An Elegant Country Retreat Combines History and Livability
By Marsha Canright | Photos by Randy Hodde
Belle Meade is an elegant three-story house dating from the 1890s that sits atop one of the highest points in pastoral Austin County, about ten miles from Brenham. From its wraparound porches and upper floors, you can see miles of rolling countryside with pastures, live oaks and, in the spring, a carpet of wildflowers.
Amy Adams Strunk, a Texas businesswoman and daughter of the late Bud Adams, bought the house in 2007. She is known for her tasteful restoration of historical homes.
“The views from the dormers and porches are most appealing and the house overlooks a beautiful pond,” says Bob Sanchez of Classic Innovations in Magnolia. He managed a painstaking restoration of the house between 2007 and 2008.
“It’s a sturdy home with original red oak floors, longleaf yellow pine for cabinetry, and original wood-burning fireplaces,” he says.
Located on the crest of a high hill between Bellville and Brenham, the house spent most of its first century almost 25 miles away in the community of Frelsburg, near New Ulm.
According to a local history publication, Robert and Lena Heinsohn — who owned the general store in the tiny town — built the house. Frelsburg was founded in 1837 by Captain William Frels who immigrated to Texas from Germany and commanded a company of volunteers in the Texas Revolutionary army at the Battle of San Jacinto.
Heinsohn’s Country Store is still in business and is one of the oldest surviving general stores in Texas. The house originally stood next door to the shop.
While the actual date of its construction is not recorded, the classical architecture of the house suggests the late 1890s, Sanchez says.
In 1982, the house was spotted, purchased and saved by a Houston family, the Treadaways, who moved it to the current location.
The roof was removed to make the transport possible and, when it was replaced, triple dormers were added, says Nancy Cole Penny, a property agent with Hodde Real Estate. The Treadaways named the house Belle Meade, which means beautiful meadow.
“In the style of the Texas Victorian, it has a large central hallway, four large bedrooms and three and a half bathrooms. There are broad porches around the house and a large family room with a fireplace on the third floor,” says Penny. It has about 3,500 square feet of living space.
“The house has been beautifully restored; all the infrastructure is updated with the highest quality materials. It’s an elegant house but very comfortable,” she says.
Developed as a family retreat for relaxation and fun, the property has ample space for entertaining.
“There is a bulkheaded lake with a boathouse and a swimming pool complex with a couple of piers.
The lake is stocked with bass, and a smaller pond is set up for bait fish and flows into the larger waterway,” she says.
The compound includes a barn with a workshop and stalls for stabling horses and a gazebo. Also on the property are an older barn and a windmill at the original home site. The surrounding pastureland is sown in improved grasses that are used for hay production.
“The house is a classical design and we definitely tried to go back to its original aspects. We had photographs of how it was built and the modifications made by the previous owners,” Sanchez says.
His careful improvements included widening the staircase to the third floor and remodeling and updating the bathrooms and the kitchen. He also added an exterior staircase for safety that blends with the original architecture.
The main challenge of the restoration was bringing all the systems of the house up to today’s standards, including all the plumbing and electrical.
“We kept all the original floors, the large baseboards and the casings around the windows. It makes the house so unique,” he says. “One special detail is the hand-carved embellishments on the top of each porch; that was original to the house.”
The house is remarkable but it’s not the only one of its kind; it has a least two sister houses,” says Penny. “There’s a story that matching houses were built for the daughters but there’s no documentation.”
“The [three] houses are almost identical but alterations have been made over the years. One of those is now the Belle of Round Top, a bed and breakfast, and the third is in Waller County,” she says.
Belle Meade Farm
11518 New Wehdem, Brenham
29634 Post Oak Run, Magnolia, TX 77355
Hodde Real Estate
Nancy Cole Penny
112 West Main, Brenham