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Monday, June 6, 2016

The Castle


Driving down busy Highway 5 in Little Rock, Arkansas, you can catch a glimpse of it through the gate the resembles a draw bridge; a huge stone structure off the road nestled under massive shade trees. It's the castle, the Castle On Stagecoach, as it's been known for years.



A mysterious castle surrounded by more rumors than facts. It was thought to have been a Scottish castle disassembled and rebuilt here. It was thought to have been abandoned and filled with ghosts. It was thought to have been a home to monks. All of those . . . not true. The castle has been the home to four families.

I attended one year of school at David O. Dodd Elementary which is right next door. The only thing that separated the school and the castle property was a row of thick hedges. During this time period the house was almost completely covered with vines and huge cedar trees blocked the view from the road. The vines and trees were later removed giving the property a more manicured look. Anyway, peeking through those hedges we would make up stories about who lived behind those stone walls. The story I remember the most and one that I thought was true was that monks lived there. I promise I believed that. I can even remember seeing a man walking across the lawn in his long dark robe. To my utter disbelief and disappointment - no monks ever lived there. So what did I see? Probably a man in his bathrobe going to get his paper! I was both intrigued and terrified of the castle. Look at the picture below and imagine it covered with thick running ivy. Yes, it was creepy!



When I heard the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program was holding a history tour at the castle, a childhood dream of going in the castle would be coming true! I wasn't the only one who wanted to see the castle. The crowd was large, 200 to 300 people I'd guess. 



The castle was built about 1935 by Dr. Clarence W. Koch, a local dentist. The story goes that he and his wife had traveled to Europe where she fell in love with the castles. They bought 100 acres "out in the country" and built her dream castle. Sadly to say, they were divorced a few years later and the house was sold.



I think the back side of the castle is the prettiest with the large iron windows, the turret, and a terraced garden. The turret and it's small balcony reminded us of the story of Rapunzel. The narrow vertical strip below the balcony is a beautiful stained glass window. In the picture below you can see the front door and the cast-stone seal above it, featuring a knight’s head and castle tower with the phrase “Grati Amici,” meaning Grateful Friends. There are also two garage doors and to the right of them is an open tunnel that you can drive through.




All the rocks and the wood beams for the castle were harvested from their property. The foyer, great room, kitchen, dining room, and maid's room are on the first floor. The bedrooms are on the second floor, where we were not allowed to go. There is also an attic, a basement, and I read that there is even a secret room. Of course, one must have a secret room in a castle. Fact or fiction. I do not know.



As we stood in line waiting our turn to get inside. Aaron, my grandson, peeked through large iron doors.  He is looking into the great room which now serves as a dining room for special events. 

The castle was obviously not small, so I was surprised that the rooms seemed small, maybe it was because the great room was crowded with tables and the kitchen with industrial size modern appliances or maybe it was just the many, many people! I also think it felt small because we weren't able to tour the second floor or attic.  But, that's all right. I wouldn't want several hundred people wandering through my bedrooms! 



The elaborate fireplace on the left is in the great room. As I mentioned above, it is a dining room now. There were several round tables with black checked tablecloths and black chairs. 

Bottom right is the actual dining room. I loved the arched doors.

Top right is in the basement. It originally was just that - a basement, but in later years was completed for family use. The walls were stuccoed (at least I think that's what it's called) and the area divided into three rooms; a game room, a bar area, and a sitting room. I felt like I was in a white cave.



The beams used for the 20 foot ceiling in the great room are beautiful stenciled with flowers.



The staircases were made with huge slabs of stone. This one leads to the first floor from the basement. There is an identical one that leads from the first floor to the second floor. These staircases are in the turret seen on the back of the castle. 



Looking up in the turret you see this beautiful stenciled ceiling. Above that at the very top of the turret, where we were not allowed to go, is a circular walnut library. I would have loved to see that!



There were lots of medieval touches around. The doors throughout were thick dark wood with ornate iron hinges and handles. The bottom left picture is the bar in the basement. It's deceiving because there is a large mirror right on the other side of the white refrigerator There is only one refrigerator. See the people at the back who are watching us . . . that is us! The kids liked this part. It really was deceiving!



The basement had several stained glass windows. Very castle like! The family that remodeled the basement and still lives there is the Rognruds, thus the "R" in the glass.



It was incredibly hot in the castle. The doors were open and there were so many people crowded inside. The basement was somewhat cooler but we were ready to get outside for some fresh air. My grandson, Isaac, found a good way to cool off while he stared down the lion by the front door.


Even the stable was beautifully built. There weren't any horses there at the time, but there was a white peacock and a lovely white carriage that is used for weddings and special events.




I know this has been extra long, but several people I know from this area wanted to see what it looked like inside and weren't able to attend. So, this is for you. I hope you enjoyed the tour. There were so many people that taking pictures inside was difficult. It was way to crowded with too many heads and shoulders in the way! I tried to capture it as best I could.


9 comments:

  1. You did a good job taking pictures with out people. I love the outside shots.

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  2. What an interesting place--and right in Arkansas! Your photos really captured the beauty of the place--so glad you got to finally tour the inside :)

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  3. The arched doors and the fireplace were my favourite parts of this place too. It must have been interesting for you to visit this building after having fantasized so much about it as a child!

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  4. What a gorgeous home Cathy, I can imagine you looking through the hedge. Loved the background on this place and so sad that the first family ended up in divorce. I always want my books to come out happy also so this was a sad tail. Those windows oh love so but man I wouldn't want to clean them. And those wood floors I have envy, beautiful Thank you for this share.

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  5. Just thinking about that many people crowding into that house makes me feel claustrophobic! You did an amazing job with photographing it under those circumstances - in fact, as I was looking at the pictures and reading your captions, I forgot about all those other people. How wonderful that you were able to satisfy your curiosity about this place that so filled your imagination as a chld!

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  6. You did a great job and what a treat to finally get inside. We have a mansion like that here, not a castle, but lots of stories surrounding it and ghost stories. Mallory and I toured it a few years ago, that was a treat too.

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  7. No wonder the original owners divorced after that massive building and decorating project! The stonework and detailing are beautiful. I've always thought stone dwellings remain cool, but with that many people inside, I can believe it was stuffy. Isaac had the right idea to bare some skin!

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  8. What a cool place. It looks so grand and very much like a castle. Thanks for sharing the fabulous photos.

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  9. I have passed it many times. When is the next tour? Thank you for sharing!

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Thanks so much for stopping by!!