The Story of Home
The La Carafe building is listed on the National Register for Historic Places and is believed to be the oldest bar in Houston, and is the oldest commercial building still in use, in Houston. Built by developer Nathaniel Kellum in 1847, the La Carafe building has remained a two-story public venue since it's construction.
While the exact structure of the building itself is unknown to the public, anyone visiting La Carafe can see the steel beam which hides conspicuously behind the stairwell, but seems to be holding the roof up, and the walls with it. The documented history of the building, however is accurate and has been passed down to Owner/President Carolyn Wenglar.
|Our interview with
Wenglar shed light on the past uses of the dark building, beginning with
its heyday in the late 1800s. When it was first built, the building was
home to The Kennedy Bakery, and it mixed up fresh baked biscuits for hungry,
weary Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, the first of many wars
that the bar would see.
Later serving as a pony express station and becoming the modern La Carafe we know today in the 1950s, the building was passed down for 5 generations of Kennedys before it was sold to Wenglar's older brother who passed away shortly after gaining posession in 1987. Since 1988, Wenglar has kept La Carafe at it's original, mellow best, hiring bartenders who have been with La Carafe for her entire duration as owner.Though many people have offered to buy the place from her, Wenglar has said that the building is not hers to sell. Its a building, she says, that belongs to the public and she is none too anxious for entrepeneurs to make it into a law firm. Aside from her interest in the history and preservation of La Carafe, Wenglar says of her life as owner and manager, "It's been fun, real fun, and I like it." Hear more of Carolyn Wenglar's thoughts from our audio interview.
The inside of the building exhudes a cozy,
comforting feeling thanks to it's intimate size and the dimness of the
room. Even during the day, La Carafe remains lit primarily by natural
light coming from the doorway and a small window. There is a dim chandelier
hanging from the center of the ceiling over the bar. Each table is accompanied
with a candle that is lit after sundown for the evening bar crowd. The
wax, which certainly builds up, has likely not been removed for the past
While many would assume La Carafe is just a bar, its really much more than that. La Carafe is actually a reasonably priced wine bar where anyone (age 21 or over) can enjoy a mellow atmosphere, a nice wine selection, and depending on the night- good company and interesting people. The dim lights are coupled with arguably the best jukebox in town, ringing tunes from jazz and oldies to the cool sounds of Bob Marley. The bar takes as much space as the area for customers, but that doesnt stop those wanting to come in and relax a bit, even if it means cozying up to a stranger on a crowded Saturday night. The enduring popularity of La Carafe cannot be understood by those who have not been there, nor explained by those who have. It simply a place to experience and embrace; and if you let it, La Carafe will embrace you too. -BW and MT
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