Ever Heard Of Sunday Houses? This Texas Tradition Goes Way Back

The perfect place for granddad’s nap chair might just be a Sunday house.

Fredericksburg TX
Photo: Robbie Caponetto

It's no revelation that many of us can't wait to make it to the weekend, but Southerners have always tended to take weekend festivities to the next level. Fridays are for small-town football games or tickets to the local drive-in movie theater, and Saturdays are spent hunting down the best farmstand tomatoes or serving up sweet tea to friends on the porch. However, there is no day that has ever been more beloved in the South than Sunday. In some places, a second home was occupied just for the occasion.

Two Sisters in Their Church Clothes
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

The Southern Tradition of Sunday

Beyond being the day of rest—just ask grandpa who's snoozing in his nap chair—it's the day that many Southerners spend with family members for quality time and a big meal that usually consists of at least two creamy casseroles. Now, that might look many different ways, whether everyone is still gathering around the table or catching up over a video call.

For many Texans back in the day, the remote nature of farm life kept many families isolated throughout the week. Leaving a farm just to go into town for errands was usually an all-day ordeal. With efficiency, these families would travel into town for the weekend to catch up on what needed to be done, and to attend church services. Anchored in community, attending church service was often the only way to catch the latest on town happenings, and to connect with neighbors who lived miles apart.

Farmer's hands harvesting greens on farm
Thomas Barwick/Stone/Getty Images

A Sunday House History

What is a Sunday house? The history goes back to the late 1800s, when German-Texans living in the Texas Hill Country resided primarily in remote areas on ranches and farms. Each weekend, the families would journey into town to handle business and shopping, as well as to enjoy Saturday night socializing and to attend church on Sunday, which included both morning service and afternoon Bible study.

Thus, the Sunday houses were built as secondary homes to spend two nights during the weekend before heading back to weekly duties in rural areas. At times, the Sunday house could be used if a special circumstance drew a family member into town, and it could even become the permanent residence of retired ranchers who had already passed down farming duties to their children.

Fredericksburg, Texas Cottages
Photo: Bonterra Building & Design

Sunday House Architecture

Usually consisting of just two rooms and one level (sometimes with an extra half-level containing a sleeping loft), Sunday houses were compact and meant for easy upkeep and fleeting stays. Sunday houses in Texas were made with natural materials and a rustic finish befitting of the era. The unique architectural style makes the still-standing Sunday houses exist like miniature historic monuments of Texas Hill Country. Today, these charming residences might even be considered trendy, with the tiny home movement.

Sunday Houses Today

If visiting a traditional German-Texas town in the Hill Country, you can still see the small dwellings residing around, typically located walkable to the main downtown area. Many Sunday houses still exist around the popular (and thoughtfully preserved) German-Texan town of Fredericksburg, which has many farms outside of town and hosts a big Oktoberfest celebration each year.

You can also spot remnants of the tradition in nearby towns like New Braunfels and Castroville, too. In fact, these towns have remained huge destinations for Texas families on the weekends, letting the old-fashioned Sunday spirit live on.

Really, Sunday houses don't seem like such a bad idea. Can we have ours at the beach?

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles