Castles make us think of royalty and luxury while appealing to our Disney-fueled childhood fantasies of living happily ever after. But these real-life castles in Michigan, steeped in rich history, will spark your imagination, no matter what your age.
Fair Lane Castle
This 56-room, 5-story historical mansion, located in Dearborn, MI, was the estate of Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company, and his wife, Clara Ford. Construction of Fair Lane began in 1913, and the mansion was completed in 1915. The couple collaborated on the design with architect William Van Tine. The result? A unique blend of architectural styles that combine elements of Prairie School and English Cotswold traditions. You can still discover the main residence, a powerhouse responsible for supplying energy to the entire property, a boathouse, stables, and a greenhouse for Clara’s luxurious gardens on the 1,300 acres of farmland that comprises the Estate.
The entire property is now a museum, replete with artifacts, exhibits, and interactive displays. These highlight Henry Ford’s contributions to the automotive industry, his philanthropy, and his impact on American society. With a robust history, stunning architecture, and beautiful surroundings, Fair Lane Castle offers visitors an opportunity to step back in time and experience the grandeur and innovation of one of America’s most influential figures.
Unfortunately, the Main House and Powerhouse are temporarily closed for renovation. However, the grounds and gardens are open to the public from 8 am-6 pm, every day of the week. Once it reopens, the Museum will resume hosting educational programs, special events, and community activities throughout the year.
When visiting the gardens, keep your eye out for Michigan wildlife. The Castle is home to various birds as the expansive grounds and tree-lined areas provide suitable habitats for sprightly cardinals, blue jays, robins, sparrows, woodpeckers, and songbirds. You might also spy playful and agile eastern gray squirrels and fox squirrels scampering on the grounds.
A National Historic Landmark since 2013, this Castle is well worth a visit.
Castle Museum of Saginaw County History
It is hard to believe that this beloved landmark, with its French Renaissance Revival architecture, was initially a post office. The vision of architect William Martin Aiken, the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History, in Saginaw, MI, first opened in 1898. Luckily, it was spared from being demolished not once, but twice. It remains a stunning structure today, both inside and out. The exterior showcases magnificent towers, a slate roof with copper work, Indiana limestone, and ornamental carvings. The interior is equally spectacular with its Travertine walls, oak-paneled ceilings, Terrazzo flooring, and a breathtaking Grand Staircase.
On top of being an architectural wonder, the museum’s exhibits cover a wide range of topics related to the history of Saginaw County and its people. Visitors can explore the region’s Native American heritage, the development of industry and manufacturing, the growth of the lumber industry, and the impact of immigration and cultural diversity on the area.
The Castle Museum also showcases Saginaw’s social, economic, and political history. Visitors can learn about significant events, notable individuals, and the evolving community life of Saginaw over time. The museum’s collections include artifacts, photographs, documents, and interactive displays that bring the history of the region to life.
While the Castle Museum centers on indoor exhibits, you may encounter waterfowl in the many rivers and water bodies in the region as Saginaw County attracts ducks and geese. Saginaw County is also home to a variety of insects, including butterflies and pollinators. With the presence of parks and green spaces, it is possible to observe butterflies and other insects in the vicinity of the Castle Museum.
This 25-room Queen Anne style castle in Kalamazoo was originally home to Frank Henderson and his wife, Mary. Henderson owned Henderson-Ames Company, a major producer of regalia and uniforms for secret societies, lodges, fraternal organizations, and the military. Built in 1895 and recently renovated in 2011, the castle stands on a hilltop and features an impressive four-story tower, turrets, and ornate detailing on its exterior. The interior of the mansion is equally grand, with beautiful woodwork, stained glass windows, and intricate period furnishings.
Today, it is a posh boutique hotel with 12 uniquely-themed rooms (The Italian, Dutch, and French rooms, for example) that you can reserve and stay in. Enticing amenities include a winery with tastings, gourmet dining, cooking classes, a gift shop, and even a High Tea Service. Their rooftop hot tub offers some of the best views of the city.
Henderson Castle is also rumored to have paranormal activity, gaining a reputation as a haunted location. You can even take a ghost tour if you are interested in the supernatural. In fact, the castle has been featured in various paranormal television shows and has become a popular destination for ghost hunters.
Henderson Castle is likewise a popular wedding venue as well as a space for hosting business meetings, working lunches, lush corporate cocktail parties, and other events. Wednesday-Saturday, you can take the Frank and Mary Henderson Walking History Tour, intended to give insights into the property from the perspective of the original owners.
Because it is located in a populated area, you might find urban-adapted species such as pigeons, sparrows, and starlings that thrive in human environments, around the castle.
The Castle at Castle Park
Castle Park is located in the city of Holland, MI. It features a distinctive landmark known as the “The Castle,” which is one of the park’s main attractions. Michael Schwarz, a German immigrant and successful businessman, built this medieval-style tower in 1894 for his family, including 6 daughters. But they moved just two years later. Because L. Frank Baum, author of The Wizard of Oz, spent the summers nearby in Macatawa, The Castle – rumored to have been a partial inspiration for the book and he based some of the book’s characters on the residents – is located in a residential area that is also a popular summer tourist destination.
Complete with towers, battlements, and turrets, the castle’s design aims to create a whimsical and enchanting atmosphere reminiscent of medieval castles. The castle has been a vital feature of the park since its inception in the late 19th century.
Visitors interested in Michigan wildlife might explore nearby nature reserves and parks, like Holland State Park or dunes and wetland areas, to observe a diverse range of small mammals, birds, and butterflies.
Curwood Castle, also known as “Castle Farms,” is a charming historic landmark in Owosso, MI. It’s easy to see why this home of American adventure novelist, James Oliver Curwood, functioned as his inspirational writing retreat. The castle was finished in 1923 and has since become an iconic testament to the writer’s legacy and literary contributions. It stands as a unique architectural gem and a reminder of the region’s cultural heritage.
Unsurprisingly, Castle Farms is a popular tourist destination. Visitors can explore the castle’s various rooms, gardens, and exhibits that showcase the life and works of its namesake author. The grounds also host seasonal events, concerts, and art exhibitions, attracting both locals and tourists.
While you may see white-tailed deer grazing in the fields or wooded areas near Curwood Castle, nearby natural areas such as the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge or other parks and preserves in the region would offer better opportunities to experience a variety of woodland creatures.
Meadow Brook Hall
Meadow Brook Hall is a historic mansion located in Rochester, MI. A grand estate, it was once home to the Dodge family, who were prominent automotive pioneers in the early 20th century. Today, this home -designed by renowned architect William E. Kapp and finished in 1926 – stands as a cultural center, museum, and venue for special events.
Like these other castles in Michigan, this 110-room mansion has blended architectural styles. It is primarily Tudor Revival but contains elements of English and American arts and crafts influences. The exterior showcases beautiful stonework, intricate wood detailing, and sweeping gardens. Inside, opulent furnishings and fine art collections reign supreme. If you visit, you will even find a unique hidden door.
In addition to the mansion itself, Meadow Brook Hall is surrounded by stunning formal gardens, meadows, and woodlands spanning over 1,500 acres (607 hectares). The grounds provide a serene and picturesque setting for visitors to enjoy walks, picnics, and outdoor events. Here, you might meet a few amphibians and reptiles, such as frogs, turtles, and lizards. These species live near the Castle’s bodies of water, wetlands, and other areas with suitable habitats.
Summary of 6 Fairytale Castles Found in Michigan
|Fair Lane Castle
|Home of Henry Ford
|Castle Museum of Saginaw County History
|It was initially a post office.
|Rumored to have paranormal activity.
|The Castle at Castle Park
|Said to have partly inspired The Wizard of Oz.
|Curwood Castle, also known as “Castle Farms,”
|Is a Registered Michigan State Historic Site and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
|Meadow Brook Hall
|Is a Registered Michigan State Historic Site and on the National Register of Historic Places.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © JKPhotogenic/Shutterstock.com
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