The Chicken Ranch is rarely mentioned nowadays.
The establishment that inspired the stage play, movie, and the lyrics of a popular song, “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” is long gone. The brothel officially closed in 1973 after operating for more than 130 years. All that’s left these days is the legend and some fading memories.
When folks visit La Grange these days, they’re probably eager for quilts.
The Texas Quilt Museum opened November 2011 in a two historic 1890s buildings, which provide a stunning showcase for both antique and contemporary quilt art with their high ceilings, brick walls, and original hardwood floors, as well as many of the original railings, and moldings.
An inspiring mural on the west side of the taller structure—the 1893 Reichert and Kneip Furniture Store—announces the location. Designed by Austinite Duana Gill, Quilts…History in the Making depicts a detailed image of 15 colorful, traditional quilts draped on a clotheslines.
Commissioned to paint this intricate, 85-foot-long mural, Brent McCarthy of New Braunfels started work in August 2011 in 100-degree heat, painting primarily in early morning and late afternoon, and finished just in time for the official opening.
Next to it, a garden named Grandmother’s Flower Garden has grown into the quilt pattern for which it is named.
The Texas Quilt Museum was a dream and a goal for decades. As its founders—cousins Karey Bresenhan and Nancy Puentes—brought thousands of great quilts to the International Quilt Festival in Houston annually since 1974, they realized many people were unable to see them because they were on view a relatively short time. They wanted a place where even more people could discover and appreciate quilts as art in a setting that showcased them over an extended period of time.
The inaugural exhibit, Texas Quilts Today, coincided with the publication of Lone Stars III: A Legacy of Texas Quilts, 1986-2011 by Bresenhan and Puentes. This masterpiece is the last in a trilogy published by University of Texas Press that chronicles 175 years of quilting in Texas.
The exhibit included over 75 of the 200 quilts featured in the book.
Inside the museum’s soaring main gallery, quilts hang above the balcony rail as well as at eye level. Traditional quilts hang amid art quilts such as a portrait of Indiana Jones. Another gallery holds still more quilts.
The quilts on display aren’t the type you would find on a bed. They’re highly intricate. Many are so-called “art quilts” sewn, embroidered, hand-dyed, and otherwise embellished into landscapes or portraits.
And while the Texas Quilt Museum may be located in Texas, it’s a museum that features great quilt art, both traditional and contemporary, from all over the world.
At the time of my visit to the Texas Quilt Museum (December 2013), “My Stars! A Constellation of Star Quilts, 1845-1993″ were on view in Galleries I and III, and “Land of Enchantment: Art Quilts from New Mexico” in Gallery II.
These exhibits ran through December 22, when the Museum closed for the holidays and reopens on January 9 with its winter exhibits.
The museum store has all sorts of quilt-related items you’ll want for yourself. . .or for a great gift. Items unique to the Museum, such as custom tote bags (great for groceries) and license plates to show your support for the Museum, T shirts with our fantastic quilt mural on them, a gorgeous custom silk scarf with the Museum’s logo quilt design are available.
Also CDs with music to quilt by and videos like Stitched. Plus you can shop for small wall quilts and mini quilts donated by well-known quilt artists to benefit the Museum.
And don’t forget a signed copy of the book, Lone Stars III: A Legacy of Texas Quilts, 1986-2011, by the Museum’s co-founders and co-directors.
Special thanks to Julie Maffei, Manager of Texas Quilt Museum, for taking time from her busy schedule to graciously tour me throughout this fascinating museum. I will return.
Texas Quilt Museum is located at 140 West Colorado Street in downtown La Grange, just half a block off courthouse square, which offers free parking in its shopping district.
Texas Quilt Museum
Hours: Thursday-Saturday, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.; Sundays, 12 noon-4:00 p.m.
Admission: $8.00; seniors/students, $6.00
Location: 140 West Colorado, La Grange, Texas 78945
Phone: (979) 968-3104
Please Note: This is Part 5 of a 7-Part series on La Grande, Texas
Part 1: Czeching Out La Grange
Texas Spoken Friendly
Every quilter has a masterpiece within.