When Hollywood filmmakers need a ghost town, they head to Bartlett. Crews shot the 2010 version of True Grit here, as well as an episode of AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead. But while this historic city with the picture-perfect downtown can still pass for abandoned on film, in reality, the place is staging a comeback.
Located an hour north of Austin, the town of Bartlett was established in 1881. A year later, the Katy Railroad added a stop here. Bartlett expanded while cotton was a major cash crop, but by the end of the Great Depression, the town had shrunk to a shade under 2,000 people (a population that has stayed relatively steady to today) and had lost its importance as a shipping center.
In 2019, Bartlett launched a revitalization campaign aimed at attracting young artisans and other “makers.” And sure enough, those old buildings along its main drag have begun to spring back to life, with woodworkers, markets, and artists moving in. As a result, the town now makes for a great getaway. To visit Bartlett today is to straddle two counties (the town sits on the Bell and Williamson county line) and two eras: Bartlett’s storied past and its intriguing future. Here are some ways to experience the duality of Bartlett.