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2012-03-29

Spettel House - one of Texas' 'most endangered' historic places

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Members of the Bandera County Historical Commission gathered on the steps of the county's 1865 historic courthouse the morning of Thursday, March 22. Their aim was to find out if the Spettel Riverside House had been placed on Preservation Texas, Inc.'s ninth annual list of Texas' Most Endangered Historic Places. To the relief of local history buffs, it made the all-important cut.

The Spettel House had been selected as one of the nine most endangered historical sites in Texas from applications submitted from counties, communities and cities across the Lone Star State. Each year, Preservation Texas receives hundreds of nominations for the award and the selection process criteria include historical significance and current threat of destruction.

'Preserve reminders of heritage'

This important recognition came during the 2012 Texas Preservation Summit held in Austin at the State Capitol Building on March 22 and 23. This year's ceremony took place on the steps in front of the south entrance to the Capitol Building.

The award illustrates an immediate need to preserve this rare piece of local Texas history.

Built by successful cattleman John Spettel Jr., the Spettel House is one of the earliest structures in the Medina Lake region.
"Preservation Texas hopes this listing will bring statewide attention to the efforts of Bandera County and other communities struggling to find a way to preserve the tangible reminders of their heritage," said Jim Ray, president of Preservation Texas, Inc., a statewide partner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

"In many instances the sites are integral to the communities and offer community revitalization potential.

By calling attention to theses sites now, we want to encourage action while there's still time."

Ray also noted that the Spettel Riverside House in Lakehills, like several sites on the 2012 list, reflects increased awareness of the importance of historic preservation in small communities. "Passion and determination in these communities are strong, but suburban expansion, coupled with lack of resources and professional guidance present serious challenges," he said.

Locals & cowboy color

Attending the ceremony on the State Capitol steps from were Roy Dugosh, chairman of the Bandera County Historical Commission; Carol Smith, president of the Medina Lake Preservation Society; Elenora Dugosh Goodley, co-chairman of the historical commission; MLPS Board President Gloria Muniz; and MLPS Memorial Chairman Roberto Pachecano.

"We are very proud of the recognition for the Spettel Riverside House" said Smith, "and are pleased to be working with Equity Lifestyles to preserve this important piece of Texas history. The assistance of Preservation Texas and Stuart Johnson of the San Antonio Conservation Society were invaluable in our nomination. Both of these groups have pledged to continue to mentor us through the process of preservation."

Offering a bit of Cowboy Capital color to the proceedings, Bandera Cattle Company gunfighters Tommy Knotts, Chuck Monsen and Dan Caldwell, among others, showed up in full cowboy regalia and were a big hit in front of the State Capitol.

"We feel naked," quipped Caldwell, "the DPS wouldn't let us wear our guns!"

While at the Texas Preservation Summit, Dugosh and Goodley also gathered support for the restoration of two other historical buildings in Bandera County - the 1865 historical courthouse, and the 1881 jail building, located on 12th Street in the City of Bandera.

Spettel history

The Spettel Riverside House is currently located at 215 Spettel Road on the Thousand Trails Resort property owned by Equity Lifestyles of Chicago, Illinois. The home was originally located near what was alternately called Cattlemen's, Ten Mile or Mitchell's Crossing on the Medina River, approximately 10 miles from Bandera.

Although the exact date of its construction is not known, it is estimated that it was built somewhere between 1874 and 1881. It was a very popular stop along the southern cattle drive routes from South Texas, Castroville and into Bandera along the Western Cattle Trail, a branch of the Chisholm Trail.

Not only was the Riverside House a welcome rest stop for the drovers, but the property also included large holding pens for the cattle, allowing the cowboys a bit of a respite. An estimated 10 and 12 million cattle were driven north from Texas into Dodge City. It can be said that the Spettel is a house that cattle built.

As the Medina Dam was being built in 1911-12, the Spettel House was threatened with flooding. Mrs. Spettel - first name unknown - contracted for the home to be moved up out of the riverbed to its current location. The home was cut into two pieces and the first section was hauled by mule train, which took almost a month. As the waters of Medina Lake began rising, expediency necessitate the use of a steam engine from Comfort to relocate that second half of the home.

'Stay of demolition'

The home and property was purchased by the Projects American Corporation in the late 1970s and restored in 1980. Since that time, however, minimal maintenance has caused the house to deteriorate to an unacceptable state. After learning that the current owner was considering its demolition, MLPS and rushed to rescue the historical home.

It has received a stay of demolition and Equity Lifestyles and the MLPS will try to come to a working resolution to attempt to save this important portion of Texas history.

Members of the Medina Lake Preservation Society have worked for over a year to have the structure included on the Texas' Most Endangered Historic Places list.

To begin the preservation process, the home must be stabilized to prevent further deterioration and the full restoration is the long-term goal for the MLPS. Fundraising to accomplish this goal has already begun.

A restored Spettel House could be an attraction in the Medina Lake community, serving as a venue for weddings, historical events, community socials and other activities.

Sites that receive the Texas' Most Endangered Historic Places designation receive one-on-one consultation in such areas as technical assistance to identify preservation needs and set priorities, fund raising expertise and assistance in fostering partnerships and building community support.

For more information on Texas' Most Endangered Historic Places, visit

www.preservationtexas.org

or phone Preservation Texas, Inc. at 512-472-0102.