The so-called Squire’s Castle sits upon a slight hilltop right off of Chagrin River Road just north of Route 6 in Willoughby Hills, Ohio. Its massive stone walls, arched doorways and larger tower have enchanted visitors for generations.
However, It isn’t actually a castle, but rather the gatehouse to a castle that was never built.
And apparently there are two versions of why the building never materialized….
In the late-19th century, such a Feargus B. Squire (1850-1932), attracted by the beauty of the scenic Chagrin Valley purchased 525 acres there. The English-born man, born near Exeter and came to America at age 10, started his career as an office boy at an oil company and later built and operated his own refinery. Eventually became the vice president of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, until 1909. Among his accomplishments was the construction of the first tank wagon for the overland shipment of oil. Despite skepticism over its feasibility and reliability, Squire’s tank car paved the way for the successful transportation of oil.
Either way, Mr. Squire commissioned a New York-based architect as he intended to build two massive, ornate mansions on the Willoughby Hills site, in the style of English or German baronial halls.
However, the first (and only) building to be built was the gatehouse, which had three floors, a basement, and even a room for his exotic hunting trophies. The structure was erected to serve also as a caretaker’s quarters, and the it was improved with groves of trees, ponds, bridges, and miles of gravel roadway.
Although the larger home was never built, Mr. Squire used the gatekeeper’s lodge as a weekend retreat in the early 1900s. He was a quiet, somewhat aloof man who enjoyed the solitude of his Castle. It had several bedrooms and living areas, a large kitchen, and a breakfast porch. All of the Castle’s rooms had white plaster walls and elegant woodwork.
One of the most beautiful rooms, according to the Cleveland Metroparks, was his Library or Hunting Room, a cozy room that featured books, trophy cabinets, actual stuffed animals, and paintings.
The urban myth version of why the rest of the castle wasn’t built involves the owner’s wife Rebecca. It seems that Mrs. Squire was unhappy in this country residence and prone to insomnia and nightly walks. As a city girl, she was afraid of the quiet country nights and the sounds of animals.
It was said that she often walked the gatehouse at night, carrying a small red lantern for light.
Late one evening, for reasons never fully understood, she ventured alone into the trophy room carrying her lantern. While in the room, something frightened her. Some believe it was simply the reflection of her lantern on the faces of her husband’s trophies. But others believe that she looked into the face of something unearthly that night. Regardless of what it was, she became so frightened that she attempted to flee the room and, in the darkness, fell down the stairs and broke her neck.
According to another version, she had so many nightmares that she was afraid to go to sleep and consequently went insane. As story goes, she died one night when she became so frightened that she fell and broke her neck attempting to flee.
In any case, her death devastated her husband who never returned to the castle and later sold it.
Probably a pretty ghost story, however the likely actual series of events is slightly different. Actually Mr. Squire lost interest in the property and instead constructed a mansion in Wickliffe, where he later became mayor. And his poor wife Rebecca died under normal circumstances but at a very young age in 1929, and not in the castle.
The property was sold a couple of year earlier, in 1922, but the gatehouse was abandoned and later taken over by Cleveland Metroparks. Due the extent of vandalism that had taken place, they decided to remove all the structures inside the building.
Today all that remains of the building of the would-be castle is the exterior shell, together with the occasional ghost stories of poor Mrs. Squire. And, not by chance, some people have reported seeing a red lantern light and a female figure near the property…