May 23

Welcoming Visitors Once Again: A Short History of the Stagecoach House

Posted on May 23, 2019 at 2:42 PM by Gabriela Moore

When you walk through the double doors of the Historic Stagecoach House in Buda, TX surrounded by elements of decades leaving their mark, you step into an iconic structure of the 19th century. The now-enclosed dogtrot that serves as the foyer between two large rooms, was once a wide open breezeway looking out onto Onion Creek and the old stagecoach bridge. Your feet would sink into the earth below and the ceiling above revealed the strong cedar rafters that hold the roof above you. For a few short years the wind would kick up dirt in a whirlwind through the dogtrot until the 1880’s, when the Post Office would inevitably outgrow the tiny limestone building behind the cabin and T. E. McElroy would transform the stop into the home we see today.

View of Stagecoach House from the Main Street Side walk
Let’s go back a couple 100 years to post Civil war era America. Floods of people were moving to Texas, pushing more families into Hays County as Austin began to overflow (not at all familiar, right?) As a sign of the time period, access to mail was a key component to a thriving community. Post offices and stagecoach stops began popping up into Hays County in close proximity to the major highway of the time, Old San Antonio Road. Onion Creek held all the desired amenities for these stops--water to tend to the horses from a long journey, easy access to the major highway and safety from the treacherous country roads of the time known to be prone to flooding and rocky terrain. By the 1870’s, the county population had nearly doubled from the previous census and on April 3, 1875, the Onion Creek Post Office and Stagecoach House broke ground and George W. Waters was appointed as postmaster.

The post office would see a few short years of delivering mail, servicing horses, and hosting overnight travelers until the International and Great Northern Railroad would lay iron from Austin to San Antonio and Cornelia A. Trimble would sell her first commercial block of land to postmaster J.A. Chandler in 1881. Just a quarter mile from the post office and platted along the new railroad, Trimble would name her town Du Pre. It wouldn’t be until the around 1885 when Chandler moved the post office into town that the name would inevitably change to Buda at the command of the U.S. Postal Service after noting there is already a town named Du Pre in east Texas.

Newly vacated and surrounded by 234 acres of land, T.E. McElroy purchased the Onion Creek Post Office and Stagecoach House in the mid-1880’s. Within a few short years he View of heritage oak trees in front of the Stagecoach House in Historic Stagecoach Parkadded over 1,000 acres of land to his name and turned the old post office and stage stop into a ranching estate where he raised livestock and cultivated the fertile soil. With wealth and ambition on his side, McElroy transformed the rugged cabin into the elegant home we see today by enclosing the dogtrot, expanding the home and adding the luxuries one would expect in a home like flooring and a ceiling. Remnants of an old porch under what is now the back room point to a re-orientation of the front porch to look towards Loop 4 (Main Street) heading into a now thriving Buda and away from the abandoned stagecoach bridge.

Throughout the years as pieces of land were sold off, the home would continue to bare the markings of each decade with hand-hewn joists in the attic revealing its pre-railroad construction and french doors showcasing the the trend of the 1920’s when European styles reverberated throughout American homes. Though the home was renovated back to its circa 1920s appearance, one lasting mark of those who lived there in later years still exists in the west room. On the fireplace mantle you will find it to be painted blue with gold stars on either side and a gold arch enveloping the opening. It was dated by historians as a 1970’s style work-- a time when the house was rented out by owners Victor and Joe Stanzel to a group of college students in the artist community.

In 1998 the Stanzel Brothers Trust would transfer the 51 acre property to the City of Buda and the Stagecoach House would once again welcome travelers from far and wide as the Visitor Center for the thriving town of Buda.