HOMES TOUR AND HISTORICAL MARKERS OF BELLVILLE
Produced by: Kim Martin & Jack Morgan
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
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
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
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
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
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)