Where is Bellville Texas
Bellville, voted the county seat of Austin County in 1846, is at the junction of Texas Highway 36 and FM 159, roughly the geographic center of the county. Thomas and James Bell emigrated from Florida in 1822 and settled in the area as some of Stephen F. Austin’s earliest Texas colonists.
The Bell brothers gave 145 acres for a town that was laid out in 1848 and in turn, was called Bellville. Anglo-Americans settled here first followed by German immigrants.
In the winter of 1879-1880, the railroad (Gulf Coast & Santa Fe) arrived and brought people and prosperity as a commercial business center developed. By the 1880s, the population was heavily German and many cultural institutions of the ethnic group were functioning, including a German-language newspaper the “Wochenblatt.”
In 1897, the Pavilion (Located on the intersection of Hwy. 529 & Amthor Street) was built by the German organization “Gut Heil (good health) Turneverein.” The Turnverein was a German cultural organization that promoted and fostered ethnic and cultural identity, served benevolent causes and created the county fairgrounds. In many places as in Houston, this group was responsible for new firefighting brigades.
The Bellville Turnverein, organized in 1885 and chartered in 1889, promoted gymnastics, fellowship, music, theater, singing and dance. The Turnverein was responsible for creating the Turner Hall Opera
House in 1889 and was so successful that crowds attending functions outgrew a mid-town facility. In 1895, a 14+ acre property (at the Amthor location) was bought from the “Bellville Social Club.” German architect Eugene Heiner designed a 12-sided pavilion and county craftsman Joachim Hintz was engaged in building the structure. In 1997, the building received a Recorded Texas Landmark designation.
Concordia Hall (1030 Tesch St.) was built east of Bellville by the “Piney Concordia Gesang-Verein,” a German singing group organized in 1850. They regularly gathered for singing, meeting in the school until 1877 when they acquired 2 acres of land one mile east of Bellville. They dedicated a new building that same year and met there for 20+ years. The 1900 storm destroyed their facility, so they rebuilt three-quarters of a mile south of Bellville (closer to most members’ homes).
In 1938, the group changed its name to “Bellville Concordia Gesang-Verein.” They participated in statewide singing competitions with similar groups. For most of its history, Concordia was a male choral organization. The women formed an associate group and later merged. As the German language declined after 1945, the singing groups faded and eventually dissolved. In 1997, The Bellville Lions Club obtained ownership of Concordia Hall, and today the building has a multifunctional use. The building received a Texas State Historical Marker in 1968.
The Austin County Jail Museum (36 S. Bell) was built in 1896 and operated as the county detention center until 1982. A St. Louis firm designed the three-story structure and gallows. Bricks for the building came from the local John Colleton’s kiln. The jailer’s living quarters and sheriff’s office were on the ground floor with cells on the upper floors.
The gallows were used only once in 1901. Gus Davis was hung for the murder of Herman Schluenz. In 1976, the building received the Historical Commission’s Recorded Texas Historic Landmark designation and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. After a new jail was built, this facility was restored and is open for tours with periodic interest exhibits in the living quarters (open Saturdays 11 a.m.-3 p.m.).
Bellville Masonic Lodge 15 N. Masonic St.) was chartered in June 1858. The lower floor of the two-story building functioned as a school and the second story for lodge activities. Various churches used the building on a specified Sunday for monthly services.
The building was torn down in 1883 to make way for the present 1886 structure. In 1985, the building was purchased and restored by the Bellville Historical Society. In 1986, the site obtained a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark designation and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Today the City of Bellville offers opportunities for shopping in turn-of-the-century restored structures around the town square serving as art galleries, specialty and antique shops and restaurants. First Saturday Market Days, along with festivals and events throughout the year, provide ample leisure opportunities to spend quality time with friends and family. Several bed-and-breakfast establishments make Bellville an excellent weekend destination just a short drive from Brenham, Houston, Austin or San Antonio.
The City of Bellville is the home of the giant bust of Stephen F. Austin, the Father of Texas, which was dedicated on May 3, 2013. It is at the intersection of Highway 36 and Highway 159.
Just north of the city limits off Old 36 Road lies a true wonder, Neman’s Castle. Built of cinder blocks with masonry stucco, the castle had 3,400 square feet of living space and enclosed a quarter-acre inside its perimeter wall. In addition to a moat and a drawbridge with an accompanying porticullis, the castle features five round corner turrets, a bell tower, a chapel, a great room for celebrations, a courtyard complete with a pell for swordsmanship training, a dungeon (albeit above ground) and a central keep, accessed by a spiral staircase, that provides a dramatic view of the surrounding land.
Tours are available six days a week starting at 10:30 a.m. from Newman’s Bakery, which is also a popular stop for weekend tourists, cycling clubs and bikers. Reservations are required. The Castle is available for other special events. For tour reservations, call (979) 865-9804.
Bellville Meat Market is also a local tourist tradition. The meat market was started in 1981 by Daniel and Diann Poffenberger. Through the years, they have grown to reach far beyond the local community. The current store was opened in 2000 directly behind the old store. In 2001, The Poffenbergers retired and turned the company over to their sons Jerrod and Marcus who continue the family tradition. For information, call (979) 865-5972.
The City of Bellville is an aggressive business community that has seen successful growth and prosperity by working closely with their existing businesses, fostering healthy expansion and at the same time working with new businesses looking to relocate. Bellville offers a culturally enriched community with excellent schools and a warm, welcoming population.