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Be Your Own Baron at Squire’s Castle in Willoughby Hills, Ohio

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. 

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The Holy Grail of Theatre: Sandusky Hosts Broadway Production, Spamalot

Full disclosure, musicals and theatre are not our forte. Did you notice how we spelled “theatre?” We heard that’s the proper way to do it.  All of that being said, some productions get us dancing and we love us some Spamalot. Adapted from the hysterical 1975 film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, this parody of the Arthurian legend has left many a crowd in stitches. Lucky for the folks in and around Sandusky, they now have the chance to join the aforementioned galley of laughter.

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Credit: Sandusky State Theatre

If you’ve been following along with It’s Always Ohio, you’ll know that we’re quite fond of Sandusky, Ohio and it seems like the revival of this old town continues to flourish. A Broadway musical? That’s big. For those who haven’t seen this original film this musical is based off of, well, I blow my nose at you! Trust us, you’ll get it later. But seriously, it’s one hilarious movie and the Broadway musical version is just as funny.

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Sandusky State Theatre Facebook

Aside from the actual show, the Sandusky State Theatre is something to behold in its own right.  A striking and beautiful historic landmark, the State, as locals refer to it, has been around since 1928 and is currently on track to be completely renovated for it’s 100th anniversary in 2028.

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Sandusky State Theatre Facebook

If it was us, we’d go ahead a book tickets for the show on Wednesday, Nov. 21st, so that we could hit up Volstead Bar for a proper old fashioned before the show. Just a suggestion. From there you could visit a number of fantastic restaurants around the area for post-show supper. Shore House Tavern, OH Taco and Crush Wine Bar are a few of our favorites.  Make a little night of it! All jokes aside, this is definitely an experience you don’t want to miss. Snag up some tickets before they’re gone, we heard they’re going fast. See you in Sandusky!

21687456_1675296602503298_8996168711295964590_nTickets range from $35-$68 and are available for purchase through the Sandusky State Theatre website here. Spamalot is presented by the Firelands Regional Medical Center.

Lake Erie is for Wine Lovers

When thinking about wine in all it’s grapey magnificence, you can’t help but think about legendary regions of the country like Napa Valley or Sonoma, California…maybe even all the way across the pond in Bordeaux, France.  And that’s all well and good, but Ohio in it’s own right, has some really good wine, too.

The weather, mostly due to the fresh waters of Lake Erie, make this unique area of the country ideal for growing grapes.  While we’ve found that the sweeter wines tend to take precedence in the Heart of it All, the range of wines available is still quite impressive.  In turn, places like the Firelands Winery have been around for almost 140 years.  Did you see how we snuck that old Ohio tourism slogan in there? Course you did.

Since the first cellar of this historic winery was built in 1880, Firelands Winery has been taking advantage of this unique environment and harvesting their fruit from a place that enjoys a 200 day frost-free growing season, the Isle of St. George on the western basin of Lake Erie.  Our favorite? The Gewurztraminer — A sweet white with a passion fruit flavor and rose petal aroma.  Wow, we remembered how to spell it and took notes. Look at us!

Firelands Winery Facebook

And it’s not just Firelands that has been benefitting from this latitude and longitude.  In 1888 a man from Baden-Baden Germany (Say that three times fast), an area of that country known for it’s rich viticultural history, founded Heinemans Winery.  Located in the village of Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island, it has been producing fine wines for over 100 years.

As a bonus, especially if you go this weekend before it closes for the year, you can take a look at the Crystal Cave, the world’s largest geode.  Random we know, but awesome nonetheless. I mean where else are you going to see a three foot crystal?

Tasting tip: Go for the Lake Erie Pink Catawba pictured below.  It’s sweet, light pink in color as the name suggests and very easy to drink.  Just be careful, a bottle between two people goes down very quickly.  And by be careful, we mean order two bottles.

Since we’re focusing on wine, we’d be remiss not to mention one of our favorite island events, the Put-in-Bay Island Wine Festival.  Hop on the Miller Ferry on Saturday, October 7 and for just $6 you will get into the festival with a souvenir wine glass. Combine that with a $14/RT ferry ticket and you’re looking at a meager $20 total — Budget travel day! Of course to sample the more than 200 wines that are there, you’ll have to cough up $1 per ticket…how much is completely up to you, ya boozehound.

Heineman’s Winery Facebook

You can tell wine connoisseurs are starting to take notice of the region as well.  In the last decade newer wineries have been popping up like, well, grapes.  Quarry Hill Winery sits perched 834 feet above Berlin Heights, Ohio while the Paper Moon Vineyards nests in the historic harbor town of Vermillion, Ohio.

Quarry Hill Winery Facebook Page

While in Vermillion, be sure to visit the ludicrously delicious Wine Vault. With a newly renovated menu that’s focused more on a tapas style, it’s a refreshing style of nourishment. Try the prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, lobster bisque and delicious cheese plates.  Not sure while we’re giving you ideas of what to order, all of it is tremendous. You’ll see.

Wine Vault Facebook Page

So next time you’d like to hit the wine trail, skip the expensive plane tickets and head north.  France and California will always be there.

Have some other recommendations regarding wineries around Lake Erie? Let us know in the comment section or by tweeting @itsalwaysohio!

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