Oozing Victorian charm, The Castle in Marietta, Ohio takes one back to a simpler time – from a wealthy point of view. Even though now situated in the center of town, back in 1855 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. One large tree still stands in the front yard where it was planted over a hundred and fifty years ago.
Today The Castle is part of The Betsey Mills Corporation, a group of community-minded women, who wish to educate the public regarding Marietta history as well as life in Victorian times. Tours of The Castle are given by guides, who are very knowledgeable of its history and share many 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.
Starting 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 over the years. The property was used by Nathaniel Clark, the potter, as early as 1808 when he made milk pans, jugs and jars. Remnants of their pottery still surface from time to time or are found on archaeological digs.
In 1855 Melvin Clarke paid $2000 for two empty lots where the house was to be built. Ownership by five prominent and influential citizens began with the 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.
All furnishings in The Castle are 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.
Victorian times were filled with music. A pump organ from Stevens Organ and Piano Company can be found inside the front door. Two more pianos are in the 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.
The library showcased Captain William Holden’s box where he kept all his important papers and could close it like a briefcase to take them with him. Some called it the first lap-top. Adults would sit here and read while younger ladies were having gentlemen callers in the adjoining sitting room. Even though the chairs of ladies and gentlemen were separated by a table, someone had to watch and listen to ensure proper behavior was being observed.
The chairs, themselves, were unique in that they sat very low to the floor. That way there could be no chance that the young ladies’ ankles would show, an act of disgrace during Victorian times.
When you wanted to remember a special person, you could weave a lock of their hair into a special design. Men might braid their special lady’s hair into a watch chain to attach a pocket watch to their jacket. The ladies would make necklaces and broaches in intricate designs.
A unique dresser can be found in an upstairs bedroom. When the lady moved here from the east coast, she only had room to bring three drawers full of her belongings. When they arrived in Marietta, a dresser was built to hold those three drawers. Women gave up a lot to be pioneers.
All the 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 era. Wood trim and doors were made of red oak downstairs where guest would be entertained; however, upstairs the doors were of pine as only the family would be upstairs.
One beautifully designed wall shelf had originally held a collection of Captain Holden’s, who they called the original Spiderman. He had collected 3,000 different spiders and kept them on display.
A section attached to The Castle served as the original home of Nathaniel Clark and several of his pottery vases were on display there. Outside the door near the gazebo, the outline of the original kiln has been found and excavation of that area will take place as time permits. It’s a rather large area about fourteen feet long.
You’ll find a great variety of activities at The Castle throughout the year. Check their website at www.mariettacastle.org for the latest information. There are activities for every age level from workshops and teas to ghost tours and children’s programs. You’re sure to find something of interest!
The Castle is located in Marietta, Ohio at 418 4th Street. Take Exit 1 off I-77. Castle is open April through December. Hours for June, July and August are 10-4 most days, except closed on Wednesday. Sunday hours are 1-4.