Recently, I toured Chip and Joanna Gaines’ latest Fixer Upper house. It happens to be a historical castle in downtown Waco, Texas. I have lots of information and photos of the newly renovated home to share. So, head over for part two of the tour, here, to take a look at the second floor of bedrooms & bathrooms, plus the massive basement. And to find out what the castle inspired Joanna Gaines to design which will be available to purchase in October 2022.
But first, let’s start the tour with this fixer upper house’s property, castle exterior and main level which includes the kitchen, dining and living spaces. At the end of this post, you can read about the future of this newly restored castle.
This house mimics a small German castle with the exterior constructed of mostly white sandstone and partly limestone. Construction began in 1890 with several different owners, and not much progress. It was not complete until 1913 when home owner and Civil War Captain Alfred Abeel hired Waco architect Roy E. Lane to oversee the project. Lane built another Waco landmark that locals will immediately recognize, the Alico building.
Nine foot tall oak doors weighing four hundred pounds secure the entrance of the home. I guess if you are a civil war captain, security is of the upmost importance. A tower and two small balconies with machicolations, or openings in the flooring of the corbels, add character to the castle. The front of the home also shares the graceful arch of bay windows in the drawing room and second story primary bedroom.
Behind the castle, a stone built garage and second tower stand. This detached building served as a used car dealership called ‘Castle Cars’ for several decades. Growing up near Waco, we assumed the tower was simply a gimmick to attract customers. However this space was original to the property and acted as the living quarters for the servants of the Abeel family.
The Castle is secured by a stone wall fence around the perimeter of the property. It was originally built on the ‘outskirts of town.’ Now, this whole area is split between residential and commercial property as what we, Wacoans, refer to as ‘downtown’ and the Castle Heights neighborhood.
In 1941, the Abeel family sold the castle to Waco’s first female pharmacist, Irene Pipkin, and her family who lived in the home for many years. After her death, her widowed husband gave the home to a local Methodist church. However, the cost of upkeep became too much to bare, so the castle sold yet again to a new family who lived in it for twenty years. After 1991, it sold many times with new owners hoping to bring the property back to life each time. However, maintenance and restoration costs, followed by trespassers onto the property, left the house in despair.
For years, Chip and Joanna Gaines longed to make this one hundred year old castle their latest fixer upper house. However, they didn’t have the opportunity to purchase the property until 2019. For the next two years, speculation floated around Waco about what Chip and Joanna would do with this Waco landmark. Some thought that it would become their offices for Magnolia or a non-profit group, or a short term rental like a bed and breakfast style inn. Chip and Joanna Gaines ultimately chose to restore the castle into a home, as originally built. Today, it is a beautiful mix of both historical architectural charm and modern conveniences.
From the back of the castle, notice the black exterior windows on the left. Chip and Joanna Gaines actually enclosed what was a concrete slab into the beautiful addition it is today. This light filled sunroom is one of my favorite spaces. Because the Gaines sourced European antique tile, the already worn, lived in tile looks original to the home. Not reproduction nor aging techniques created this perfectly imperfect patina.
To the right of the castle, sits a garden shed. If you have visited the garden area at the Silos, you know that Joanna and her team of gardeners have amazing green thumbs. Therefore, the bountiful of flowerbeds and potted pants surrounding this garden shed did not disappoint. Under large shady trees in the yard, this garden shed still boasts the original shingle roof, but has been refreshed with new paint and lighting.
Right off the front entry way is the drawing room. I was today years old when I found out that it is not the room where people draw or paint… it is a room where guests can ‘withdraw’ into a more private setting, maybe from a dinner party. This space hosted potential candidates for marriage to the Abeel’s son, who later built a home for his wife and himself right next door.
The castle originally had eight fireplaces including this showstopper with plenty of ornamental moulding. While central heat and air conditioning were updated in the home, the original radiators remain on both sides of the beautifully restored fireplace.
Do you notice all the beautiful woodworking detail in this room, too? Some of the wood moulding was destroyed over time. Therefore, the Gaines hired a talented wood craftsmen for the restoration process.
The dining room originally included a French Caen stone fireplace and Honduran mahogany paneling. These were revitalized, while paint, wallpaper, flooring and lighting were added. The restoration and furnishings are so beautifully done that it is hard to distinguish between what is and is not original to the home.
Behind the dining room lies the kitchen. This room held the eighth fireplace, but Chip & Joanna Gaines removed it during the renovation. In its place, sits a La Cornue Château premium range, the same kind that Joanna Gaines uses on her cooking show, Magnolia Table. Craftsmen have built these ranges by hand with copper, brass and steel in France since 1908, so the style fits well with the period of the home. The small doors to the right of the stove once served as a ‘dumb waiter,’ but have been conveniently converted to a spice cabinet. A built-in hutch that was original to the home to hold dishes and serving pieces is not shown.
I am not sure if it is the pantry staples filling glass canisters on endless open shelves or the large windows filling this room with light, but the butler’s pantry makes me want to cook three square meals a day… I mean if and only if I lived here. The kitchen island is a $125 local antique find that Joanna Gaines had a marble top fitted for. Now, it’s priceless! Again, the windows, crown molding and fireplace may be the only original architectural features in this room. However, Chip and Joanna Gaines have proved that they can take on any age, size or style of a fixer upper house.
Additionally, a restored half bathroom sits tucked away on the main level. While a small sitting area made its home in the tower portion of the castle. I do not think that anyone could have done a better job of restoring this one hundred year old castle than Chip and Joanna Gaines, and their talented team of craftsmen, designers and skilled workers. It is the perfect mix of history, architectural detail and modern conveniences.
If you love all things Fixer Upper, Chip & Joanna Gaines or Waco, Texas, purchase tickets to tour The Castle, here. It’s an hour long tour with plenty of time to take photos and awe at the craftsmanship. The Castle is open for tours through the end of October, which coincides with the 2022 Magnolia Silobration.
However, if you are not local or visiting Waco this Fall, don’t worry. You can watch the entire restoration process in a special six part series called Fixer Upper: The Castle on Magnolia Network. All of the furniture and decor currently featured in the home will be the same as what you see on the show when it airs in October 2022. Plus, many new pieces staged in the castle are for sale at Magnolia.com.
Our tour guide told us that the Cottonland Castle will be listed for sale in late October 2022. What a dream come true for the family that calls this place home! At the time of the sale in 2019, Zillow listed the home for $425K. However, it appraised around $350K. Currently appraises at $1,127,470 for tax purposes. But, I predict the Gaines will sell it for closer to $2 million. I mean it is a castle, a piece of Waco history and a Fixer Upper house renovated by the queen of home design, Joanna Gaines.