Chip and Joanna Gaines of the Magnolia Network TV series “Fixer Upper” just finished the renovation of this Waco, Texas icon. Chip has said he’d wanted to buy this property for 20 years. They have a tv show called “Fixer Upper”: The Castle showing all the trials and tribulations of the renovation.
In 1890, local stone contractor John Tennant decided to build himself a new home after striking a deal with banker J. W. Mann. The deal provided Tennant with a plot of land in exchange for a stone obelisk to mark the Mann plot in Oakwood Cemetery. Tennant took the leftover stone from his latest construction job, the Provident Building at the corner of Fourth Street and Franklin Avenue.
Completed in 1913, it looks as if, once upon a time, somebody in Europe packed up a fairy-tale fortress and shipped it off to begin a new life in the American West. It’s the kind of place that prompts people passing by to stop and stare, exchanging thoughts about all the stories it could tell.Joanna Gaines
With this stone, he began construction on the basement and foundation of his new home, situated on the outskirts of the city. After financial problems, he sold the unframed house to cotton broker Ripley Hanrick in 1906 under the agreement that Tennant could continue to do the stonework on the house.
However, when financial difficulties continued, the pair abandoned the house in 1908. Eventually, businessman Alfred Abeel purchased the home and hired Roy E. Lane to transform and complete the frame as a castle to use as his residence. With plans drawn by architect Roy Lane (1884-1956), “The Castle” was eventually completed in 1913.
It is complete with three stories and a basement, eight fireplaces, servants’ quarters, and a tower. Modeled after a small German castle along the Rhine River, white sandstone and small amounts of limestone composed the exterior of the house. The interior accents varied by room and floor, including imported materials such as Caen stone from France, Carrara marble from Italy, and Honduran mahogany paneling.
In 1941, Irene Pipkin, whose family owned the Pipkin Drugstores, purchased the home and moved in with her daughter and son-in-law. When she passed away, the castle passed to her daughter, Pauline Pipkin Garrett, Waco’s first female pharmacist. Pauline and her husband Barney Garrett resided in the home for many years.
After Pauline passed the castle went to the Austin Avenue Methodist Church. The church found the home to be an ideal place to host youth events, but the expense of keeping up the home soon became too great. The church sold the home to Jack Schwan in 1969 for $50,000.
The Schwan family fixed many issues of the castle and applied for and received a historical marker in 1977. They found a buyer in 1991 and then it passed hands several times over the coming years. In 2014, the home sold again and a new group—led by Oxford scholar Dirk Obbink,
contractor Tom Lupfer Jr., and architect Sterling Thompson—had begun the process of renovating the castle. In 2019 Cottonland Castle was purchased by Chip and Joanna Gaines of the famous retail empire Magnolia Market and they finished the renovation of the structure in the summer of 2022.
- Caen stone is a light creamy-yellow Jurassic limestone quarried in north-western France near the city of Caen. The limestone is a fine-grained oolitic limestone formed in shallow water lagoons in the Bathonian Age about 167 million years ago. The stone is homogeneous, and therefore suitable for carving. The stone was first used for building in the Gallo-Roman period with production from open-cast quarries restarting in the 11th century. Shipped to England, Canterbury Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, and the Tower of London were all partially built from Caen stone. Underground mining developed in the 19th century, but the stone trade declined in the 20th century eventually ceasing in the 1960s. Excavation restarted in the 1980s with the stone being used for building the Caen Memorial. A 2004 decree by the Caen city council authorized the annual quarrying of 9000 tonnes of stone. [Back]
- Carrara marble, Luna marble to the Romans, is a type of white or blue-grey marble popular for use in sculpture and building decor. It has been quarried since Roman times in the mountains just outside the city of Carrara in the province of Massa and Carrara in the Lunigiana, the northernmost tip of modern-day Tuscany, Italy. More marble has been extracted from the over 650 quarry sites near Carrara than from any other place. The pure white statuario grade was used for monumental sculpture, as “it has a high tensile strength, can take a high gloss polish and holds very fine detail”. By the late 20th century this had now run out, and the considerable ongoing production is of stone with a greyish tint or streaks of black or grey on white. This is still attractive as an architectural facing, or for tiles. [Back]
- Mahogany is a straight-grained, reddish-brown timber of three tropical hardwood species of the genus Swietenia, indigenous to the Americas and part of the pantropical chinaberry family, Meliaceae. Mahogany is used commercially for a wide variety of goods, due to its coloring and durable nature. It is naturally found within the Americas but has also been imported to plantations across Asia and Oceania. The mahogany trade may have begun as early as the 16th century and flourished in the 17th and 18th centuries. In certain countries, mahogany is considered an invasive species. Honduran or big-leaf mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla), with a range from Mexico to southern Amazonia in Brazil, is the most widespread species of mahogany and the only genuine mahogany species commercially grown today. Illegal logging of S. macrophylla, and its highly destructive environmental effects, led to the species’ placement in 2003 on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the first time that a high-volume, the high-value tree was listed on Appendix II. [Back]
- W.P. Pipkin Drugs: One of the Southwest’s largest independently owned drugstore chains, the W.P. Pipkin Drug store was successfully run by William Pipkin, and then after his death, it was run by his daughter, Pauline Pipkin Garrett. Pipkin was the first drugstore owner to hire women and in a time where opportunities for women were limited, Garrett exceeded these expectations by expanding her father’s business into a thriving enterprise throughout Waco. Pipkin Drugs had seven locations.