I've got a nose like a bloodhound when it comes to historical things. Or maybe I have friends who like to travel and recommended this spot on our recent trip to the Cincinnati area. So we did.
The Loveland Castle
(translation: Rock House)
The Loveland Castle was started in 1927 by this guy:
In the 1920's, Harry had a close following of Boy Scouts/Sunday School group who would meet regularly down by the Little Miami River.
It just so happened at that time, the Cincinnati Enquirer was running a special deal to broaden their subscription. Purchase a one year subscription in full and in return the Enquirer would give you a plot of land on the river - where they were meeting. Some of Harry's scouts had parents who took the Enquirer up on the deal and then donated the land to Harry!
Harry and his scouts were such regular visitors to this land that they would leave their camping gear along the river. However, the weather, animals, or other visitors damaged their equipment. Sad, yes, but this gave Harry an idea! Build two stone tents to protect their equipment and provide shelter. These stone tents would then become the corners of his future castle. But why a castle?
After serving as a medic in World War 1, Harry contracted spinal meningitis and was actually declared dead!! By the time he was declared undead, his fiancé had married another man and he was in no rush to return to the United States. Instead, Harry stayed in Europe visiting... castles!
So as Harry had already dubbed his troop of boys as the Knights of the Golden Trail, he knew a knight isn't truly complete without a castle. The two stone tents that were originally constructed to house their camping equipment then became the cornerstones of the castle itself.
To this day, Knights still guard the door.... and take your admission (admission is small and fully goes to upkeep of the castle). They give you a brief history of the castle, design details to look for, and send you on your way for the self guided tour.
Harry lived in the castle until he died in 1981. He willed the castle to his knights who then in return made it a museum. Some of the rooms are blocked off as his personal belongings were left as a homage to Harry. His office is one of those rooms:
Desk complete with typewriter and many castle and knight artifacts.
Archer windows are one of the many details that makes Chateau Laroche an official castle.
Lots of narrow winding stairs is also an official castle trait. You can't shoot an arrow up a curved staircase!
Of course, every castle needs a courtyard.
The only vows the Knights of the Golden Trail had to abide by were and still are the 10 Commandments which are proudly displayed above the fireplace in the gathering room.
The castle even had a special place for a princess to hide in times of trouble. She would climb the steps into the ceiling, pull the ladder up, close the door beneath her, and wait for things to calm down. No one would know where she was, nor would they be able to get to her.
On the second floor and want to know who is knocking at your door? Easy peasy. Take look through your spy hole!
Harry bedroom (another room off limits) boasts a curved ceiling. Not a common or easy thing to do with stone.
Due to safety regulations, you are not allowed on the roof of the castle anymore.
There is a fireplace on the roof. You know... to boil tar to pour on unwelcome guests below.
Seriously, so many winding, narrow staircases it was dizzying.
Harry and his knights built this castle 100% by hand. River rocks were dug out of the banks of the Little Miami and hauled up to the castle bucket by bucket. Harry kept a diary and a count of how many bucket were hauled and how many stones were used to build his mighty castle. In some areas, bricks were needed instead of stone. So they made them... in juice containers!
Of course that would take a large amount of cement so fillers were used inside of each brick.
In the early years as the castle was still being built, visitors would stop by and give Harry a rock to add to his rock house which he did! There is a rock from each of the united states and many from other countries. There's even a piece of a meteorite in this castle!
Harry's pride was his gardens. He designed special hotbeds using railroad lanterns to be able to grow vegetables year round!
Harry even hid a secret room in the gardens that the Knights didn't even know about until it collapsed in after years of neglect.
It was definitely a neat place to stop and see. And if we venture down that way, we'll probably stop and explore it again.
But I will warn you... This castle is built high up on a hill and your children will have no regard for your anxiety ridden momma's heart as they lean over that wall causing you to have a heart attack...
...or two or three.