Missouri is well-known for lots of reasons – its wild open spaces, sophisticated cities, and country sights – but castles don’t usually spring to mind. But, as the Missouri Tourism Board says, The Show-Me State is full of surprises. From French-inspired chateaus to a city prison, here are some of the best castles in Missouri.
Where are the best castles in Missouri?
The Ha Ha Tonka ruins sit on a bluff in the Ha Ha Tonka State Park, which means “laughing waters”. Wealthy Kansas entrepreneur Robert Snyder built this European-styled castle in 1905. Sprawling across 5,000 acres of land, it was set to become one of the most impressive structures in the state. But in 1906, Snyder died in one of Missouri’s first car accidents and failed to see his dream house complete. His sons continued working on the property and by 1920 it was ready. But, by that time the money had run out so it opened as a hotel.
In another unfortunate twist of events, the building burnt down. The state purchased the property in the 1970s.
Attorney John Homer Bothwell built this 12,000-sq. ft. ‘lodge’ on top of two natural caves. Perched on top of the bluff, it offers sweeping views out over Sedalia. It took 30 years to complete the 31-room castle, which is kitted out with Bothwell’s eclectic furnishings. These days, you can picnic on the sprawling grounds and take a cycle along the three-mile hiking and mountain biking mountain trail.
This abandoned building might not be a castle in name, but it certainly looks like one (if you look past the graffiti that is). Constructed in 1897, it was once the city jail. Nicknamed “workhouse castle”, inmates tended to be petty offenders and drunks from around the city. No one knows quite why the authorities decided on this medieval-inspired design, but perhaps it was trendy at the time. The castle closed down in 1924 and the authorities eventually abandoned it.
This sprawling 40,000 sq. ft. mansion is just outside of Springfield. Built in 1913 by the Knights of Pythias, it was originally an orphanage and vulnerable women’s home. In 1941, the US military took control of the building and used it as a German and Italian prisoner of war camp throughout World War II. The army sold the property to private owners 40 years later but still own the laundry room, which formerly housed prisoners. In 2009, it was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. These days you can pay for a private tour or rent the building out for weddings, murder mystery dinners and balls.
Built by slaves in 1853, Selma Hall (or Kennett’s Castle) sits on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. Inspired by George I’s Castello di Vezio in Lake Como, the limestone castle features 18 bedrooms and a four-storey gun tower. It was almost destroyed during the Civil War when gunboats fired at it from the Mississippi River. In 1939, much of the original facade burnt down in a fire.
Chateau Charmand looks like it’s been plucked straight out of a fairytale, but Bob and Bonnie Palmer only built the castle in 2003. Inspired by a 14th-century French Chateau, the castle is possible the largest in the world built by the smallest crew. These days it’s a popular spot for fairytale weddings.
7. Stuart Castle, Eureka
At first glance, Stuart Castle looks like your average Medieval Castle, but look closely and some clues reveal its age. In fact, Dr Stuart Wallace only built the castle in the late ’60s. According to local archives, the original house was built at the same time as the St. Louis World Fair in 1904. He built the 7,800-foot castle around the old building as a shrine to his wife. Sometime after, she left him and he disappeared to Europe. When he returned, he decided to sell the fairytale fortress, stipulating that whoever purchased it could not tear it down. In 2012, a young couple purchased the property for just $395,000 but according to this article, they got more than they bargained for, including ghosts, peepholes and secret passageways.