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Castroville (Medina County)

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Castroville is one of the oldest settlements in South Central Texas, established as an Alsatian immigrant community by empresarioHenri Castro in 1844 on a grant from the Republic of Texas. There were, though, settlers from other parts of France, as well as Germans, Swiss, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, and Anglo-Americans, making the community diverse much like nearby San Antonio. Located on the banks of the Medina River, the town was laid out on a grid plan by Henry James to provide each settler with a one-third-acre town lot and with acreage outside the town for farm lots, ranging in size from twenty to forty acres. The central square, Houston Square, was reserved for a market, and three squares for schools and a church: Place Oge, Place Odin, and Place du Pape. The street names are distinctive, with European names such as London, Petersburg, Madrid, and Vienna mixed in with local names such as Houston, Mexico, and San Antonio. Frederick Law Olmsted remarked in A Journey Through Texas (1859) that Castroville looked “as far from Texan as possible” with its houses having “steep thatched roofs and narrow lanes,” when he saw it during his travels in Texas in the 1850s. Castroville served as the county seat of Medina County until 1892, when Hondo claimed the distinction, largely due to its courtship of the Southern Pacific Railroad to which Castroville refused to grant a bonus, thus causing the line to bypass the town.

In the twentieth century, Castroville became famous among Texas architects for its collection of nineteenth-century vernacular buildings, which were particularly admired by David R. Williams and O'Neil Ford, who looked to these simple structures, most notably the Joseph Carle House ( CJ7), as a source for their own domestic designs. Castroville today still preserves much of its original character, with the feeling of an Alsatian-Texan village in its broad streets and houses isolated on large lots planned for kitchen gardens. Many of the houses follow the vernacular prototype of the gable-ended, one-and-a-half-story cottage that accepts a variety of additions to its simple form: front porches, L-wing rear additions, and shed-roofed additions, in combinations that blend Alsatian and Texas-American house traditions into a unique vernacular form.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Gerald Moorhead et al.

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