Texas Travel

City Spotlight: Waxahachie

By Chet Garner 1.1.20

Waxahachie may be just south of Dallas by about 30 miles, but it’s as charming and small-town Americana as they come.

Perhaps the first thing you’ll notice about Waxahachie is the old-fashioned Victorian architecture, from the Ellis County Courthouse to the ornate decorations and woodwork of the surrounding neighborhoods. To many, the quaintly styled homes and structures are reminiscent of gingerbread houses, lending to Waxahachie’s affectionate nickname: “the Gingerbread City.”

But as charming as Waxahachie seems on the outside, the town and its history have a spooky side too.

Todd White

The Courthouse

The entire city revolves around the late-1800s Ellis County Courthouse. Romanesque-revival in style, the building is covered in ornate stone carvings, most of which are the faces of women. As you make your way around the courthouse, however, the once-lovely faces begin to sneer and look a bit more sinister — turning to something more akin to gargoyles.

Legend has it that a stonemason from out of town was commissioned to carve these and, while working on the project, he fell deeply in love with a local, beautiful girl. He was so enamored by her that he chiseled her face all over the courthouse exterior. The girl, on the other hand, was completely disinterested in him, and the longer he worked on the project, the more she spurned his romantic advances. As his opinion of her turned more and more bitter, so did the sculptures of her face. Whether or not this tale is true depends on whom you believe, but it’s a fun piece of local lore.

The Munster Mansion

If you’re a fan of the 1960s sitcom The Munsters, you’d be hard-pressed to be a bigger fan than the Waxahachie couple who built an exact replica of the Munster family’s haunted mansion. And when I say “exact,” I mean it: The house is decked out with secret passageways, trapdoors, cobwebs, and even a dragon who lives under the staircase. The couple watched footage from the show over and over to recreate it flawlessly, even counting the number of steps the characters took between pieces of furniture to copy it exactly. Tours are given all the time, and the house is an absolute must-see.

Catfish Plantation

A great example of the town’s gingerbread style is the Catfish Plantation restaurant, which is famous for more than their excellent chicken-fried steak and catfish. What makes this place extra special is that countless guests have experienced otherworldly phenomena there. Doors close without reason, lights flicker on and off … you might even feel a faint tap on your shoulder while you’re cutting into your catfish. Although I’ve been here three times and have nothing out of the ordinary to report, the stories I heard from other patrons definitely gave me the heebie-jeebies.

Meat Church

You might already be familiar with the internet sensation of Meat Church and its founder, Matt Pittman. He’s been sharing barbecue tips and tricks online for years, generating such a huge following that he opened his own store right in Waxahachie. He sells everything from original rubs and seasonings to T-shirts and swag that represent Texas barbecue culture. Pittman even hosts a “BBQ School” in his backyard — he taught us how to smoke the perfect brisket, steaks, turkey, and ribs right in his yard. It’s the perfect way for any carnivore to spend an afternoon.

Chet Garner is the host of PBS’ The Daytripper. Join him on more of his day trips around Texas here.

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