Pass over the railroad tracks at the corner of Farm and Fayette Streets and on the northeast corner, the driver will see a beat-up old building of faded red bricks with a corrugated sheet metal roof – not all that remarkable, unless you know what it was in the Nineteenth Century.
It’s still called “Casino Hall,” although its past isn’t about gambling. When constructed around 1848, it was early Bastrop’s primary location for concerts, banquets, stage plays, and all forms of cultural diversions in the community’s early days.
For Austin Statesman columnist Michael Barnes, who wrote his dissertation at the University of Texas at Austin on early dancehalls and entertainment venues in old-days Texas, it’s almost a shrine – the oldest surviving theatre structure in the state.
Barnes, whose frequent history pieces on old Austin have been published in the 3-volume “Indelible Austin” books, will discuss the background of Casino Hall and other places where early Texans enjoyed performances and social get-togethers in a talk at the BCHS quarterly meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, January 23rd at the Bastrop Opera House, 711 Spring Street in Bastrop (and yes, he will talk about the Opera House as well).
Having written for the Statesman for three decades, Barnes recently initiated a newsletter/column series called “Think Texas,” a weekly digital newsletter that he described as “about Texas history: from the arrival of indigenous people to the rise of the republic and the never-ending evolution of a state like no other.”