Friday, October 9, 2015

I think I now know more than anyone about Squire's Castle................

Squire's Castle in the North Chagrin Reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks. The structure was intended to be a gatehouse for Feargus B. Squire, an executive with the Standard Oil Company. (He invented the oil tanker truck.) The Squires -- Feargus (1850-1932), his wife Louisa (1854-1927), daughter Irma Lissette (1884-1982), and son Reginald Rockefeller (1883-1938) -- lived on Prospect Avenue, then one of the streets in Cleveland for the wealthy and mega-wealthy. The family later moved to 1729 Euclid Avenue (the "Avenue of the Millionaires") and in 1905 to 7809 Euclid Avenue (the old Liberty E. Holden mansion, built in 1875).

Squire purchased 525 acres of woodland in 1890 near present-day Willoughby Hills, Ohio, and intended to build a grand English-style estate there, to be named "River Farm Estate". This gatehouse was the first structure built, and is made of Euclid Bluestone quarried nearby.

Shortly after he bought the land, Squire hired a New York City architect and began construction of the gatehouse. It was probably completed in 1897, and featured a library/hunting/trophy room in the northeast wing (opposite the carriageway). This was Squire's favorite room: The relatively small space was jammed with bookshelves, trophy cabinets, taxidermied animals, and paintings. The main hall was also the kitchen, while small living rooms (with fireplaces) existed in the northeast and southwest wing. Behind the kitchen in the southeast was a sun porch.

Squire Castle 02 - North Chagrin Reservation - Cleveland Metroparks.jpg


The gatehouse had a basement, which (if history is any guide) served as a laundry, food preparation are, and storage space. The two-story main tower over the great hall probably contained two small bedrooms (although the location of the stairway is not clear). Architectural details inside the gatehouse indicate that the tower was later extended to a third story, with some windows on the second floor being blocked up to improve structural integrity. Probably two more bedrooms were added here.

Squire abandoned construction of River Farm Estate shortly after the completion of the gatehouse after encountering extreme problems in finding the materials and labor he needed to construct the English baronial estate he envisioned. (Rumors that his wife, Louisa, had fallen ill are just that.) Squire now began construction of Cobblestone Garth, a large mansion in the Victorian style in Wickliffe, Ohio. It wasn't unusual for wealthy individuals to have more than one country home, and Wickliffe was designed to have all the modern conveniences (running water, electricity, natural gas, and sewer). Cobblestone Garth was probably completed in 1901 or 1902.

Squire continued to use the gatehouse as a weekend retreat. His wife reportedly did not like the house, as it was quite rustic. But Squire and his teenage daughter, Irma, spent most weekends there and the entire summer of 1903.

Feargus Squire retired from Standard Oil in 1909. He'd secured a vice presidency with the company for his son, but the fight to win Reginald this position left him soured on his business partners. Squire seldom spent time at the gatehouse after 1909, and he and his wife spent the next two years traveling in Europe. When they returned to the United States, Squire sold his Euclid Avenue home and moved permanently into Cobblestone Garth.

looking up in great hall - Squire's Castle - North Chagrin Reservation - Cleveland Metroparks 2015Squire sold River Farm Estate to developers in 1922. All the furnishings in the gatekeeper's house were removed by the Squire family. (In the 1950s and 1960s, Irma Lissette Squire Rust donated many of the more expensive items -- including clothing, jewelry, furnishings, and Tiffany enamel pieces -- to the Cleveland Museum of Art.)

The developers went bankrupt, and the bank seized the gatekeeper's house and grounds. The Cleveland Park Board (forerunner to Cleveland Metroparks) purchased the structure and land in 1925. That same year, Squire was elected Mayor of Wickliffe. He died in 1932.

At some point between 1925 and the 1960s, the basement was filled in with cement to stabilize the structure. Extensive brush and trees were allowed to grow around the structure, hiding it from view.

During the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, Squire's Castle (as the gatekeeper's house was called) was heavily vandalized. As alte as 1939, the leaded-glass windows still stood in their frames. But over the years, vandals stripped much of the interior woodwork and destroyed the windows. Metroparks performed little maintenance, which caused the wood floors and stairs of the second and third floors to rot away and collapse. The white plaster which used to cover the interior walls also collapsed, a victim of weather, vandalism, and lack of maintenance.

During the 1960s, Squire's Castle was a popular hangout for motorcycle gangs, and the public rarely visited. Pseudo-satanists and pseudo-pagans used the site for pretend rituals, and even killed animals there. From 1960 to 1990, several people committed suicide there.

Cleveland Metroparks began to reclaim Squire's Castle in the late 1980s.

In 1996, Cleveland Metroparks significantly renovated the structure. A new wooden roof was placed over all but the main tower, the interior and exterior power-washed, leaning walls were positioned upright and secured in place, the mortar repointed, and what remained of the woodwork was painted. The area around the structure was landscaped and the brush and trees removed, and a permanent asphalt walkway built around the rear of the house. The area beneath the carriageway was paved with stone, and interpretive signs placed inside the structure.

Since the 1960s, there have been rumors that "Rebecca Squire, wife of Feargus B. Squire" haunts the gatekeeper's house. The story goes that "Rebecca" hated the house, but Feargus made her live there with him. She roamed the house restlessly at night, carrying a candleabra. One night, she entered the library -- and, startled by an animal head, tripped and fell and broke her neck. Grief-stricken, Feargus sold the house. (Alternatively, Feargus died and the house was sold.) It's said you can see her ghostly white figure roaming the second floor.

It's pure hokum.

Feargus' wife was named Louisa, not Rebecca. Louisa died of pneumonia in her bed at Cobblestone Garth in 1927. Squire's Castle was sold off three years prior to her death. Feargus lived until 1932. There hasn't been any second (or third floor) for decades, after they rotted away.


Squire Castle 01 - North Chagrin Reservation - Cleveland Metroparks

NW side - Squire's Castle - North Chagrin Reservation - Cleveland Metroparks 2015

looking from library through house - Squire's Castle - North Chagrin Reservation - Cleveland Metroparks 2015

dining hall - Squire's Castle - North Chagrin Reservation - Cleveland Metroparks 2015

3 comments:

  1. Hi Tim,After reading this it makes more sense about the castle and what became of it.Since you described the inside in such detail, I have a question do you happen to have pictures of the castle insides back in the day? I have been looking but to no avail

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    Replies
    1. I have a whole bunch of interior photos here:

      https://www.flickr.com/photos/timevanson/albums/72157671988831905

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