Sunday Houses



I”m writing a new series set in Two-Time, Texas (wait till you out find out why it”s called Two-Time). Like an old teabag I”ve been steeped in research since the first of the year, and just learned that not everything in Texas is huge.  Take for example Sunday houses.
A Sunday house was a small (and I do mean small) second dwelling located next to a church. These houses were built by devout German farmers and ranchers who lived in the Texas Hill boonies.
sh2Originally, German settlements were laid out as farm communities and farmers were given town lots. They were expected to live in town and drive out daily to their farms or ranches to work. It didn”t take farmers long to figure out that it was less of a hassle to live on the farms and travel to town on weekends.
 This led to the building of Sunday houses. Every Saturday farming families traveled to town to purchase supplies, attend to business and, if necessary, receive medical treatment.
Saturday nights was a time to socialize and this generally included a dance. They would then spend the night at their Sunday houses so as to attend church the following morning. They would either return to farm or ranch on Sunday afternoon, or wait till Monday.
These wood-framed weekend houses were small and usually had only one and a half rooms. Many had gabled attics reached from an Snday houseoutside staircase where children would sleep. The pitched roofs were made from handmade cypress shingles and the windows and woodwork embellished with mill work.
The first floor had a lean-to kitchen and covered porch. A fireplace provided warmth and cooking facilities, but there was no running water.
These second dwellings fell out of favor in the 1920s. Improved roads and automobiles made Sunday houses no longer necessary. Fortunately, many of these charming houses still exist in Gillespie County and supposedly cost a bundle.
Now if I could just figure out how to work a Sunday house into my story.  Anyone seen one of these?


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Margaret Brownley
Margaret has published more than 46 books and is a N.Y. Times Bestselling author and two-time Romance Writers of America Rita Finalist. She writes historical novels set--where else?--in the Old West! She has written for a day time soap and is currently working on a new series. Not bad for someone who flunked 8th grade English. Just don't ask her to diagram a sentence.


  1. Wow, I loved hearing about these houses. Had not known about them before. They remind me of the Tiny Houses that are cropping up all over now!

    1. You’re right Connie, small is all the rage. Here in California’s there’s a movement against McMansions. Also hotels like the Marriott are building new hotels with teeny-tiny rooms. This is so that guests will spend more time (and money) downstairs.

  2. Hello Margaret! I have never heard of a Sunday house. The houses you have pictured that are lined up in a row, neatly in uniform, are similar to what I used to see as a child in an area my mother referred to as “Shanty Town.” Congrats on your new book. I can’t wait to read it. The first two chapters were great. In the excerpt Det.Jennifer Layne aka Amy fooled Mr Colton into thinking she was Rose until the real Rose is found dead. I love it! She’s feisty!

    1. Hi Lisa, I remember hearing about a “Shanty town” as a child. I always loved the sound of the name and had no idea what it meant.

      I’m glad you liked the excerpt. Hope you enjoy the book!

  3. Wisconsin has several German towns but I have never heard of or seen a Sunday House.

  4. Hi Laurie,

    I heard there were Sunday houses in the German communities of Pennsylvania, but haven’t been able to confirm.

    They many be unique to Texas because of the vast terrain.

  5. I have never even heard of a Sunday house until now. Much less seen one. This was something interesting to learn.

  6. Janine, I enjoyed learning about these, too. How nice to see that so many still exist and have been preserved.

  7. Margaret, I’ve heard of Sunday houses and even seen a few. They’re really cute, but you’re right: They cost a fortune.

    Thanks for sharing your research. You provided a lot of information I didn’t know.

    Can’t wait to find out the story behind the name Two-Time. I’m going to have to ask you to help me name my next town! 😀

    1. Hi Kathleen, that’s the great thing about blogs; you have a place to put all the research that doesn’t end up in a book.

      I love coming up with town names. I just turned in a story that takes place in Bee-Flat, Kansas and that has a funny story, too. But I have to say that Two-Time, Texas is my favorite so far.

        1. That’s the same mistake the heroine makes–but she’s wrong.

  8. How fun – and practical. The perfect little getaway for the weekend. I wonder if any of those German husbands and wives snuck away from the farm on say a (gasp) Wednesday for a little romantic escape from the kids. I’d be tempted. 🙂

  9. Hi Karen, I see how your mind works! LOL!

    1. Ha! Probably because I have three teens at home and am wishing I had a Sunday house to escape to right about now. 🙂

      1. Ah, Karen, I remember those days. Here’s wishing you a “Sunday” house in the near future. Maybe for Valentine’s…

  10. that was so interesting! I have never seen one of those houses but I bet there cute and cozy on the inside. No excuse about not making it to church then hahahah.

    1. Hi Cori, yes they are amazingly small. I don’t think I could even fit my books in one. My husband and I live in a four bedroom house and use every bit of space. I keep wondering how I ever managed to raise three children in it.

  11. Wow those look so small! I can see the need they had for them… thanks for bringing them to my attention… interesting post!

    1. Colleen, thank you for stopping by. Have a beautiful day!

  12. Margaret, I’ve heard of Sunday houses but didn’t know the history behind them. Thanks for a great post. BTW, beautiful pictures! Hugs, Phyliss

    1. Hi Phyliss,

      Yes, I loved learning about the history, too. History was never this much fun in school!

      Hugs back,

  13. HI Margaret, I’ve never heard of Sunday houses or seen one, but what a wonderful tidbit of history. And definitely something to use in a story! Best wishes on the series, my friend. xo

    1. Thank you, Tanya!

      88 (which is how they wrote hugs and kisses on telegrams!

      I told you I was in serious research mode.

  14. first ive ever heard of a sunday house,very interesting,,thats the size id like to have when hubby retires

    1. Hi Vickie, that would certainly cut down on housework, wouldn’t it?

  15. What lovely little houses. A bit like a camp, only the reverse of getting away from town for the weekend. I can understand wanting one for historical value, but they are so small, I don’t quite know why they would be expensive. They are perfect for a single person or a young couple. They are the right size for retirees , but the stairs wouldn’t work for most older people. We will be in Texas, but won’t be going close enough to Gillespie County. Would love to see these houses.
    Am not sure what your storyline is for the new book, bit she could be new to town to marry a farmer. She stays at the Sunday house during the “courting period.

    1. Hi Patricia,

      The houses are registered as historical, which might explain the expense–not sure.

      Hmm…marrying a farmer….

  16. Margaret, I learned something new from you today. I had no idea these Sunday houses existed! How interesting! Oh, yes, you’ve gotta find a way to work one in to a story!

    1. Cheryl, thanks.

      I learn something new here every day, myself.


  17. I had no clue to the Sunday Houses! I’ve never read them within a story so can’t wait to read yours! A joy to meet you too. Cathie

    1. Thank you Cathie! It’s a joy meeting you, too!

  18. Fredricksburg, Texas has many of these Sunday houses that are now bed and breakfasts. We stayed in a couple of different homes during weekend visits. They are much more charming than a regular motel. It would be fun to read about them in one of your books.

    1. Pam, that’s really interesting. Yes, I imagine they would be more charming than a motel. That’s it! I need to go to Fredricksburg!

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