- James & Annetta White
- Western, Dance Hall
- Historic Status:
- National Register of Historic Places, Texas Historic Landmark, Austin Landmark
The Broken Spoke is a historic honky-tonk on South Lamar Boulevard. Founded by James White in 1964, it is one of the oldest continuously operating dance halls in Texas (and the oldest in Austin by at least one account). The charmingly ramshackle building has been added onto ad hoc over the years, and today features a barn-red wooden exterior, spacious dance floor, stage for live music, diner-style restaurant, and full bar.
Built by owners James and Annetta White, the Broken Spoke was originally a rural venue—it was located one mile outside of the city limits. The building is essentially a rustic barn decked out with wagon wheels, Texas flags, and vintage neon signs. A heritage live oak surrounded by ranch fencing shades the crushed gravel parking lot. Inside, patrons are transported back in time with a sprawling dance floor, a humble stage for live music acts, and a long bar on one side. Low ceilings and a maze-like layout make the spacious hall feel intimate. The walls are adorned with fading photographs of country music legends, cowboy hats, and various boots, adding to the feelings of nostalgia already seeping through the walls.
The aging building boasts an impressive musical pedigree. Broken Spoke has hosted some of the biggest names in country music, including Willie Nelson, George Strait, and Dolly Parton. The establishment’s rich history and contributions to the music scene have earned it a place on the National Register of Historic Places and designation as a Texas Historic Landmark. Broken Spoke has been featured in numerous movies and television shows, evolving into a symbol of Texas culture and a defining icon of the honky-tonk bar archetype. Today, Broken Spoke is still a place where people come to connect and celebrate their shared love of Texas culture, past and present. Live music is performed regularly, attracting skilled dancers as well as tourists learning to two-step for the first time.
These days, the rambling, rustic barn is an oddity on the increasingly urban South Lamar Boulevard. Flanked by slick new apartment structures, the 50-year-old honky tonk stands its ground. The joint looks out of place yet perfectly at home; this dancehall has endured Austin’s explosive growth relatively unscathed. Its indelibility has made the Broken Spoke an iconic symbol of Texan tradition that holds a special place in the hearts of many. – Nicolle Landowski