as a haute couture clothier on Salado’s Main Street with a rolodex full of Texas elite, some rumored to live and work in the 1960s White House.
Liz Carpenter, also home-grown in Salado, started her journey slinging words in high school and UT before flying off to Washington to cover politics. She eventually landed as Lady Bird’s press secretary, the first female in that role for a first lady. Carpenter continued her life in words in Central Texas, writing books after leaving Washington.
Across the street from the museum, walk through the grounds of Salado College. Back in 1860, it educated young women and men as a non-denominational school, the first of its kind in Texas. A fire destroyed the building in 1924.
Located at 423 S. Main St. Open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free to enter the museum and college grounds.
The Stagecoach Inn
Long before Interstate 35 drove people into town, the stage did it in the middle of the 1800s. With thirsty horses, Salado became a stop on the stagecoach route from San Antonio to Dallas, carrying parcels, people and mail.
In 1861, the Shady Villa Hotel opened its doors with a two-story timber-framed building, the predecessor of the present-day Stagecoach Inn. Through the years, and the generations, the Stagecoach Inn has fed and sheltered visitors looking for a break in their journey. Outlaws could be found at the Stagecoach, like Jesse James and Sam Bass who scurried into the caves on the property. A long list of dignitaries, like Sam Houston, signed the guest book as well.
With a new life and a recent renovation, The Stagecoach Inn offers the perfect place to escape with a rambling tree-shaded property. Each of the 48 mid-century inspired rooms offers a large private patio or balcony in the shade of historic oaks, some with lush vine-covered partitions. Guests enjoy amenities like Richard’s Rainwater and gourmet coffee while lounging in its signature striped robes.
The gracious property blends history with stylish comfort. So find a year-round outdoor pool along with two ballrooms and new outdoor gathering space, opening in Spring 2021. The on-site restaurant is open daily from brunch to dinner. Start your meal with the Stagecoach’s signature cocktail, the Hibiscus Margarita. Top off your meal with its legendary Strawberry Kiss, a meringue with fresh berries and ice cream.
Located at 416 S. Main St. Room rates from $130, with suites available.
Salado Glass Works
Along the alley next to Main Street, fire and glass meld into a harmony of color and form under the watchful gaze of glass artist, Gail Allard. Settling in Salado he transformed a former cotton warehouse into a studio under its cavernous metal roof.
With savaged corrugated tin lining the interior, his collection of furnaces, annealers, benches and blow pipes take a molten lump of glass and rework it into a functional work of art. Find a full line of glassware to vessels to statement light fixtures in his attached studio.
Though most visitors walking through his door yearn to create so the Salado Glassworks make-your-own events book up months in advance. With popular classes like fall pumpkins and tree ornaments, first-time glass blowers create unique objects guided by the expertise of Allard and his staff of knowledgeable apprentices.
Located at #2 Peddlers Alley. Live glass blowing Wednesday to Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6ish and the studio is open Tuesday and Sundays as well from noon until 3 p.m. Seasonal workshops ten months of the year with breaks in the heat of the summer and early January.
Originally opening in 1970, Bob Hargrove learned the goldsmith craft from original owner Jim Benton. In 2018 Hargrove bought the established business to continue its legacy. Now a third generation of customers, walks in the shop for their custom jewelry needs. Taking design cues from nature, Hargrove uses the lost wax method to meld gold and gemstones into unique designs to celebrate life’s moments.
With clientele up and down the interstate from Austin to the Dallas area, Hargrove and his wife, Laura, use technology to help craft the prefect design. To continue with Hargrove’s bespoke experience he conducts zoom design sessions. Many times clients want to use heirloom gold and reimagine a new piece by adding stones from his extensive collection, including the Texas Blue Topaz—the state gemstone from Mason county.
Located at 401 S. Main St. in suite 101. Open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday.
Barrow Brewing Company
Waffling wind, cooled by the neighboring Salado Creek, Barrow Brewing Company offers an outdoor respite for craft beer drinkers. With row of decommissioned German biergarten tables, sample Barrow Brewing’s European-inspired brews.
Barrow Brewing Company pays homage to the local lore, with brews like Big Bubbly Blonde, the perfect antidote to a scorching summer day, named after the nearby fresh water spring. Or its Evil Catfish IPA, a mellow take on the popular beer style, that salutes the local fable of Sirena, the mermaid and her catfish captor.
Throughout the season, find live music on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays with an occasional movie night thrown in for families. The newly opened Silo Bar expands its outdoor serving capacity and find a large covered area with single group tables. Also find trailers flanking the biergarten area, like the Happy Pizza Company along the Longbow Coffee Company.
Located at 108 Royal St. Open daily from noon to dark, dog and family-friendly.
Salado Winery Company
Down the newly opened pedestrian-focused Main Street, the Salado Winery Company anchors the other end of the historic district. Inside its two-story building, find Salado Winery’s own wine from dry to sweet, red to white along with over 35 other Made-in-Texas wines.
After serving in the U.S. Army, this winemaking couple moved to Salado and planted a vineyard in 2005. Producing their own wine began in 2010 with Diamond Back, a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend. For those who prefer a sweet wine, its Rootin’ Tootin’ uses Sangiovese.
Located at 841 Main St. Open daily from noon to 6 p.m. Tastings are $10 for five samples.
Outdoor Art Parade in Salado
With a mile of strolling in the shade of century-old trees, Salado offers outdoor art at every turn of the head. Find Sirena the mermaid by Troy Kelley along Royal Street next to Salado Creek along with the Locks of Love also by Kelley. Keep a look out for Kelley’s Troll and Billy Goat Guff along Main Street.
At the other end of the Main Street, walk through the Salado Sculpture Garden with outdoor works from other sculptors. Located at 113 Salado Plaza Dr.
Shopping and Snacking Salado Style
Find more than a hundred shops catering to special interests from vintage-inspired candy, like the Sugar Shack, to hard-to-find books at Fletcher’s Books and Antiques, 945 N. Main St. For mid-day snacks, locals insist on Lively Coffeehouse and Bistro, 21 N. Main St.