In the 1840s, the Republic of Texas encouraged European settlement of the country’s vast lands. Responding to the opportunity, entrepreneur Henri Castro recruited more than 6,000 settlers, mostly from Alsace and surrounding regions, to travel to Texas and settle tracts in his 1.2 million-acre land grant. On Sept. 3, 1844, Castro and 50 men founded Castroville.
Cesar and Hannah Monod in 1849 built a roadside tavern and store, which blossomed into a bustling commercial and industrial center after the American Civil War.
John and Rowena Vance built on the work of the Monods, greatly expanding operations for travelers and residents alike in the 1850s and 1860s.
In the 1880s, Joseph and Julia Courand increased the capacity of the mill by adding a gas-fired boiler to power equipment in times when the water flow was low. The Courands also added functionality by expanding from grist milling to include a sawmill and a cotton gin.
In 1925, Jordan T. Lawler bought the property with the idea of converting the mills into a hydroelectric plant. He brought his siblings Ruth and Harry, along with Harry's family and the siblings' mother, Claire, to Castroville. In 1952, their sister C. Genevieve Lawler and her partner Mary Ruth Lionberger also moved to Castroville.
Ruth Lawler restored and reopened the Vance House Hotel under the new name, Landmark Inn, on July 4, 1942, to serve the families of servicemen.
Over time other families made their homes on the site, including Michel and Rosine Simon (1840s), Michel and Marie Kauffmann (1870s), and Eugene and Dorothy Suehs (1950s).
Ruth Curry Lawler was a tireless civic champion teaching school, authoring history books, holding elective offices, and serving in many community improvement organizations. Ruth led efforts to preserve Castroville's unique architecture and history, starting with the Lawlers' property.
The stirring commemoration for the Texas Independence Centennial in 1936 inspired Ruth Lawler's first historic preservation project, which restored the verandah in 1937. Ahead of the National Bicentennial of the American Revolution, Ruth donated her property as a historic site to the State of Texas on March 11, 1974. The site opened to the public in 1981.
Ruth Lawler's foresight for preserving history and her generosity in donating the site continue to provide visitors a unique opportunity to learn about history and to use its experience to create a brighter tomorrow.
Did You Know?
- The United States of America will observe its 250th anniversary in 2026.
- Robert E. Lee worked as an engineer for the U.S. Army and improved the Medina River crossing on the site.
- At its peak, the Haass-Quintle Gristmill processed 100,000 bushels of corn a year, with much of the ground cornmeal going to forts west of Castroville.
- In October 1952, Henri Hausherr and Alphonse Irjud, editors of the two largest newspapers in the historic region of Alsace, stayed at the Landmark Inn to interview Alsatian-first-language speakers. The United Nations estimates that 90 percent of the world's current 7,000 languages may become extinct by 2100.
Recognition for Landmark Inn State Historic Site
2020 - Castroville Yard of the Month for July
2018 - Preservation Texas Honor Award for Restoration
2018 - San Antonio Conservation Society Historic Preservation Award for the Built Environment
2013 - The Daughters of the Republic of Texas (Alsatian Chapter) Certificate of Appreciation in Recognition of Service
2012 - Texas Bed & Breakfast Association Certificate of Excellence for superior work in the hospitality industry
2011 - Texas Bed & Breakfast Association Certificate of Excellence for superior work in the hospitality industry
2009 - Castroville Yard of the Month for July
2006 - Texas Bed & Breakfast Association Certificate of Excellence for superior work in the hospitality industry
1988 - Edward Carter's Travel Industry Award: Surprise of the Year
1983 - Texas State Antiquities Landmark
1981 - Governor's Tourist Development Award
1981 - City of Castroville Recognition of Outstanding Services in the Promotion of Tourism and Preserving Castroville
1972 - Landmark Inn Complex added to the National Register of Historic Places
1970 - Included in the Castroville Historic District listed in the National Register of Historic Places
1965 - Recorded Texas Historic Landmark
1963 - San Antonio Conservation Society Award of Recognition for Preserving Historic Resources to Jordan T. Lawler and Ruth C. Lawler
1944 - Historic Buildings Foundation (later absorbed by San Antonio Conservation Society), Award of Recognition for Restoration
Click on any image to view the photo gallery.