It’s Always Ohio is movin’ on up! A special thanks goes out Wendy Koile, our first ever guest blogger. Below you’ll find an detailed account of Wendy getting medieval in Ohio…or wait, wrong time period. Getting baronial? Anyway, below you’ll find Wendy’s awesome blog post about Squire’s Castle in Willoughby Hills, Ohio. Enjoy!
A few miles southeast of the hustle and bustle of inner-city Cleveland, stands an unexpected, yet charming structure. Quietly tucked just within the tree line of the North Chagrin Reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks, the shell of an impressive castle peers out under the thick leaves of the woodland, leaving many visitors enchanted by its existence. However, as park goers stroll through the vacant rooms, they not only are draw to the physical beauty of the edifice, but also to the lingering sensation of a forgotten possibility tinged with just a hint of sadness. In fact, Squires Castle does indeed represent both a loved and hated, century old dream.
In the 1890’s, British born- turned Cleveland business oil tycoon, Fergus B. Squire initiated construction on his newly purchased 525 acres of woodsy land near present day Willoughby Hills. Although he owned a mansion on Euclid Ave, often referred to as Millionaire’s Row, Squire yearned for the English countryside where he had spent his childhood. Now a husband and father of two, he wished for his family to experience the delights of living close to nature.
Squire’s dream was to build a manor house, or small castle, for his family to use a retreat from city-life. By 1897, the still existing building was completed and was originally to act as the gatehouse and caretakers’ home. According to the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History the estate was enhanced by adding “groves of trees, ponds, bridges, and a gravel roadway.” It was near this time, however, that the construction came to an abrupt halt.
Recorded account suggests that Squire encountered problems finding material and competent laborers to complete the main house. Yet most believed the glitch in the plan was that young Mrs. Squire did not take to the residence. She had always been a city girl at heart, and the sound of creatures rustling through the backyard was not her idea of a relaxing retreat. And to top it off, Fergus loved hunting and proudly displayed throughout the house the heads of many beasts.
Sadly, Squire visited the estate only a few more times as a camping retreat with his daughter. In 1908, he sold the property to developers and built a mansion in nearby Willowick. 1925, the Cleveland Park Board took possession of the land and building, filling the basement and removing the second floor. As the small castle sat vacant, vandals looted the building of its lead glass windows, decorative adornments, and any other traces of the original owner.
To add insult to injury, creepy ghost stories and urban legends sometimes overshadowed the factual history of Squire’s Castle. The tales usually centered around the death of Mrs. Squire and her supposed tragic fall down castle steps. Due to her untimely death, she allegedly still haunts the family’s retreat home to this day. Disappointedly to local ghost hunters, record indicate that Mrs. Squire died a natural death in a Cleveland hospital.
Ghost hunting or not, today guests are free to walk through the castle and hike the woods stretching out far behind. Simple blueprints of the original estate design are displayed throughout the building detailing each room and its function. The arched doorways and glassless windows allow the wind to quietly sweep through while carrying the long-forgotten vision of a dreamlike castle along with it.