As Medina Dam celebrates its centennial, fans of the Spettel Riverside House, in the Lakehills community bordering Medina Lake, also mark a milestone. The Spettel House recently made Preservation Texas’ annual list of the state’s most endangered historic places. Preservation Texas provides assistance for grassroots groups attempting to save historic landmarks around the state, such as the Medina Lake Preservation Society, which began trying to save the Spettel House two-and-a-half years ago.
According to Carol L. Smith, executive director of the Medina Lake Preservation Society, the Spettel family built their home near the town of Medina between 1874 and 1881. The house became one of the last overnight stops for cattle drovers along the road between Castroville and Bandera before they joined the Chisholm Trail. The Spettels also constructed holding pens for cattle, which allowed cowboys to rest easy and be certain that their herds were safe. Because of its history, locals nicknamed the Spettel residence as the “house that cattle built.”
The house originally sat at what was called Cattlemen’s Crossing, on the Medina River. When construction of the Medina Dam threatened its future, the by-then-widowed Theresa Spettel had the house moved out of the riverbed by cutting it into two pieces. A mule train hauled the first half out, which took more than a month. As Medina Lake began to rise, the movers realized they wouldn’t have
enough time for the mule train to move the second half of the house. Instead, they called in a steam engine, pulled the remaining half out, and pieced the house back together where it stands today, at 215 Spettel Road.
Preservation Texas representatives hope that naming the Spettel House to the Texas Most Endangered Places list will encourage the surrounding community to pull together and restore the deteriorating home. As part of the nomination, Preservation Texas will visit the site, meet with representatives of the Medina Lake Preservation Society, and lay out both an immediate timeline and a long-term plan for preserving the Spettel House.
“We’re afraid these types of places will just disappear, and no one will ever know they were there,” says Krista Scheiner Gebbia, executive director of Preservation Texas. “Medina-area residents are trying to prevent that. The history of Medina Lake is Texas’ history, and anything Preservation Texas can do to help save it, we will.