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Texas Independence Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

Bellville


Old Austin County Jailhouse Museum

PROSPERITY AND ORDER   

Modern Bellville residents may be surprised to learn that two languages – both English and German - were required subjects in local public schools at one time, particularly during the town’s prosperous heyday as transportation point for the region’s cotton crop. This Texas Independence Trail city, heavily German and highly successful during the late 19th century, considers Thomas B. Bell, one of Stephen F. Austin’s Old Three Hundred, as its founding father. But it was the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railroad that elevated Bellville to prominence. The community had a slow start until the railroad’s arrival at which point the population quickly doubled, brick structures replace wooden ones, and elegant mansions depicting the architectural style of the era (Victorian, of course) were built along its main avenues. An opera house and marvelous music pavilion, called the Turnverein Pavilion, were also added to a growing list of German institutions including the Concordia Gesangverein (a singing society), the Harloff Beer Hall, and the Germania Hotel. Bellville also served as county seat, thus hosting the county jail. The restored Romanesque Revival jail, constructed in 1896, reflects Bellville’s classic Teutonic ancestry. Its contrast of rough, light limestone with dark, burnt-red brick accentuates its fortress-like appearance, particularly the projecting fourth floor tower, originally designed as a gallows for hanging. 


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