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"Hindsights"

Looking back at:

Peter's Hall

By Michael Barr
Michael Barr
When Ed Peter built a large wooden dancehall behind his saloon and restaurant in Fredericksburg, it quickly became an important part of community life. Peter's Hall was a gathering place for people of all ages and an amusement center unlike any other.

In 1903 Ed Peter and Herman Mosel opened a saloon and restaurant in a stone building on the corner of Main and Orange Streets. One year later Peter bought out Mosel and became sole proprietor.

Carpenters built the large wooden hall behind the saloon in 1910. A breezeway connected the 2 buildings.
Fredericksburg TX Peter's Hall
Peter's Hall
Click on image to enlarge
Fredericksburg Standard
Peter's Hall, with its large open floor space, was a dancehall and more. It was an all-purpose community center that served a multitude of functions.

In the early days of silent films, Peter's Hall helped introduce Fredericksburg to Fatty Arbuckle, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, William S. Hart and Pearl White.

Anticipating Prohibition, Ed Peter bought a soda fountain from Hanisch and Payne Drug Store in Fredericksburg. Throughout the 1920s and early 30s, Peter's sold fountain drinks, candy and near beer.

Traveling Vaudeville shows performed at Peter's Hall in the early 20th century. Vaudeville, a collection of diverse specialty acts featuring singers, dancers, jugglers, acrobats and comedians, was a popular form of live entertainment until the movies put it out of business.

Of the Vaudevillians who entertained audiences at Peter's Hall, a few were truly talented. Most, like Murphy the Acting Monkey and the guy who played the flute with his nose, were simply quirky.

Peter's Hall hosted wrestling matches and music recitals. Its massive wooden floor converted to a skating rink. Fredericksburg High School played home basketball games there in the 1920s and 30s. Fredericksburg High School and St. Mary's High School held graduation ceremonies there.

On Feb 13, 1928 the J. I. Case Company gave an exhibition of its new threshing machine at Peter's Hall. Beginning in the 1930s the local Chevrolet dealer announced its new models at Peter's Hall.

The Louis Jordan Post of the American Legion was founded in Peter's Hall. Officials of the Hill Country Baseball League often met at Peter's Hall to plan the coming season.

For years Peter's Hall was the site of the Miss Fredericksburg Pageant. The Fredericksburg Garden Club held its annual Flower Show there. Fredericksburg Publishing Co., the gas company and local appliance dealers sponsored a yearly cooking school at Peter's Hall.
Fredericksburg TX Peter's Hall Auditoriam
Peter's Hall Auditoriam
Fredericksburg Standard
Peter's Hall was one of 23 polling places in Gillespie County. Election night at Peter's was a huge event, especially in presidential election years. People from all over the county gathered to watch the votes tallied on a big chalk board.

Perhaps the most spectacular events held at Peter's Hall were the singing festivals.

Following a tradition brought from Germany, towns throughout the German Hill Country formed singing clubs. Peter's Hall often hosted the Gillespie County Singing Festival and the regional singing festival whenever it came to Fredericksburg.

The regional festival began at 10 o'clock on a Saturday morning with a parade of participants down Main Street. The parade began at the Nimitz Hotel and ended at Peter's Hall. There the parade disbanded for "refreshments, songs and rehearsals."

Groups performed for bragging rights. No sporting event was more hotly contested. The highlight of the weekend was a mass chorus, often over 600 voices strong, performing for a capacity crowd at Peter's Hall.

The heyday of Peter's Hall was the time before television. People spent leisure hours with friends and neighbors - eating, drinking, dancing, singing and socializing.

Then in the 1950s, business at Peter's Hall declined. Television had changed entertainment habits and social patterns. People stayed home more - watching Lucy and eating TV dinners. Peter's Hall was from another time, and its time had passed.

By 1960 the old wooden building was in need of repair, but the owners decided to sell the property, which sat on prime Main Street real estate, rather than repair the hall and keep the business going.

Workers razed Peter's Hall in 1960 to make way for the Community Savings and Loan building - now Fredericksburg BBVA Bank.

Michael Barr
"Hindsights" May 1, 2020 Column

Sources:
"Peter's Opera, Center of Amusement," Fredericksburg Standard, March 18, 1937
"Free Demonstration," Fredericksburg Standard, February 11, 1928.
"Peter's Hall to Reopen for Dancing With Easter Night Dance on April 9," Fredericksburg Standard, April 5, 1950.
Peter's Hall: Old Timers Remember It Well," Fredericksburg Standard, December 17, 1975.


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