Castroville Survey

June 14, 2024 Texas Comments (0) 49

Two summers ago I was out in Castroville presenting on historic districts and design guidelines, one of several speakers helping Castroville citizens determine how best to deal with the rapid growth of their very historic community. This summer I am helping five student interns survey the early houses of Castroville, thanks to the support of the Conservation Society, and the University of Notre Dame, Texas Historical Foundation and a lot of technical help from the City of San Antonio Office of Historic Preservation and the Texas Historical Commission.

History Center, Castroville

Castroville has one of the oldest National Register historic districts in the state, dating to 1970, but unfortunately that means the nomination is very sparse. It is high time that the historic district is surveyed and inventoried. In fact, the local effort led by Joshua Kempf and Shari Biediger has been looking at ALL of the Castro Colonies, including not only Castroville itself, but Quihi, D’Hanis, Yancey, Saus Creek, Vandenburg, Fort Lincoln and Hondo. The original Castroville district had about 120 homes in it but almost 300 “pioneer homes” exist throughout Medina County.

Steinle House, Castroville

The history is fascinating. In 1842 Henri Castro, in the service of the King of France, became an Empresario charged with bringing 2000 settlers to Texas. Just as the Spanish had a hard time settling the area until they converted the natives in the 18th century and enticed some settlers from the Canary Islands, so the young Republic of Texas was handing out tracts of land hoping to secure European settlers. Castro was the most successful of the lot, although like the Adel Verein that settled New Braunfels, the immigrants arrived in Texas to find that their land grants were many miles away, and as in New Braunfels, they ended up settling closer to San Antonio.

Also like the Adel Verein settlers brought by Prince Solm, the Castro settlers spoke German. But they were French, from the Alsace. Hence, the church is dedicated to St. Louis (another King of France) and there is still an annual festival celebrating the saint 180 years later. The architecture of the Castro colonies tracks with the Texas Vernacular of Central and South Texas – many simple rectangular houses with gable roofs that extend into porches and saltboxes at a different pitch. Mostly 1 or 1 1/2 stories, there are a few examples of commercial architecture and the occasional industrial building – after all, part of the reason they chose the Castroville site was the Medina River, where they could construct mills.

Yesterday I worked with the students on techniques for architectural description as they survey the pioneer houses. Dr. Jenny Hay of the City of San Antonio Office of Historic Preservation provided the survey forms – digital – and the five students from University of Notre Dame and Western University got useful research guidance from Rebecca Wallisch prior to the presentations from Jenny and I. We then walked around Castroville bit testing out survey techniques.

Jungmann House, 1855, Castroville

I am very excited about this project and will be checking in on the students’ progress weekly. They are having a four course Alsatian dinner next Tuesday to welcome the students so that should be great! Guten Apetit, y’all!

UPDATE: Alles war ganz lecker!

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