HOMES TOUR AND HISTORICAL MARKERS OF BELLVILLE

 

l. THE MAX BADER HOME: 110 S. MASONIC (Home Tour)

Alfred Finn a famous Houston Architect (the San Jacinto Battleground Monument, the Gulf Building among many other Houston landmarks) was the designer of this home, which was built in 1925. It was the residence of Max Bader, a community leader of Bellville and founder of the Austin County State Bank. It has only recently been converted into a commercial establishment "The Holland House."

 

 

 2. JOHN BELL LEWIS HOME: 206 S. MASONIC (Historical Marker & Home Tour)

John Bell Lewis, banker, businessman, and one-time Sheriff of Austin County built this home in 1874. His grandmother, Betty Washington Lewis was George Washington's sister. He served in the Confederate Army, was Sheriff during the difficult Reconstruction days and helped found the Bellville First National Bank. He was also instrumental in getting the Santa Fe Railroad to come through Bellville. Though we cannot visit the house, It is interesting to know that the parlor remains as it was originally, including the fine French wallpaper. To the left, the carriage house has been converted into the office of architect, Jim Bishop. A Designated Historical Marker.

3. SHELBURNE HOUSE: 402 S. MASONIC (Historical Marker & Home Tour)

James Henry Shelburne was the eldest son of 14 children. His parents, were early immigrants from Virginia and Tennessee (1836). In 1882, he purchased one acre of land and constructed this house for $700 (which included the land). The outside of the house is of pine clapboard, which is still in excellent condition. The drive at the side of the home leads to the original drive-through carriage house and woodshed. The cypress picket fence that surrounds the garden is also restored from the original. Mr. Shelburne was a prominent criminal lawyer. He had a varied public career, serving as a member of the police court, justice of the peace, and tax assessor. In 1886, he was elected to the 20th legislature by a unanimous vote. A few years after his death in 1904, William and Bertha Reinecker purchased the home and finished the second story as living quarters and added a wrap--around veranda. There are two entrances to the veranda, both of which have massive ornate doors and beveled glass. It is now the home of George and Maryann Schulz.

4. HAAK HOUSE: 310 E. PALM (Home Tour)

August Haak, prominent merchant, and his wife Emila began construction of this elegant Victorian home in 1886 for his retirement residence. The house remained within the same family until 1967. The slight leaning of the bay window area is reputed to have been the result of the 1900 Galveston hurricane.


 5. THE HARIGEL HOUSE: 104 S. BELL (Historical Marker & Home Tour)

This charming Victorian cottage was built in 1881 by Emil H, Harigel, the son of a Prussian immigrant. He was the owner of a hardware, tinware and stove emporium. The current owner and resident, Jack Morgan, is the great great grandson of Emil. The first water well(located at the back of the house) was once the water supply for the entire town and still exists. Of note are the Mansard roof, the original front door and sidelights that feature the Harigel name. Designated Historical Marker 1984.

 

6. WOLF HOME: 258 S. HOLLAND (Home Tour)

A fine Victorian home, built in 1896, by A. Wolf, became the home of Charles Tesch, first Mayor of Bellville, in 1903. The Tesch brothers were owners of a pharmacy on the Square, which was a very thriving business. The Mayor's brother lived in the home just to the south. The new owners have added a touch of whimsy to the spacious front yard.


7. TESCH HOME: 240 S. HOLLAND (Home Tour)

As noted above, this Greek Revival home belonged to Fred Tesch, Bellville pharmacist. One of the most distinctive features of this home is the unique fence that surrounds it. It is made completely of concrete, posts, bars, and all.

 

 

 

  8. HELLMUTH HOME: 214 S. LIVE OAK (Home Tour)

C.F. Hellmuth was a very successful merchant in Bellville as early as 1877. He built several of the old two-story buildings that still stand on the Square. This lovely house was home to the Hellmuth family, with their 11 children. It was built in the late 1800s. It is representative of the Victorian style that was so popular, but is a bit more subdued in its detailing. It has been restored to its original splendor with its cypress exterior. The spacious interior has been updated and now houses the High Cotton Inn.

9. NEELY HOME:308 N Holland (Home Tour)

The Neely house was built in 1918-19. The architect was the famed Alfred Finn and the contractor was Oscar Wolnitzek. The lot on which it stands was purchased by the Neely's from Springfield. The family was early pharmacists. The floors plan of the house remains virtually unchanged. Dr. Neely was a very prominent physician in Bellville and builder of the first hospital, which was on a corner of the Square and easily within walking distance. The Neely's lived in the house until the time of their deaths in the l970's. The house is now occupied by the John Richardson's family.

 

10. MACHEMEHL HOME: 621 E. O'BRYANT (Historical Marker & Home Tour)

L.A.. Machemehl, successful land and cattle broker, was a native of Austin County. He was vice-president of Austin County State Bank, horseman of note, and owner of the 3rd. automobile in Bellville. He commissioned famed Houston architect, Alfred Finn, to design this unique house in 1920. The one and one-half story house is what is called Airplane-Bungalow style, with the upstairs portion set behind the large wrap-around porch. Many festivities took place on that spacious porch, including dances by the youth of the city to a Victrola. Mahogany crown molding and doors and a fireplace with inlaid decorative tile, original brass wall sconces and chandeliers and a door into the kitchen for ice deliveries set this house apart. It remained in the Machemehl family until 1953. The architect's original watercolor rendition and detailed floor plans are in the archives of the Houston Public Library.

11. STRAUSS HOME: 205 E AUSTIN (Home Tour)

Charles Strauss, a tax collector and politician, and his wife Lottie, started this home in 1909 and completed it in 1910. Mr. Strauss was also in the lumber business and used ornate framework and other examples of fine woodwork. Many original features, including the bevel glass entry and side porch doors are still in use.

 

 

 12. GRANAU HOME: 303 E. AUSTIN (Home Tour)

Henry Granau was a rancher and was also president of the First National Bank. He was descended from a family that migrated here from Germany in 1848. The original Granau had a business in the block where the Finn Carriage House is now, where he ran a wagon yard and also weighed cotton. Henry, the son, built this home in 1894, blending Victorian and Italianate detailing in its design. After his death, Mrs. Granau continued living in the house until 1971. The exterior of the house remains as it was originally constructed except for the walled courtyard, a recent addition.

13. MATTHAEI HOME: 112 N. HOLLAND (Home Tour)

This Victorian house was built in 1908 by C. A. Matthaei, a lawyer. One of the rooms housed a library with an extensive collection of books. Mr. Matthaei graciously shared these books with the people in the Bellville area. It was the only library in those days. In later years, the house became a boarding house and tourist home. It is now, a private home.

 

 

14. STECK HOME: 238 S. BELL (Home Tour)

This home was built in 1906 by Dr. Otto Steck. The wraparound porch and the gingerbread trim make this representative of the era in which it was built. Dr. Steck had moved here in 1902 and married a daughter of the Hellmuth family, whose house we have already visited above. He was a well-liked and successful doctor. If you meet any of the older people around town, chances are they were delivered by Dr. Steck. Years ago, there was a carriage house in back, with quarters for the driver. It is said that when Dr. Steck would have to go on a house call, he would stand on the porch and ring a loud bell, which would summon his carriage. The house stayed in the Steck family until 1968.

15. McCARN HOME: 531 S. HOLLAND (Home Tour)

This bungalow-style home was constructed in 1918-1919 by the Grody family. Mr. Grody was a lumberman in Bellville. He owned the entire block of land here from Holland to Bell. Why is the house facing sideways? The front and back doors of the house are facing the lawn. We are looking at its left side. Probably the answer is that Mr. Grody thought a street would be built through his property. The interesting thing about this house is that it has been redone extensively by the present owners, the Bob McCarn's, without destroying the ambiance of the old home.

 

16. THE JAIL MUSEUM: 36 S. BELL STREET (Historical Marker)

This building was the 4th jail built on this block of land. It was built in 1896 and was used as the County Jail until 1982. The Romanesque Revival style of design suggests, to many people, a sort of Texas castle. The jailhouse is divided into two sections. On the left (or south), it was used as quarters for the Sheriff and his family. On the right is the jail proper. There are three stories of cells, with a small 4th floor that served as a gallows. This gallows was used but once, in 1901. Tours of the jail are available on Saturdays, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. No fee.

17. THE E.O. FINN BUILDING AND BLACKSMITH SHOP: 301 E. MAIN (Historical Marker)

This Vernacular ltalianate building was built in 1886 by E. Oscar Finn and John Colleton. E. 0. Finn was a German immigrant, master mechanic, and smithy of buggies and wagons. John Colleton was a brick maker: and, indeed, most of building around the Square and the Jail Museum, are constructed from Colleton bricks. Stucco was applied over the brick, and patterned to simulate stones. Over the front is a marble plaque reading E.O. Finn 1896. Double doors at the side allowed the entrance of carriages and buggies to the showroom on the first floor. A wooden balcony is suspended by iron hangers around all four walls. The second floor was the living quarters for the Finn family. One unique feature is a dumbwaiter inside that runs from the basement to the 2nd floor. A well, inside the building on the first floor, provided the drinking water. A cistern on the ceiling of the second floor bathroom collected rain water which was then piped to the bathtub, sink and commode. Quite modern for that day. Of note are the paired Italianate windows, and the cast iron columns and balustrade. Next door is the Blacksmith Shop, which was built in the mid-1800s and was used until 1980. Original flooring (part brick, part wood) and original rings for pulleys are still in place.

18. MAGRUDER-CANNON-BRYAN HOUSE: (Historical Marker)

This landmark is on private land and inaccessible to the public.

The grand old building designated by the marker is called the Magruder-Cannon-Bryan House. Home to Civil War veteran and prominent lawyer, Fortunatus Magruder. It was subsequently sold to rancher Oliver Cannon and then to Sealy merchant, W.L.Gray. Gray's sister and niece, Fay Bryan inherited the property. It was moved from Sealy to a location on the outskirts of Bellville, south on Holland Street, in 1969. it was designated as an official landmark building in 1982.

19. ST. JOHN'S LUTHERAN CHURCH, N. HOLLAND (Historical Marker)

There was not a Lutheran Church building in Bellville until 1898. A small congregation had been organized several years earlier, but they had met in the Methodist Church. The first church was a small frame building, which was blown off its foundation by the hurricane of 1900. The structure was repaired and continued to serve a very small and inactive membership. Perhaps because they suffered under a whole string of ministers, In 1911, a dynamic minister renewed their zeal and the present building was erected in 1925 at a cost of $25,000. The congregation celebrated their Centennial year in 1996.

 

20. SITE OF THE FIRST BELLVILLE MASONIC LODGE: 15 N. MASONIC (Historical Marker)

Bellville Masonic Lodge was chartered in 1858. Zimri Hunt, one of the first lawyers in Bellville, served as its first Worshipful Master. In 1858, a two-story building was erected on this site. For reasons unknown, the first building was replaced in 1886 with the present structure. The first floor was used at various times as a church, a community center and one of the first schools in Bellville. The Bellville Historical Society purchased it in 1985 and completely renovated by that organization. It now serves as meeting-place and office of that Society.

 

21. HISTORY OF BELLVILLE METHODIST CHURCH: 234 MASONIC (Historical Marker)

When Stephen F. Austin began his original colony of the Old Three Hundred, he had signed a decree of the Mexican government that the Roman Catholic Church would be the official religion. Nevertheless, when the Bell brothers settled here in 1822, it wasn't long before Thomas Bell donated 50 acres of land between Piney and Caney Creeks which was to be used as the site for a church and camp ground. As early as 1835, William Barrett Travis, of Alamo fame, was a featured speaker, promising to help bring Methodist ministers here. The campground continued as the seat of Methodism in this area until the 1880s, when the land was sold and the funds used to build a church in Bellville on this site. The building was used by German and English-speaking congregations on alternate sundays. A new sanctuary was built in 1886 and served until 1973 when the present structure was erected.

22. THE CUMINGS FAMILY VAULT: HACIENDA ST AT TESCH (Historical Marker)

Rebecca Cumings and her three brothers, James, John and William came here from Virginia in 1821. As members of Stephen Austin's "Old 300" colony, they received 20,000 acres in return for the construction and operation of a mill on a nearby creek (Mill Creek). Legend has it that Rebecca was the sweetheart of William Barrett Travis, who died at the Alamo. Fifteen members of the Cumings family are buried in this vault.

 

 

 23. CONCORDIA HALL, 1000 S. TESCH STREET (Historical Marker)

The original Concordia Hall in 1877 was built about 3-1/2 miles east of this site in an area called The Pines. It was the home of a German singing society, which had been organized as far back as 1860. The 1900 hurricane leveled it. Undaunted, some of the members gathered the timbers from the old building and erected this structure in 1900. It boasts a stage, which made it popular for dramatic presentations and recitals. It remained in the hands of the Concordia Society until 1997, when it was sold to the Lions Club of Bellville.

24. MICHAEL ROBERT PILLEY: OAK KNOLL CEMETERY, HWY 529 (Historical Marker)

This gravestone Marks the Final resting Place of Michael Robert Pilley, A member of the Mier Expedition to Mexico in 1842. This ill fated foray into Mexico ended in the capture of about 170 men. The captives each picked a bean from a jar. The 17 who drew a black bean were executed. The others were sent to prison in Mexico City. Pilley was born in Grantham, England in 1820 and died in Texas in 1865.

 

 

 

25. THE BELLVILLE TURNVEREIN PAVILION: CITY PARK, HWY 529 (Historical Marker)

This is the first of three Dance Halls built by German immigrant, Joaquim Hintz. (There are two other similarly designed Hintz pavilions in Austin County). Constructed with a center pole as its interior support, the building has 12 sides that give it almost a round appearance. It was built in 1897 for the Turnverein Society of Bellville as a place for their gymnastics and their social gatherings, thus the name "Gut Heil" or Good Health. It was completed in four months, and has served as a dance hall, exhibition hall and community gathering place for more than 100 years.

 

26. AUSTIN COUNTY HISTORICAL MARKER (Historical Marker)

This is one of the original Texas Historical Society 1936 markers, recording the history of Austin County as being a part of the Stephen F. Austin Colony, being designated as a municipality in 1821 and as part of the Republic of Texas.