Rutersville/ Wessels Hall is located in Fayette county on State Hwy 159. It is privately owned. In looking through dance reference books and internet searches, I found two Wessels Hall entries. One was moved, in 2012, to the Pioneer Farm in Austin. According to Stephen Dean’s book, Historic Dance Halls of East Central Texas, this Wessels Hall was founded by John Rabb and other members to establish a college.
This was the first stop on the November 2019 Dance Hall Road Trip with Erik McCowen and his wife Lori. We met the owner, Weldon Hartman and he let us into his wood working shop. He purchased the building 22 years ago for $48,000. Prior to his purchase it was a storage unit for cattle and hog feed and way in the past a dance hall. Before it was converted into the wood shop, his young children would roller skate on the floor. He told us they became upset when he rented the space to store insulation batting and it covered their skating area!
As we walked in, we were told the area to our direct right used to be the area for the band. The shelving was added after the hall was converted.
The rough looking area near the ceiling, with circles, used to hold old metal advertising above the band stage. The “stage” is now storage.
Originally, bathroom facilities were outside. The ladies room was a welcome addition. The pipe on the upper left of the photo is the remainder of the wood stove pipe vent. The ladies room was also the kiddie corral where the children would sleep.
Though it was chilly outside, and there was plenty of “natural” ventilation, we were very comfortable inside. Made us wish we had been here when this was a full fledged dance floor! The windows, like many old dance halls, vented outward. These have screens over them.
With many ideas for future use, Mr. Hartman has considered putting insulation on the top of the roof and covering it over. That would allow people to see the original roof/ ceiling inside while providing some weather protection.
Hard to see, but there was a bottle opener above the door (on the left.)
All the dancers agreed, this was a nice floor. We did get to spin around for several songs.
The outside of the building. Notice the window coverings.
The original entrance and covering.
The open door may have been used by the band, since right inside was the stage area.
During dances, an outdoor shed was the bar and where you could purchase hot dogs and hamburgers. Earlier in its existence, it served as a collection area for the beef club. Members of the club each purchased a calf. Once a month, a calf was butchered and there was a hook inside the shed. Members names were above each hook. Their share of the meat was placed on the hook. We first heard about these clubs when we visited Moravian Hall in Corn Hill earlier this year.
It was a great first stop on our November dance tour. Thank you Mr. Hartman for letting us tour and dance on the floor!