Over the weekend, the 113 year old Wunsche Bros Cafe & Saloon of Old Town Spring was badly damaged in a fire. The new section of the building was completely destroyed, while the original structure, dating back to 1902, was badly damaged by smoke.
Cafe owners have said, “The addition that was added on in the mid 80’s is what sustained the most damage. The original building suffered a lot of smoke damage and we lost most of the original pictures. If anyone has any pictures they would like to donate please contact us.”
The fire is believed to have started around 3:00 AM. Over 50 firefighters from seven fire departments battled the blaze. Cafe owners have already announced their plan to rebuild, however, the fire has taken a devastating toll on the community:
“We will be setting up an account with Amegy Bank for anyone who who would like to make donations for the employees and their families. We have approximately 40 families who now have no income coming in. God bless you all and please keep us in your prayers.”
The placard out front of the cafe is still standing, and reads: “This building was constructed in 1902 by one of Spring’s earliest families, the Wunsches, who came here from Germany in 1846. Built to accommodate railroad workers, The Wunsche Brothers Saloon and Hotel, later known as the Spring Cafe, has served as a community gathering place throughout its history. The structure, which exhibits a turn of the century commercial detailing, is Spring’s oldest existing commercial building on its original site.”
The cafe was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, and its history is an interesting one. Here’s a brief account:
In 1846, German immigrants, Jane and Carl Wunsche, settled in Spring, Texas. In 1902, their sons, William, Dell, and Charlie, built the original Wunsche Bros Saloon. At that time, Spring was a bustling railroad boom town, and the brothers built saloon and as well as a hotel to accommodate their fellow railroad workers and business men.
Unfortunately for Spring, in 1923, the Houston and Great Northern Railroad (now Missouri Pacific) relocated their rail yard south to Houston, taking all their business and employees with it. By 1926, most of the town’s buildings were scrapped for wood, which was used to build barns and as firewood. The Wunsche Bros. Cafe & Saloon escaped this fate, and now stands as the oldest survivor of the past.
At the start of Prohibition, The Wunsche Bros. Cafe & Saloon was the last to close in Harris County. Legend has it that before the law went into effect, Texans from hundreds of miles around rallied in the dirt streets of Spring to eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we’re dry!
In closing, a curious rumor has surfaced suggesting that perhaps the fire was started by the ghost of Charlie Wunsche, who is said to haunt the location. What motives Charlie would have for burning down his own haunt after decades of benign pranks is unclear. However, it’s certainly a more entertaining explanation than the more likely cause; an electrical fire due to decrepit 80’s era wiring. Several employees at the cafe have claimed to believe that Charlie is a friendly ghost, and only remains on the premise to can watch over his investment and his staff.