Homes and gathering places in the historic German Community and Village of Castell will be among the hosts for this year’s annual Women’s Culture Club Holiday Home Tour. Llano County had its beginning in Castell in 1847 when the first German immigrants settled on the banks of the Llano River. At that time log cabins dotted the banks along the river but later more elaborate homes were built and the log cabins that had been the first homes were turned into barns, smoke houses, and corn cribs.Castell is very proud that so many property owners have shown such an appreciation for the preservation of its history and have beautifully restored and renovated so many of the historic old homes and structures. This year’s Holiday Home Tour is Saturday, December 3rd, from noon until 5 p.m. The tour will feature sixteen homes and places to visit, with fourteen located in “downtown” Castell and the very near vicinity. Oestreich HomeOne of the wonderful old German homes on the tour this year is the home of Friedrich (Fritz) Wilhelm Earl Oestreich Sr. and his wife Lena Schneider Oestreich. The couple were married in 1897 and Friedrich, along with his father and five brothers who were all stone masons, built this wonderful 2-story rock home on Vasterling Creek near Castell that was always a center of activity. The Oestreich family were members of the Lutheran Church and in the early days Fritz Sr. and Lena Oestreich opened their home to many pastors and their families who came to conduct Sunday worship services. The Oestreich’s would also often have country dances at their home and the grandchildren remembered having to take a shovel and wheelbarrow and pick up cow patties all around the house to get ready for the big event. How they all looked forward to those dances despite the preparation.The old historic Oestreich Home has recently been meticulously remodeled by owners Craig and Darlene Spaulding and it is well worth the see on this year’s Holiday Home Tour.Lehmberg HomeThe home of Carl and Elizabeth Leifeste Lehmberg was one of the first 2-story homes built in the Castell Community. The large stone home was erected about a mile east of Castell and on the south bank of the Llano River. In 1872 Carl Lehmberg purchased and relocated the general store and post office directly across from the north side of the river to a one-room wooden structure just to the east of his home and it also became a stagecoach stop. This was the beginning of the town of Castell on the south side of the Llano River.Most of the grandchildren remember this old homestead with its long downstairs and upstairs facing south. In front of the home and some fifty feet away was a one-story structure which was the kitchen and dining room. The home is now owned by Bill and Kathy Wallace, and using the architectural firm of Stehling, Klein, Thomas of Fredericksburg Texas, they have grandly restored the original part of the home and added many new additions Architect John Klein loved the 6 “layer cake” matching fireplaces as well as the use of wood intermingled with the rock work of the house. He had only seen a couple of houses with that type of fachwerk in his life, and to his knowledge, none had ever been restored. The top of the upstairs to the old house has the original floors and the original stairs were restored, but are not used because they are very narrow. To keep the integrity, many of the original doors and hardware were used, as well as the fireplace mantels. The awesome design and décor of this home will amaze you!Buchholz HomeThe Theodore and Amalia Bode Buchholz Home was built after they moved to Castell in 1881. At that time they bought the Lehmberg Store and Post Office and moved it to where the Post Office is now and built their new home directly to the east and the home remained in the family until 1975. At that time they bought the Lehmberg Store and Post Office and moved it to where the Post Office is now and built their new home directly to the east and the home remained in the family until 1975. The original house was the two front rooms and attic bedroom with stairs on the outside, but was added onto over the years, including the addition of indoor plumbing, with the claw foot bathtub dated as 1926. The house does not appear to have had a fireplace and evidently used wood burning stoves for heat and cooking. The long leaf pine walls in the living and dining rooms are original and were once the exterior walls at the front. Wood floors are of old recycled long leaf pine and as the original floors were covered in two layers of heavily glued linoleum and vinyl flooring. Square building nails were discovered reflecting the period during which it was built, and the “pier and beams” for the original part of the house are granite rocks and hand hewn cedar posts.Mrs. Buchholz operated a telephone switchboard or “exchange” for Castell that was installed in the left bedroom of the house. For years, the phone at the Buchholz Exchange was the only phone in the Castell Community and if one needed to use the telephone they had to go to the Buchholz home to do so. Needless to say, with the only phone around and the general store and post office next door, the home was quite the hub, and stories abound about “listening in” to those party line calls, including one marriage proposal.The home is now owned by Dennis and Chris Cavner who have magnificently restored it to better reflect the period in which it was built. Dalchau HomeThe magnificently remodeled William F. Dalchau Home was rebuilt on its original foundation around 1909 after a fire had destroyed the home along with the Dalchau Store that once stood directly to the north. The original structures were built around 1898 when William moved to Castell from Grassyville, Texas and married Dina Lehmberg and there they reared the Dalchau children. In 1914 the store was again destroyed by fire but the home only received smoke damage. The wonderful old Dalchau Home is now owned by Martin and Beth Rooney who have transformed it into a beautiful asset to Castell. In 2010, the Rooney’s completely renovated the home using William B. George of Custom Building Services in Castell. The 1909 home had no studs or interior walls and Bill employed a technique called “envelop reconstruction” where a new house is built within an old one, adding studs and interior sheet-rocked walls that also allow space for all new wiring and plumbing. The staircase design remains the same but was entirely replaced to make it more sturdy and safe, and wood from the original staircase was used on the risers. All the wood in the baseboards, window trim, wainscoting, and ceiling details of the upstairs rooms from the original home was saved and reused. During the renovation a letter was found in the floor boards from a World War I soldier to a young woman living in the house at that time.The day of the tour, the Rooneys will have large “before” pictures of the renovation on display and a digital-frame slide show of before and after pictures showing in the kitchen area. The contrast will astonish you!Grenwelge HomeThe quaint Grenwelge Home is unique in construction as it is actually two structures that were placed on the property at different times. The old home has had many owners and renters over the years, but the first two-room building on the back of the home is thought to have been built around 1912 by the owner of the property, William F. “Willie” Lehmann. The first building was simple with an exterior door cut into each side and a door between the two rooms. At a later time a second three room house was brought to the site and placed perpendicular to the original building and the two buildings are joined with a common door between them. When Oskar and Lydia Grenwelge bought the home in 1952, the screened porch was enclosed and a portion of it was converted into a bathroom.Glenn and Marci Hadeler recently purchased the home and undertook a complete renovation of the badly deteriorated buildings which they accomplished to perfection. The newly refurbished home is now a bed and breakfast that is adorable inside and out. The “Castell Cottage” with its Wildlife Sitting Room, Serenity Bed Room, Country Garden Bedroom, Country Kitchen and River Room will be a delight to visit.Vasterling HomeThe Vasterling Home was originally built around 1910 and was moved to its present location in the 1930’s by Alex and Hulda Schneider Vasterling and their son Myron Vasterling who purchased the home to relocate to their property at the present location. The home was originally located to the southwest of the property behind the Otto Henrich General Store, now Castell General Store, and was the Castell Pharmacy and Drug Store and the home of Dr. Huff and his family, and Mrs. Huff was the pharmacist in the Drug Store. The porch that is now the east of the home faced north at that time. Martin Kowierschke remembered the drugstore sold candy and served ice cream, and he especially remembers the tall fountain stools and the granite counter top. He said that once he went in there to eat and he didn’t remember what he ate, but he sure remembered it was so much fun sitting at the counter on those tall stools. The home is now owned by Dennis and Chris Cavner who have beautifully renovated it. Over the years the home was added on to as you can tell by the various ceiling heights. Floors, bead board ceilings and most of the doors are original, and the sunroom on the back is an addition made by the Cavners. The front door with sidelights and the old windows used in the sunroom were purchased at the architectural warehouse in Gonzales.The wonderful old Vasterling Home or “Physician’s Home” as the Cavners refer to it has a unique history and is a charming and most interesting home to tour.Yates HomeThe Joe David and Heather Yates Home is one of the newer homes in the Community of Castell. Set atop a hillside, this beautiful custom-built home offers panoramic views of the Llano River valley and the town of Castell. Built in 2009 of native stone and stucco, the house was designed to blend with the beauty of the Texas Hill Country and the home’s entrance is framed by picturesque clusters of mature oak trees. Entering the front circle drive, visitors will appreciate the homeowners landscaping improvements and rustic fence of steel pipe and cedar stays. Hundred year old pine beams reclaimed from a ranch in Northern New Mexico are used along the deep porches and to frame the home’s front door. Built to be an energy efficient home, the Yates used SIP panels (Styrofoam Insulated Panels) to construct the exterior walls of the home. Visitors on the Holiday Home Tour will enjoy the open floor plan, gourmet kitchen, and custom cabinetry. Men on the tour will especially appreciate Joe David’s many mounts including a longhorn, many mule deer, and two elk. This is a beautiful and unique home to tour!St. John Lutheran ChurchOn March 22, 1926, the St. John Lutheran Church in Castell purchased the old frame Lutie Watkins Methodist Church Llano to make room for the new brick Methodist Church they were going to build, and the material in the old church was used in the building of St. Johns. The trade between the two churches was made for $600.00, to purchase the building as it stood, tear it down, move it off and clear and clean the site to be ready to start construction on the new Methodist church building by May 1, 1926.With help from St. John members the church was dismantled piece by piece and Emil Holtzer who owned one of the few pickup trucks around, hauled and moved the material on his truck. Using the lumber, windows and steeple, the church was rebuilt on the St. John Lutheran Church property in Castell and was dedicated on July 11, 1926. The Sunday School Building that doubles as a fellowship hall was built in 1951, replacing the need for the arbors and sheds on the church property, the well was drilled in 1953, and soon after the parsonage was built. The first English Lutheran service was held at St. Johns in 1936.St. John Lutheran Church has been beautifully renovated and the original windows still remain in the church but no one seems to know what happened to the top section of the tall majestic steeple that was originally at the top of the Llano Methodist and St. John Lutheran Church. As one of the Texas Ranger’s put it at one the Ranger dedications, “this little country church is like stepping into a Norman Rockwell setting”. Trinity United Methodist Church The Trinity United Methodist Church was built around 1875, replacing the first picket combination church and parsonage structure. It is told that the friendlier Indians often came and listened to the first services but the settlers carried their guns to church and were always on guard for those in the area that were not so sociable. In 1852, Fredericksburg Pastor Charles A. Grote began visiting many of the German Protestant settlers along the Llano River and on March 8, 1856, the German Methodist Episcopal Church as it was first named, was founded in the settlement of Castell. In 1871 a cemetery was also established on the property south of the church with the first grave being that of two-year old infant, Feodor Leifeste.In 1939 the Methodist Episcopal Church South in Castell and the Methodist Episcopal Church in Hoersterville officially merged to become Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church and the Hoersterville Church was disassembled and reassembled just southwest of the present church to be used as Sunday School rooms and fellowship hall where it is still located and used today. This wonderful historic Methodist church is distinctive and unique and is still an essential part of the Community of Castell. Castell SchoolThe two-room Castell School was built in the 1890’s and the third classroom was added in 1929 making it a three teacher school with grades 1-10. The money, supplies and labor to build the school was provided by the residents of the Castell area and it served the Castell Community until 1948 when all the schools in Llano County were consolidated. The building has been the center of activities in the Castell Community ever since it was built and in the past it has seen hundreds of eager and not so eager students pass through its wonderful old doors, hosted old-time plays, pageants, meetings, parties, barbecues, reunions, elections, and other community events. The wonderful old three-room school proudly displays its original wooden floors and chalk boards, stage area, original teacher’s and student’s desks, big wood stove inside and majestic bell tower outside, and through donations, contributions and grants has recently been renovated and restored inside and out by contractor Warren Grote of Mason. The Llano Master Gardeners graciously volunteered their time and designed and planted a beautiful native rock lined “butterfly garden” on the grounds, and with the addition of central heat and air and handicap accessibility, the building is used for the Castell Community Center, Castell Community Club and is available to rent for weddings, private parties, reunions and other events. The Castell Community Club meets the third Saturday of each month for fellowship and a “pot luck” supper and everyone is always invited to visit or join. Each year the Community Club has a special Christmas party and covered dish meal, and in keeping with German tradition, includes a program of singing Christmas carols, a visit from “Santa” with gifts for the kiddies, and of course, a lot of good food to eat.If you want to take a ride through some beautiful countryside and take a step back in time, the historic Castell School along with all the other wonderful places on the tour in Llano and the little German community of Castell is something you need to see! The Holiday Tour is Saturday, December 3, from noon until 5 p.m. Tickets are $14 each or 2 for $25 and are available at The Market (old Norton’s building), the Castell General Store or from any club member, and the day of the tour tickets can also be purchased at the Women’s Culture Club in Llano, the Castell School and the Castell Methodist Church.