The Castle, on South Washington Street, was built in 1898 for William T. and Margret Hughes. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)
The Castle, on South Washington Street, was built in 1898 for William T. and Margret Hughes. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)

VAN WERT – Residency these days in the old castle home on Washington Street is like a dream come true for Van Wert resident Shirley Hillier.

Hillier still remembers the day she and her husband, James, were driving around the area looking for a stately old home to purchase for retirement. As they drove south out of downtown Van Wert on U.S. 127, they both took note of a stately castle-like structure across from the Presbyterian Church, the type home that she had always dreamed.

“We both admired old homes,” said Hillier. “Ever since I was a young lady I had this dream of purchasing an old house to see what I could do with it.”

Hillier said that in 2005, when they purchased it, they were aware that it was going to take a lot of renovation. She stressed that the structure was really in bad shape at the time.

Hillier noted that The Castle was built in 1898 for William T. and Margret Hughes in the French Gothic style by Mr. G. Rump. Hughes had been an Ohio state representative for two terms for the Cincinnati area.

“They purchased quite a bit of ground around here,” said Hillier. “Most of the wood in the home came from trees that grew on this ground. They say that it cost approximately $15,000 to build the mansion.”

Records note that Rump was given two years to complete the finest home in Van Wert at the time. The roof was made of French tile with copper valleys. The main structure was made of bedrock stone. The interior of the home was built with art tile floors, Italian Marble walls and woodwork of quarter sawed oak.

The house was originally decorated by two Spanish decorators who had the reputation for decorating fine homes and cathedrals in Europe with some of the most expensive furniture, carpets, rugs and furnishings found on the market.

Apparently, the decorating took over three months. As much as possible, Van Wert labor and merchants were used in the building and completion of the home. Plans for the castle-like mansion were made by Mahurin and Wing in Fort Wayne.

Restoration included locating the original carriage steps and having them placed back on the property.

“It was fantastic seeing this dream become reality,” said Hillier, who loves the huge sign bearing the name “The Castle” in the old fashioned kitchen of its time.

Over the years, the Castle had served many purposes for the Van Wert Community, including residence, convalescent home and office building.

These days the interior is decorated with beautiful Christmas decorations and ornaments of the time period.

Hillier got a twinkle in her eye when she pointed out the courting bench near the stairway banister.

“If you had a young daughter, she didn’t go off with the boyfriend,” said Hillier. “They sat there and visited in plain sight for the evening.”