'Fixer Upper' stars Chip and Joanna Gaines bought a 129-year-old castle worth almost half a million dollars in Texas, and photos show why it may be their most challenging renovation yet

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade KegerreisDubbed Cottonland Castle, the ageing structure requires extensive renovations throughout.
  • Chip and Joanna Gaines, the power couple behind the popular home renovation show “Fixer Upper,” have bought a historic, 129-year-old German-style castle in their town of Waco, Texas, as first reported by the Waco Tribune-Herald.
  • The exact sale price is unknown, but the 4,700-square-foot castle was listed on the market for $US425,000 in February and appraised at $US338,220 in 2018, according to public records.
  • Dubbed Cottonland Castle, the ageing structure requires extensive renovations throughout.
  • Tom Lupfer, a contractor who worked on the castle for the previous owner, also estimated that an extensive renovation could cost between $US600,000 and $US1 million, according to the Waco Tribune-Herald.
  • According to the listing, the castle is able to hold three bedrooms and two full bathrooms.
  • The purchase adds to the couple’s existing catalogue of Waco real estate and businesses, which includes Magnolia Market and Magnolia Table.
  • It’s unclear yet what the Gaineses will use the castle for, but they have promised in a statement that they plan to undertake the extensive renovations that the castle necessitates.
  • “The Gaineses have the means, they have the interest – we knew for a long time that they were interested in the house,” Lupfer told Business Insider.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
  • And keep reading to take a look around the historic Cottonland Castle.


The historic 129-year-old German-style castle, known as Cottonland Castle, in Waco, Texas, could be Chip and Joanna Gaineses’ most challenging renovation yet.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade Kegerreis

Source: Realtor


Chip and Joanna Gaines started flipping homes shortly after marrying in 2003 and had been renovating homes for a whole decade before HGTV came along.

Fixer Upper/HGTV/IMDb


Read more about what life is like for Chip and Joanna Gaines

Source: Money


On their hit show “Fixer Upper,” they specialised in transforming homes from drabby, outdated structures …

Fixer Upper/HGTV/Hulu‘The Shotgun House’ from season 3, episode 12 of ‘Fixer Upper.’

Source: HGTV


… into contemporary abodes of the 21st century.

Fixer Upper/HGTV/IMDb‘The Shotgun House’ from season 3, episode 12 of ‘Fixer Upper.’

Source: HGTV


Their renovation finesse is showcased in the couple’s Magnolia Market at the Silos in Waco. In 2015, they transformed the once-abandoned site into a shopping center that sells, among many things, baked goods and home decor items in line with Joanna’s signature modern style.

Source: Business Insider


Their home improvement experience has helped them amass a vast following — and fortune …

Fixer Upper/HGTV/IMDb

Source: Business Insider


… and they’re no strangers to giving some much-needed TLC to deteriorated homes.

Sarah Wilson/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


But the historic Cottonland Castle provides a unique challenge for the couple. Sitting in the heart of the Texas town of Waco, where the Gaineses live …

Google Maps/Business Insider

… the property is such a notable landmark in town that the nearby neighbourhood of Castle Heights was named after it. All eyes are on the Gaineses to see what they will do with the property.

WCCC/VimeoFootage of Cottonland Castle in 2017 from the Waco City Cable Channel.

Source: Waco Tribune-Herald


Lupfer, a contractor that previously worked on the castle, told Business Insider that the home was unoccupied for 12 years before he started working on it for the previous owner in 2014.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade Kegerreis

And so it fell into disrepair in the interim, he said.

Courtesy of Tom LupferA hallway in Cottonland Castle.

“Unoccupied houses do not do well,” Lupfer told Business Insider.

Courtesy of Tom LupferWorn ceiling beams in Cottonland Castle.

Water damage, rotten woodwork, outdated electrical and plumbing systems, and a worn stone facade are just some of the issues plaguing the castle.

Courtesy of Tom LupferExposed pipes and wiring in the flooring of Cottonland Castle.

Source: Waco Tribune-Herald


Other things that need addressing include extensive cleaning, stone restoring, and dealing with issues with the pool and pool house in the backyard, he said.

Courtesy of Tom LupferGraffiti is displayed on the walls along a staircase in Cottonland Castle.

Source: Waco Tribune-Herald


According to Lupfer, the original kitchen was in the basement, and a dumbwaiter was used to bring food up to the main floor.

Courtesy of Tom LupferA kitchen in Cottonland Castle is littered with debris.

Source: Waco Tribune-Herald


Lupfer said constructing a full-sized kitchen on another floor from the basement was apart of the restoration plan.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade KegerreisOrnate woodwork and wallpaper line a room in Cottonland Castle.

Source: Business Insider


But he said he never got around to starting on it.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade KegerreisStone detailing on the back side of Cottonland Castle.

Another challenge, the Gaineses’ renovations have to be approved by the Texas Historical Commission, since Cottonland Castle, named after Waco’s rich history in the cotton industry, became a historical landmark in 1977.

Source: Waco History


But hurdles aside, the castle is undoubtedly a charming find.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade KegerreisA white fireplace and dark woodwork fill a room in Cottonland Castle.

It has the potential to hold three bedrooms and two full bathrooms, according to the listing.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade KegerreisA staircase in Cottonland Castle.

Source: Realtor


It also has a whopping eight fireplaces.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade KegerreisA fireplace with green tile, which Lupfer said was most likely imported from Europe.

Source: Realtor


One of them is carved out of pink granite …

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade Kegerreis

Source: Waco History and Realtor


… while another was carved from French Caen stone.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade Kegerreis

Source: Waco History and Realtor


Lupfer told Business Insider that homes outfitted with eight fireplaces aren’t typical nowadays, but they’re “not out of the ordinary,” considering that’s how homes built in 1890 were heated.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade Kegerreis

Other materials added to the interior in the early 1900s include Italian Carrara marble …

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade KegerreisAbove: One of the castle’s eight fireplaces.

Source: Waco History


… and Honduran mahogany paneling.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade Kegerreis

Source: Waco History


There are also diamond-paned windows circa the Arts & Crafts design era of the early 1900s.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade Kegerreis

Source: Arts and Crafts Houses


Each piece of glass needed to be removed, glazed, and re-installed, which was a project of Lupfer’s during his time restoring the castle.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade Kegerreis

Source: Waco Tribune-Herald


“We chose to take the originals and, piece by piece, we rebuilt 75 to 85% of all the windows in the house,” Lupfer said.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade Kegerreis

Lupfer and his team also took care to preserve the castle’s quarter-sawn oak detailing, which is also a characteristic of the Arts & Crafts design era.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade KegerreisAntique, ornate woodwork is found throughout the castle.

Source: Waco Tribune-Herald and The Barnyard Gazette


The front door is a striking feature in the home.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade Kegerreis

The 9-foot-high door is made of oak and weighs a whopping 400 pounds, according to the listing.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade Kegerreis

Source: Realtor


But as beautiful as these original features are, there’s still a lot of work to be done, according to Lupfer.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade KegerreisAbove: One of the castle’s eight fireplaces.

Source: Waco Tribune-Herald


When Waco architect Sterling Thompson took on restoring the castle in 2014 with Lupfer when it was purchased by Oxford scholar Dirk Obbink …

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade KegerreisA staircase in Cottonland Castle.

Source: Waco History


… Thompson outlined an extensive renovation plan, which was approved by the Texas Historical Commission.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade Kegerreis

Source: Waco Tribune-Herald


Lupfer said that their biggest tasks were to secure the castle against vandals and weather conditions.

Courtesy of Tom Lupfer

“That was no small chore by itself,” Lupfer said.

WCCC/VimeoFootage of Cottonland Castle in 2017 from the Waco City Cable Channel.

But the extent of the restoration proved to be too much of a financial investment, which prompted Obbink to sell.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade Kegerreis

Source: Waco History


Lupfer said that the Gaineses won’t necessarily follow the same restoration plan that he and Thompson had set in motion.

Courtesy of Tom Lupfer

But he estimated the cost for the needed restorations to be around $US600,000 to $US1 million, according to the Waco Tribune-Herald.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade KegerreisSliding doors of a cabinet in the Cottonland Castle.

Source: Waco Tribune-Herald


Undaunted by the work needed, the Gaineses have reportedly wanted this property for a while now.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade Kegerreis

Source: Waco Tribune-Herald


According to public records, the property was listed for sale for $US425,000 in February and was scooped up by the Gaineses after just days on the market.

WCCC/VimeoFootage of Cottonland Castle in 2017 from the Waco City Cable Channel.

Source: Zillow


A Magnolia spokesman confirmed the sale to the Waco Tribune-Herald, stating that the couple has not only held a long-time admiration for the property but have even tried to buy it in the past.

WCCC/VimeoFootage of Cottonland Castle in 2017 from the Waco City Cable Channel.

Source: Waco Tribune-Herald


Their spokesman also confirmed that the Gaineses’ plan was to complete “the home’s long overdue and well-deserved restoration.”

WCCC/VimeoFootage of Cottonland Castle in 2017 from the Waco City Cable Channel.

Source: Waco Tribune-Herald


But it’s not yet clear exactly how they plan to utilise the historic landmark.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade Kegerreis

Source: Waco Tribune-Herald


The idea of the pair turning it into a bed and breakfast has reportedly been floated, but past owners have toyed with the same idea before, which prompted pushback from neighbours.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade Kegerreis

Source: Waco Tribune-Herald


In the past, the castle has mostly served as a personal residence.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade Kegerreis

Source: Waco History


A local stone contractor named John Tennant began constructing the home for himself in 1890 before eventually abandoning the project in 1908.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade Kegerreis

Source: Waco History


In 1913, a businessman named Alfred Abeel purchased the home and hired a local investor to pick up where Tennant left off. The German-style castle began to take shape during this time.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade Kegerreis

Source: Waco History


The Pipkin family, who owned a southwest chain of drugstores of the same name, purchased the castle in 1941 before it eventually passed to a local church. The church then sold it to the Schwan family in 1969 for $US50,000.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade Kegerreis

Source: Waco History


The castle was in need of some renovations, which the Schwan family undertook.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade Kegerreis

Source: Waco History


The family then tried to sell the castle for $US1.25 million in 1982, a lofty price that spooked buyers at the time. It finally sold in 1991 after a price cut.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade Kegerreis

Source: Waco History


The period following is when the castle began to deteriorate.

Courtesy of Ashley Burgess Weist with Kelly REALTORS — Photos by Cade Kegerreis

Source: Waco History


So it looks like the Gaineses certainly have their work cut out for them …

WCCC/VimeoFootage of Cottonland Castle in 2017 from the Waco City Cable Channel.

… but then again, this kind of work is exactly what the “Fixer Upper” power couple has built an $US18 million empire out of.

WCCC/VimeoFootage of Cottonland Castle in 2017 from the Waco City Cable Channel.

Source: Business Insider

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.