Waco: Former Cottonland Castle resident buoyed by Gaines’ purchase

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) It’s hard to miss the peculiar medieval tower poking above the rooftops of other homes along Austin Avenue.

(Photo by Ethan Hutchins/file)

The more than century-old Cottonland Castle has been the focus of both photographers and tellers of ghost stories, but to Kim Littlewood, it was simply home.

Her father, Jack Schwan, bought the castle in 1969, for $50,000 from the Austin Avenue Methodist Church, which had used it for youth events.

The family moved in when Littlewood was 9.

“It was just a home to us, and it was very homey,” she said.

“My parents made it home and a business in a place where we felt close.”

Schwan spent months restoring the castle transforming it into both a home and a business, converting the servants’ quarters in the rear into a used car dealership.

The Schwan family sold the house in 1991 and later leased out the portion of the property the car dealership occupied.

The house has since passed through various hands and in recent years sat empty.

“Since 2004 I’ve been watching it just deteriorate and it’s been really sad,” Littlewood said.

But last month, “Fixer Upper” stars Chip and Joanna Gaines announced they were adding the landmark Austin Avenue property to their local holdings.

“I love Chip and Joanna and I love most of what they do. It couldn’t be better for me, it is really an answered prayer,” Littlewood said.

The Gaines haven’t revealed their plans for the castle, but they hope is that they’ll easily clear the financial hurdles that have stymied past restoration efforts.

Stone contractor John Tennant started work on the castle in the 1890s, but ultimately ended up selling the unframed structure to a cotton broker in 1906 with the intention of continuing to do the stone work.

The two abandoned the house just two years later.

Five years passed before work resumed on the home, which was finally completed with three stories, a basement, eight fireplaces, a tower and the servants’ quarters.