A History Buff’s Guide to Round Rock

Class is in session! We’re dusting off our history books and sharing the story of Round Rock’s past. Round Rock is rich with culture and history and has well-preserved landmarks throughout. Travel back in time and learn what events, figures, and buildings were prominent in our past. Here is a history buff’s guide to Round Rock, Texas. 

Historic buildings in downtown Round Rock.
Photo credit: @downtownroundrock

Downtown Historical Architecture 

Main Street in 1896. Photo credit: @roundrocktexas

Transport to another era with a stroll through downtown Round Rock. As you walk from Main Street to Lampasas Street, you’ll notice historical architecture made of classic limestone. Most buildings downtown were built between 1876 and 1881, with some facades from other eras. Some notable buildings to visit are The Old Broom Factory, the J.A. Nelson Co. Building, the Otto Reinke Building, and the Masonic Lodge/Old Post Office Building. These buildings have ornate windows and arches, decorative features, and fine stonework. Each building has informational placards with historical details.  

The Old Broom Factory circa 1900. This broom factory produced a gold medal-winning broom in the 1904 World’s Fair. Photo by: @downtownroundrock

We have a comprehensive historical walking tour you can use to fully immerse yourself in history. This tour is 1.7 miles and should take approximately 1 hour to complete. The route includes the National Register of Historic Places-Commercial Historic District, as well as several historic sites and homes outside the boundaries of the district. This tour will give you an in-depth look at what life in Round Rock once was.

For more information on historical properties, click here

Historical Homes

Nelson-Crier House (Woodbine Mansion) 

Original mansion
Modern day Woodbine Mansion. Photos by @woodbinemansion

The Nelson-Crier House (Woodbine Mansion) has been in the heart of Round Rock for decades. This mansion was built in 1895 and was a central hub for trade. The historical estate was remodeled in 1931 by a Dallas Architect to a classic Greek revival style with an iconic columned porch. This Texas Historical Landmark now serves as a sophisticated wedding and event venue. 

President’s House Trinity Lutheran College

This home was built around the 1900s for the president of Trinity Lutheran College and was originally located on the corner of Main and College Street. It currently resides at 104 S. Georgetown Street and is still in prime condition.

Palm Valley House 

The oldest building on Main Street is the Palm Valley House. This quaint early frontier-style building was moved to Main Street from the Palm Valley area and is now a historical landmark.

Palm Mansion

This dignified home was built in 1912 by Swedish pioneer Andrew J. Palm, whose family occupied it for 63 years. The home is now the property of the Williamson County Old Settlers Association and was restored to its original state in 2003.

To find more historical homes in Round Rock, click here.

Historical Parks & Trails

Old Town Round Rock

Round Rock was originally named Brushy because it was a settlement located near the banks of Brushy Creek. This area, now known as Old Town, grew despite constant flooding. After the International and Great Northern Railroad arrived in 1876, the commercial area of Round Rock was forced to move to the east, creating what is now New Town Round Rock. Today, Old Town Round Rock has special historical interest, and several businesses have been restored for visitors to view.

For more in-depth information on Old Town Round Rock, click here

Chisholm Trail Crossing Park  

Bronzed sculptures along Chisholm Trail to commemorate those who crossed the trail. Photo credit: Erick C.

Walk along history on the Chisholm Trail by Brushy Creek. This trail ran from Kansas south to the Rio Grande and was used to drive cattle overland in the late 1800s. Visit Chisholm Trail Crossing Park during your visit, where you can see bronzed sculptures and figures that depict life along the Chisholm Trail. 

The Round Rock

The round rock with high water level.

The famous “round rock” is located near Chisholm Trail Road in the middle of Brushy Creek. This ancient boulder was so significant they named our city after it in 1854. The round limestone rock once marked a convenient low-water crossing for wagons, horses, and cattle. If you look closely at it, you can even see wheel imprints from wagons that crossed brushy creek back in the day.

Veterans Park

Veterans Park is a 2.54-acre park that pays tribute to Central Texas veterans who have served our country. We honor all of the branches of the U.S. Armed forces with a six-columned monument and engraved bronze plaques to pay tribute to our soldiers.

Round Rock Memorial Park

We honor history at Round Rock Memorial Park. This centrally-located community park is near Brushy Creek and has a path running along with it. Throughout the park, there are several informative plaques and a commemorative WWII torpedo.

Koughan Memorial Water Tower Park

The iconic Round Rock Tower was originally constructed in 1935 by the Pittsburgh-Des Moines Steel Company.  This 130-foot tower holds 60,000 gallons of water, but was taken out of commission as a water tank in 1986. It now stands as a landmark in the heart of downtown Round Rock.

Round Rock Cemetery

The Round Rock Cemetery tells a wide variety of stories from people from all walks of life. The famous train robber, Sam Bass, is buried in this cemetery at the entrance on the north side of Sam Bass Road. There is also a slavery burial ground in this cemetery.

Historical Figures

Jacob M. Harrell

One of the first settlers of what was to become Old Town Round Rock was Jacob M. Harrell. He moved to the banks of the Brushy Creek in 1848 after being the first Blacksmith in Austin.

Sam Bass

The “Beloved Texas Bandit,” Sam Bass, is a famed outlaw known for his devious deeds. He was a bank and train robber who was notoriously reckless. One of his most famed robberies was when he and his gang robbed a train of $60,000. Sam spent most of his time in Texas and had a plan to rob a bank in Round Rock. Before he arrived in Round Rock, a former crony, Jim Murphy, tipped off the Texas Rangers that he was coming. The Texas Rangers ambushed and wounded Bass on Friday, July 19th, 1887, in downtown Round Rock. Bass died from his wounds two days later on his birthday. You can find the death site directly across Round Rock Avenue. There is a Texas Historical Marker commemorating the shootout. Sam Bass is now buried in the Round Rock Cemetery.

For the full story on Sam Bass, click here.

For a walking guide of the Great Round Rock Shootout, click here.

A.W. Grimes

Williamson County Sheriff Deputy, A.W. Grimes, is often overshadowed by the outlaw Sam Bass, but he still is a prominent figure in Round Rock’s history. On Friday the 19th, 1887, A.W. Grimes approached Sam Bass to investigate if he was carrying two pistols and was unfortunately killed by Sam and his gang. He is still honored to this day for his bravery and for defending the law.

Historical Legends 

Local Legends

The Round Rock Historic Preservation commission announces local historical legends yearly. This program recognizes people who contributed to Rocks Rock’s founding history through development, preservation issues, and achievements. Visit our local legend page to see the 2021 Legends.

Folklore Legends

It wouldn’t be a full history guide without a folklore legend. There is a famous legend in Round Rock, known as the mysterious hairy man. Legend has it a young boy became separated from a settlers caravan one stormy night. For years he lived amongst nature as a hermit and terrorized anyone who entered his domain. To this day, travelers swear they have seen a large hairy man lurking in the bushes near Hairy Man Road. Do you dare to visit Hairy Man Road and see for yourself?

Museums and Informational Centers

The Firehouse Museum. Photo credit: WCOSA

Williamson County Old Settlers Association

The Old Settlers Association of Williamson County is located off Palm Valley Boulevard and is a history hub for visitors. It was organized to gather fragments of history and perpetuate them for future generations. At this location, you can see the Rice’s Crossing Store, historic cabins, the Palm Mansion and more.

Firehouse Museum

Get a firehose blast from the past at the Firehouse Museum. The Old Settlers Association and Fraternal Order of the Round Rock Volunteer Fire Department welcome guests to the Firehouse Museum to view vintage fire engines and equipment from 1884 and beyond.

Round Rock Visitors Center

The Visitors Center in Downtown Round Rock is the go-to spot for history seekers. We have knowledgeable staff members that can share information about our city and history. We also have visitor information and copies of our Historical Walking Tour for guests to use.