Castles are awe-inspiring and evoke images of battles, elaborate dinners, and dungeons. There are actually many castle-like mansions and buildings in Texas. But what makes a structure a castle? Is it turrets, moats, history, or simple being called a castle by the owners or local residents?
The strictest definition states castles are fortified residences, usually housing nobility. The definition also includes any large, stately residence with high walls and towers that imitates the form of a medieval castle. For the purposes of this list, castles and mansions were chosen that are fortress-like in appearance, and impressive in scale. These castles are definitely road trip worthy!
Schreiner Mansion, Kerrville, Texas – Schreiner Mansion is a historic site and event center in downtown Kerrville. The Schreiner Mansion was built in 1897 and has been restored for events, weddings, and receptions by appointment. The Mansion also hosts its own events such as holiday themed tours. It is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Falkenstein Castle, Burnet – This castle is impressive and can be seen from quite a distance. Although beautiful and the perfect setting for events, it is now privately owned and no longer hosts tours or weddings.
Bishop’s Palace, Galveston – Bishop’s Palace was designed in the French revival style popularized in the latter part of the 19th century. The exterior of Bishop’s Palace is grand, and so is the interior. The inside of this museum property was built with exotic materials such as a pair of Sienna marble columns flanking the entrance hall. The first floor rooms have fourteen foot ceilings that are coved and coffered. An octagonal mahogany stairwell is forty feet tall with stained glass on five sides. The palace includes stained glass, wood carvings, and decorative plaster ceilings and walls. The house is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The exterior is punctuated with carvings of vegetation, animals, people, and imaginary creatures. Constructed of steel and stone, Bishop’s Palace soars three stories over a raised basement level, with steep roofs and long sculptural chimneys. Bishop’s Palace hosts Lantern Light tours, Full Moon Tours, and many activities during the year.
Austin County Jail Museum, Bellville – Tour the 1896 jail with its hanging gallows and formidable cells each Saturday from 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (or by appointment). Changing exhibits highlight Austin County’s history. Austin County Jail Museum was a functioning jail until 1982.
Newman’s Castle, Bellview – The castle’s original and current owner, Mike Newman, decided to build his very own castle after exploring Europe in his early 20’s. He began construction in 1998, and ten years later the castle was completed and ready for tours. The castle features a moat with alligators, a massive working 3,000 lb. drawbridge, and working trebuchet. The castle hosts weddings, wine tastings, birthday parties, and any other special occasion.
Castle Avalon, New Braunfels – Castle Avalon offers a variety of services including weddings, receptions, and other special events during the year. There is a grand staircase at the entrance and a massive hall for hosting large events. There are many balconies from which to enjoy the scenic grounds. Tours are available on weekends and after regular business hours.
Old Red Museum Castle, Dallas – Original construction of the Old Red Courthouse took place in 1892, and the castle has undergone many transformations throughout the years. Four wyverns (from the Latin word for “serpent”) are perched atop the castle. The creatures have two legs, wings, and a spiny back. The Old Red Dallas County Courthouse originally contained six courtrooms. Fully restored, it contains an elaborate judge’s bench, jury box and gallery seating. The castle’s vault was found behind a bookshelf during the restoration process. More than one hundred vivid stained glass windows, or lunettes originally hung in the upper windows of Old Red. Two original lunettes were recovered during Old Red’s restoration. The Old Red Museum Castle is available for events and also hosts its own events regularly.
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The Old Red Museum will be hosting an Open House on August 17th from 6pm-8pm. Come by and celebrate the 10th anniversary of the museum opening and have some fun with us! You will be able to meet and mingle with some of our preferred vendors and see our historical venue set up for a wedding. Please click on the link below to register for the event. http://ow.ly/ERXy30ejYBO
The Maverick Carter House, San Antonio – The Maverick Carter House hosts several educational events related to poetry, music, architecture, literature, art, natural sciences, and astronomy throughout the year. Alfred Giles designed the house in the image of grand Roman castles. The mansion has its own observatory on the rooftop balcony which is used in the astronomy classes.
Trube Castle, Galveston – This 21 room castle was designed to replicate castles from John Trube’s memory as a boy in Kiel, Denmark. Built in 1890, this 3 story mansion is over 7,000 square feet and sits on a double corner lot. It features hardwood floors, walls, and doors, 32 stained glass windows, slate roof, widow’s walk, two ground-level apartments, a 3 car garage and stables.
The mansard slate roof with seven gables and the battlement tower give the historic home a castle distinction. The observation deck on the top of the tower offers a view of both the gulf and the harbor. The fireplace has a stained glass inset which is possible due to the double flue chimney. The architect Alfred Muller designed many prominent buildings in the state, but the Trube Castle is one of the few remaining. His work includes the Galveston 1888 City Hall (now razed) and the Old Main on the Sam Houston State University campus in Huntsville (destroyed by fire in the 1980s). The Trubes built the castle when they were in their 50’s. The castle remained in the Trube family for 95 years. It was owned by John and Veronica’s direct heirs until 1965 when it was purchased by cousin Edwin Trube and wife Mary. Mary Trube died in 1985, leaving her possessions to charity. The castle then became a bed and breakfast inn and later reverted back to a private residence once again.
Shelby County Courthouse, Center – This courthouse was erected to replace the wooden courthouse that burned to the ground in 1882. With stately towers, a cupola, and hidden stairwells, it is an architectural masterpiece. It also has the distinction of being one of the only Texas courthouses modeled after an Irish castle. J.J.E. Gibson, an Irish architect, not only designed the new brick courthouse, but he even made the bricks when the commissioners’ court awarded him the contract in 1883. The judge’s bench is equipped with a trapdoor to enable swift exits to chambers, and there are fireplaces in bathrooms!
Lake Worth Castle/Whiting Castle/Heron Bay Castle, Forth Worth – This castle has very little direct source documentation and very little information can be obtained even after chasing down possible leads. This only adds to the air of mystery and makes it all the more interesting. An internet search leads to uncorroborated but fascinating stories. Although not much is known about the castle, no Texas castle list would be complete without it. There appears to be a groundskeeper in an adjacent house and a watchdog, so take “No Trespassing” signs seriously.
Texas Pythian Home, Weatherford – The Texas Pythian Home opened on March 1, 1909, as a home for widows and orphans of Knights of Pythias members.The Order of Knights of Pythias is an international, non-sectarian fraternal order, and was the first fraternal order to be chartered by an Act of Congress. It’s aim was to heal the wounds of the Civil War between the North and South and promote friendship among men and relieve suffering. Pythians are pledged to the promotion of understanding among men of good will.
The Pythians made the decision to build the home in Weatherford, Texas, due to the amount of land given as well as the support of the community. The main building housed orphaned children on the second floor. The basement was divided into apartments for widows with children. The administrative staff had their offices on the first floor. In the early 70’s widows no longer lived at the Pythian Home due to the completion of a retirement home for aged Pythians in Greenville, Texas.
The Pythian Home School was designated an independent school district on August 1, 1910, and continued until 1972. The Home had a large dairy operation for many years. Animals were raised to provide meat for the residents. The Home also had a huge garden and orchard. The staff and children living at the Home kept busy maintaining all of the operations. The extra produce that the Home grew was sold and provided substantial regular income. Government regulations changed in 1972 limiting the work of the children, so many of these operations changed.
Pemberton Castle, Austin – The Pemberton Castle, also known as the Fisher-Gideon House, originated as a water tower used for fighting fires and then for watering crops on surrounding farms. In 1925, construction began to convert it into a Gothic Revival castle. The historic landmark plaque on the property reads: “Pemberton Castle began in the 1890s as a cylindrical water tower. It was converted into a small castle in the mid-1920s by Samuel (Budley) Fisher for use as the Pemberton Heights subdivision sales office. The castle was acquired in 1937 by Samuel Gideon and his wife Sadie Cavitt. Gideon, a respected professor of architecture at The University of Texas, added many distinctive features to the structure. The house is an asymmetrical gothic revival style structure with a rough stone face and prominent castellated parapets.”
Chateau Bellevue, Austin – Chateau Bellevue is currently home of the Austin Woman’s Club, a non-profit wedding and events venue located in a beautiful historic building in the heart of downtown Austin. Built in 1874, Chateau Bellevue is romantic and elegant, with French Romanesque arches, beautiful courtyard grounds, a spacious ballroom, ornate hand-carved woodwork and stunning stained glass windows.
The mansion was built by Harvey and Catherine North in 1874. Harvey took his family on long visits to Europe, giving credence to the idea that Bellevue’s castle imagery evoked European castles. In 1892, Major Ira Evans bought Bellevue Place and turned the home into a castle, with the help of noted Texas architect, Alfred Giles. Starting with North’s wooden porch (replaced with limestone in the 1920s) Giles extended the home toward the west with a series of graceful rusticated limestone arches. He fortified the rooftops with crenelations and added a side entrance of exquisitely carved limestone.
Brown County Jail Museum, Brownwood – Brown County Jail Museum is another jail turned museum on this list. Guided tours of the old jail are available during regular business hours and are included in the cost of admission. The museum creates interactive exhibits such as scavenger hunts, Victorian-era ornament crafting classes, and haunted museum tours.
Greystone Castle, Mingus – Greystone Castle originated from the dream of a Texas businessman. He was looking to build a castle as the centerpiece for the ultimate outdoor sporting facility. He started construction on the building in the 1980’s, added 13 lakes, 30 miles of roads and a 60-run dog kennel. After finishing the three walls and 4 turrets, he sold the beginnings of the castle and its 4,000 acres to several investors. These investors added Lodge 1 and 2, the dining room and an open air pavilion as the South structure.
By the late 1990’s, Greystone Castle Sporting Club had added to its acreage and was operating as a commercial hunting ranch. By November of 2015, the the dusty gravel driveway up to the castle was paved, a giant lake was added, a 2,600 foot pavilion was completed, and the pool, hot tub, and steam room were completed. Greystone Castle today has 6,500 acres of land it rents for events, corporate groups meetings, and getaways.
Smythwick Castle & Lodge, Marble Falls – Smythwick Castle & Lodge is a country castle with lodging on 10 acres in the Texas Hill Country. The grounds are filled with waterfalls, ponds, peacocks, and grand old Oak trees. Stone fireplaces, a turret and a unique old world brick courtyard with an elegant fountain add to the ambiance of the castle. The more formal Grand Hall features crystal chandeliers, large stone fireplace, picture windows and medieval draperies. The venue hosts weddings and events with the option to stay onsite after the festivities.