Oozing Victorian charm and Victorian Christmas, The Castle in Marietta, Ohio takes one back to a simpler time – from a wealthy viewpoint! Even though now situated in the center of town, back in 1858 when it was first built, the house was on one of the highest spots in the area and overlooked the then existing town of Marietta. Two trees still stand in the front yard where they were planted over a hundred and fifty years ago.
Today The Castle is operated by Betsey Mills Corporation and is dedicated to the education of the public regarding Marietta history as well as life in Victorian times. Tours of The Castle are given on a daily basis whenever visitors happen to arrive. The guides are very knowledgeable of the history of The Castle and share a lot of humorous stories that make the visit extra enjoyable. If you enjoy life in Victorian times, perhaps this glimpse inside will make you eager to visit there yourself.
Beginning in the Carriage House, which now serves as the Visitors’ Center, a video explains a brief history of the people who have resided at The Castle. Back in 1855, Melvin Clarke paid $2000 for two empty lots where the house was to be built. Ownership by prominent and influential citizens has changed quite often over the years from original owner/builder, who was an attorney and first city solicitor, and continuing with the person who established the Bank of Marietta, the owner of Marietta Gazette, and even an Ohio State Senator.
Since taking pictures inside was not permitted, decided to buy a couple postcards of my favorite rooms. Walking in the front door, the spirit of Victorian Christmas surrounded you with beautiful poinsettias, decorated trees, and Victorian figurines and dolls. The first thing to catch my eye was the pump organ from Stevens Organ and Piano Company. Music was an important part of Victorian times, and there were two more pianos in their parlors, as well as an Edison music box from 1892, which played the cylinder records of hard black wax. The song, “Echo All Over the World,” was on display in its original case from Edison Gold Moulded Records.
Another item of special interest was a hat rack just inside the front entrance. Not only was there a place to hang your hat, but also a beautiful mirror to make certain your hair was perfectly in place…’hat hair’ would not be acceptable! The plate for calling cards still held those of people who had visited the house many years ago.
In the library, Captain William Holden had what they called the ‘first lap-top’ where he kept all his important paperwork and records. This was also the place, right next to the sitting room, where adults read while the younger ladies were having gentlemen callers. Even though their chairs were separated by a table, some of the elders in the family watched and listened carefully. The chairs themselves were intriguing as they sat very low to the floor so there was no possibility of a lady’s ankles showing, an act of disgrace during Victorian times.
Fascinating also were the items made of human hair. If a young lady or gentleman wanted to keep a remembrance of their special person close to them, they would weave their hair into a special design. Some were braided, then used in place of a watch chain to attach a pocket watch to the jacket, while others were intricately designed necklaces and broaches. All were quite beautiful.
All furnishings in The Castle were either original Victorian items, which had actually been used in the home, or furnishings from other Marietta homes of that time. Wood trim and doors were made of red oak downstairs where guests would be entertained, but upstairs were made of pine as only the family would be upstairs. According to the guide, one beautifully designed wall shelf had originally held a collection of Captain William Holden’s, who they called the original Spiderman. Captain Holden had collected 3,000 different spiders and actually kept them on display.
In the 1890’s, a water closet was built to include indoor bathroom facilities. This was originally upstairs only and could only be used by family members, while servants had to use the outdoor privy. Guests were not permitted upstairs so if they had been there long enough to need to use the bathroom, perhaps it was time for them to go home. Goodbye for now my friends!
If you want to hear more fascinating stories of The Castle, take a trip to Marietta on I-77 and use Exit 1 to Route 7 South. Turn right on Fourth Street and The Castle is located on the hill at 418 Fourth Street. There is a handicap entrance in the rear with limited parking.