Once upon a time, 30 years ago, there was a callow young Prince named Mike Newman who, after no small amount of carousing and pillaging abroad, returned at last to his modest kingdom in Bellville and opened a bakery. His shop, which was located just across the street from the famous Bellville Meat Market, soon prospered on the corner of East Main and Highway 36, 60 miles northwest of Houston. Locals, bikers, cyclists, and tourists from neighboring kingdoms fell under the spell of Newman’s danishes, éclairs, hot breakfasts, and lunchtime sandwiches.
To tour the castle, call 979-865-9804.
Tours leave from
Newman’s Bakery, often at around 10:30, but call ahead to make sure; a $15 ticket gets you the tour and a sack lunch of treats from the bakery. The bakery is open seven days a week from 4 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. on weekdays and until
Still, the Prince was not happy. Why, asked the little animals in the meadow? Because I want to live in a castle, replied the Prince. Really, asked a frog on a lily pad? Some custom-built monstrosity with faux-medieval architectural touches? No, answered the Prince, a real castle, complete with moat, drawbridge, portcullis, keep, dungeon, chapel, and great hall. The little animals looked at him quizzically.
“But none of the contractors in this staid German/Czech/Old Austin’s Colony town can do such a thing,” said a young fawn, creeping closer. “If you want a castle, they will start talking turrets.” Yes, agreed the wise old owl, “or perhaps, if you’re lucky, a turret with battlements.”
No, said Prince Newman, that is not a real castle. I shall have a real one, even if it means building one myself. Which is what he did. In 1998, once the Prince had acquired a 20-acre wood of cedar and rolling hills at the end of a dirt road just north of town, a group of local knights came to pour the cement foundation. The balance of the task, however, fell to Prince Newman and a young assistant by the name of Jose Cummings, or Sir Jose as he became known on the castle grounds.
Together, the two valiant men would build walls of cinderblock they finished with stucco masonry, and a 42-foot-tall central keep that offered two sparsely-appointed bedrooms, as well as a commanding view of the woods and the lily pads in the moat below.
Yes, a moat. Prince Newman’s castle must have a moat; if it did not, he would have no need for a drawbridge. Five 24-foot turrets would come to ring the castle walls, and since those alone might not prove enough to repel invaders, there would be iron gates and a dungeon complete with a pillory and an iron maiden. For spiritual counsel, the Prince and Sir Jose would build a tiny chapel, as well as a TV room, its screen carefully concealed in an armoire. Also, a liquor room.
Prince Newman would dine in either of two halls, one informal, the other sumptuous. There, visitors from friendly kingdoms would come to sup with him, and he would entertain the children by handing out home-made wooden swords, or occasionally by hurling rocks from his working catapult.
One day, at last, he had his castle, and the Prince was satisfied, though he could not stop tinkering. He continues to work on a tall bell-tower within the castle walls, just as he continues to make doughnuts, pastries, and kolaches. Plus, there are the castle tours he gives and events he hosts, including murder-mystery evenings by Houston’s Murder by Chocolate and classical concerts performed by local youth.
“It is perfect,” said the frog on the lily pad. “A medieval home for a man in a medieval trade,” agreed the wise old owl. Prince Newman smiled at them from his fortress.
“It’s a good thing for Bellville and it’s good for my bakery,” said the Prince with a wink.