Texas might be the last place on Earth you’d expect to see a medley of medieval-style castles. And yet, in both the city and the country, these structures abound in myriad forms, from modern-day museums to world-class sporting venues. Some, like Castle Falkenstein and Lake Livingston Castle, are even available to rent.
Phillip Shepherd is the German-American owner of Lake Livingston Castle, a quaint, rustic property located northeast of Houston. He and his wife first set out to build a private family residence. Because they were young and budget-conscious, they kept the structure small and filled it with atmospheric details, like tapestries and reproduction furniture (designed to look like the real deal). Aside from block laying, Shepherd did almost everything himself.
“We designed it ourselves on the back of a napkin,” he says of the German medieval-Gothic style. “It’s a very condensed version of a medieval fort.”
In 2020, the Shepherds put the property on Airbnb, and now it stays booked 80% of the year. The two-bedroom, two-bathroom home can accommodate five people and has attracted everyone from bachelorette groups to families and couples. Earlier this year, they began renovations to maximize the footprint and address the rigors of daily traffic.
Currently, he’s building a 5,000-square-foot castle on Lake Bob Sandlin in northeast Texas and negotiating the purchase of a 20,000-square-foot castle in Germany. He also launched a business called Castle Innovations, where he hopes to continue growing his real estate portfolio.
Meanwhile, more than 200 miles west in Burnet, Falkenstein Castle reigns over the Hill Country. The striking Bavarian-style fortress was a labor of love for Texas businessman Terry Young and his wife, Kim, who visited Germany’s world-famous Neuschwanstein Castle in 1995. There, they learned about King Ludwig II’s dreams for another castle called Falkenstein, and after tracking down the original plans, they built their own version back home.“It was their dream to build something like this,” says their son, Tyler Coleman, who manages the six-bedroom, 4.5-bathroom property with his sister, Gretchen. “My parents, sister, and I did everything ourselves; we moved every tree, every rock … It was all built from the ground by hand.”
While the 14,000-square-foot castle is not open to the public, it’s available for weddings and events, along with limited dates on Airbnb, albeit at a hefty price tag of $2,550 a night for the whole castle.
Managing a property of this size is not without its challenges. “There’s a massive learning curve,” Tyler says. “Everything is multiplied by a factor of 10 compared to a normal home, but we do it all in-house. It’s all managed by family.”
Guests lucky enough to stay will experience an authentic castle ambiance, with solid stone walls, reclaimed wood floors, and art and antiques from the family’s private collection.
According to Tyler, his father, who has passed away, worked with local tradesman for 15 years in lieu of hiring a large construction company. “Those guys are still extremely proud,” he says, adding that anyone who put in over 1,000 hours had their name immortalized in a wall of stone onsite. “My dad believed in karma and predetermined destiny, and he changed a lot of people’s lives when he built this.”
Whatever Floats Your Moat
Castles around the state that have been built or converted into businesses or boast intriguing histories
Greystone Castle Sporting Club: Located on a 6,000-acre ranch in Thurber near Dallas-Fort Worth, Greystone Castle is a striking sporting facility known for its world-class wingshooting and exotic hunting programs. With more than 100 acres of lakes, bass fishing is a popular activity. Greystone’s spellbinding architecture and a scenic backdrop make it a go-to choice for romantic weddings and corporate events.
Newman’s Castle: In the tiny town of Bellville, Michael Newman has created a full-scale replica of a medieval castle, complete with a 3,000-pound drawbridge, a moat, and five corner turrets. The property hosts tours six days a week by reservation only, and is also available for special events. Be sure to stop by the award-winning Newman’s Bakery for treats to take home on your way out of town.
Old Red Museum Castle: In downtown Dallas, the “Old Red” Museum castle is home to a plethora of exhibitions centered around the city’s history. The castle, once the former site of the Old Red Courthouse from 1892, has more than 100 stained glass windows plus a 90-foot clock tower that illuminates the skyline.
The Castle at Rockwall: This stately, 8,000-square-foot castle set on 10 acres in Rockwall is a storybook wedding venue. Unlike others, this one has in-house accommodations, with six unique suites where guests can stay the night.
Elisabet Ney Museum: This cream-colored castle in Austin was the home and studio of the 19th-century sculptor Elisabet Ney, who sculpted some of Texas’ most notable men, including Stephen F. Austin. “Formosa,” as it was once called, is now a museum with workshops, lectures, and special events throughout the year.
Brown County Museum Jail: Since becoming a museum in the early 1980s, the Brown County Museum Jail, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has attracted many visitors interested in the castle’s painstaking construction, as well as its history as a penitentiary.