Monday, November 23, 2009

Pendleton Castles

So how many people know that we have castles in Western New York?  There is Oechsner Castle in Williamsville and Warner Castle in Rochester, but the most intriguing for me were the Pendleton Castles.
For as long as I can remember, there were huge pieces of plywood outside the property gates saying “Keep Out” and “No Trespassing”.  I never knew what was back there until I moved into the area.   It was then I started hearing all kinds of stories from friends and neighbors about how when they were young, they would sneak back onto the property to catch a glimpse of the castles back there.  “Castles?!”  I remember thinking the first time I heard them mentioned… “You’ve got to be kidding!”
And they weren’t kidding – they really are there!  You can’t sneak on the property anymore – there are way more alarms set all over than you can shake a stick at, but you can go on a tour of the property.  I got to go yesterday 
Our guide, Bill – who is connected with the Pendleton Center United Methodist Church - was really personable and very interesting to listen to… he was no slouch when it came to the history of the place!
The grounds and the castles are in disrepair, but as we walked through, it was easy to see how grand the place must have looked in it’s day.  Unfortunately for the owner of the property, her husband passed away before their plans for restoration could get underway and she wasn’t left with the money to do them herself.  I think that it is really nice of her to allow people to tour the property.
There are two castles – one French castle and one German castle.  They aren’t the big huge medieval castles that you see in King Arthur movies, but they are still castles.  We could go inside the French one, but not the German one – evidently the floors have all rotted away in that one.  The German castle has a real moat all the way around it!




French Castle
The French castle on the hill

German Castle
The German Castle

Moose Head
A badly deteriorated moose!

Bridge Over the Moat
One of the bridges going over the moat.  (I photoshopped out a very distracting plastic tote that was in the water)
German Castle
This made me think of the French taunting in Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Statuary
This place must have been magnificent at one time

DSC05373a

Statuary
I think these were from the Pan-Am Exposition.  They were originally on pillars, but they were either stolen or broken.  Now they are chained up so that they won’t “disappear”…

I will put more pictures up on Flickr within the next few days.
***Update***  Finally done!

We were there for a little more than an hour and there was no charge.  For information on upcoming tours, you can contact the Pendleton Center United Methodist Church (which happens to be right across the street from the castles).
***Update*** The Pendleton Center United Methodist Church no longer offers tours of the castles.
 
Oh, and you don’t see big “No Trespassing” signs outside the gates anymore either.  Evidently the owner allowed a film crew to shoot part of one the Chainsaw Massacre movies on the property a few years ago and the movie company didn’t want the signs there.  They promised to replace the spray-painted pieces of plywood with some nice custom-made signs.  They never did.

27 comments:

Becky said...

Beautiful! Now I have to put this on my to-do list!

Carl said...

Wonderful photos...very nice site..thanks for sharing it

shelley said...

Used to live up the road and went to church there. My girlfriends property went back to the property line of the castles and we would sneak in and spend the days pretending it was our castle and everything that goes along with that. I think all of the Keep out signs made it all the more fun. There used to be other things like a full metal suit of armor for a knight and some furniture. This is back in 1959 - 1963. I always wondered about it and if it was torn down for a shopping center or something. Nice to know it is still standing.
Shelley

Mary McDonnell said...

My grandfather Wilbert Holler used to own these castles.
My brother used to live in the Pettit house located on the grounds of the castle. We used to go ice skating in the winter time between the two castles. I have a lot of wonderful memories with these castles. They were beautiful. In the round castle they had gorgeous bedrooms. Kids used to break in there and destroy them with bricks and bottles. The square castle had a huge bell at the top where we used to climb to ring the bell. I have a lot of fond memories that will always stay with me. It is ashame that kids broke into these and destroyed them. My grandfather used to go there all the time and just pitter around..he loved it there and so did all his children and grandchildren.

Jill said...

@ Mary - You are so lucky to have been able to grow up with the castles - I'll bet you were the envy of all your friends! I see that the castles have just recently gone up for sale... I'm glad I got to tour them when I did - who knows if the new owners will allow them again (but we can hope!)

Tabitha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tabitha said...

I just moved into the area, and a friend and I discovered the Oecshner Castle last night--we were exploring and ran into the owner and got a surprise tour; it was great! So then I was researching it and came across the Pendleton Castles. Do you have any idea who bought them and whether they still give tours? I'm really intrigued by your post and pictures!

Jill said...

@ Tabitha - The property is still up for sale... I guess if you called up the realtor and pretended that you wanted to buy the place, you could get your own private tour Lol!

Seriously, tho' - I'm not sure if the owner is still allowing public tours or not. You might try contacting the Pendleton Center United Methodist Church... they may have information.

Welcome to the area - there is a lot to explore in WNY!

Brian said...

After reading your blog and living in the area, I had to go and investigate this as I am a certified castle stalker! I did notice at the front entrance that there is a sign that says the area is under video surveillance but I did not see one posted sign or a for sale sign for that matter. We approached the area from the nearby apartment buildings, pretty rough terrain with lots of briers to get through but it was worth it! Did find both castles but didn't go in just opted for a good photo and left. Thanks for sharing this!

Deborah Parise said...

Please know that Pendleton Center Church no longer offers tours of the Castles. Thank you.

Paul Woeger said...

I have postcards of the petite castles, produced by Wilbert Holler who was my wife's grandfather. He owned them until his death in the early '90s. (he was also the co-founder of Holler Brother's Construction, a local builder in the Tonawandas. Mr. Holler loved to hang out there in his spare time. there's a photo of him somewhere churning a large cauldron of turtle chowder for a family gathering. We visited several times while Wilb was still alive. the kids loved it! thanks for sharing!! Paul

Jill said...

How awesome it is that you were able to visit the castles when they were in their prime :)

Unknown said...

I grew up with this literally in my backyard. It's all overgrown now. But i can still go there at any time. The fence between my parents house and the castle is down. I caught little blue channel cats out of the moat. The moat goes under the square tower and there are benches that you can only get to when the moat is frozen. My parents house itself is probably one of the first houses built in Pendleton. It's 200+ years old. I will get some new pictures this summer and post them on Facebook. Look for Pettite Castle.

Unknown said...

My Dad and I got a personal tour way back in the 50's. They used to get their groceries from Horan's store at 5 corners. I still have wonderful memories of that tour. Seems as though they only lived there in the summer.. Top floor ceiling of French castle had an old WW2 Japanese silk parachute as the "ceiling". It's been 50+ years and remember many tings vividly

Anonymous said...

As I recall, at one time someone was going to make them into a restaurant

christine Solly said...

So what is going on with the castles today?

christine Solly said...

So what is going on with the castles today?

Jamie Lee said...

Does anyone know the history of these castles as far as when and why they were originally built? I've lived nearby for years, but I've never known the actual story behind who built them or why.

Anonymous said...

I wish they would give tours. I would definitely go.

Anonymous said...

lot of tourism potential there if someone wants to sink some capital into restoration.

Sue Fig said...

I've lived in the area for a long time I remember driving by as a child when you could still see the towers from the road, fascinating. Thank you for sharing.

Sue Fig said...

There is a small castle in Hartland/middleport, off 104 somewhere... They sold Christmas trees and we "discovered" it on our first trip, we visited the castle every year until the property changed hands. It had a drawbridge and a moat! Wonderful memories.

Sue Fig said...

There is a small castle in Hartland/middleport, off 104 somewhere... They sold Christmas trees and we "discovered" it on our first trip, we visited the castle every year until the property changed hands. It had a drawbridge and a moat! Wonderful memories.

Jill said...

The property was up for sale a few of years ago, but was taken off the market. The whole property with the castles could have been yours for only $300,000 :) From what I understand, the owner has health problems and is no longer allowing tours of the castles... which is a shame :(

As for the origin of the castles, if I remember right from the tour - the man who built them was very wealthy and was trying to create a Disney-like park... I cannot recall what happened and why he stopped.

Anonymous said...

In reference to the "small castle in Hartland", the one I know of it is located north of Route 104 & east of Quaker Rd.a little north of Chapman Rd. From what I remember, the land owner built it as a play house for his grandchildren. I first learned of it's existence while flying over the area in a small plane. It was fall & most of the leaves were off the trees, spotted it from the air & had to circle the area a few times to check it out. I don't know who owns the property now, or what condition it is in.

Geoff Boulden said...

I grew up on Campbell Blvd and still live in Pendleton. My mom was town historian for a while. The castle was built by a German guy around 1900 for his sick wife. She either had Tuberculosis or Leukemia. He built it for her to lift her spirits. Many of the stones, statues, etc came from Europe.

When she passed away, he stopped construction. I knew of some kids who snuck on the property and had to clean 5 miles of Campbell Blvd as punishment. I also knew a guy who was paid to patrol the property. I've never seen more than the roof peak.

Chris Holler- Thoures said...

Wilbert Holler was also my Grandfather and as Mary said, we spent a lot of time as kids at those castles, it was awesome back them, and pretty scary at night with all the strange statues. It was so beautiful at one time, I wish someone would restore it, it would make a great restaurant.