When traveling through England a few years ago, I saw grand castles. For years, I believed castles to only be across the pond or on a movie set. Then I ran across Ha Ha Tonka State Park and realized that castles can be anywhere.
A Kansas City businessman started construction on the Ha Ha Tonka castle in 1905. Actually, the name “ha ha tonka” means big laugh or smiling waters. It took 14 years to complete the castle. Over the years, the castle served as a country estate and a hotel.
Today, all that remains is the ruins of the stone castle. But from there, it has amazing views of Lake of the Ozarks and Ha Ha Tonka Spring. I can only image what it would’ve been like when it was still standing.
The state of Missouri owns the ruins, which are now part of the park system. When visiting Ha Ha Tonka State Park, you can also walk along the trail to explore the caves and natural bridge.
But there is not only one castle in the state. There also is one that has a mysterious past.
The Pythian Castle in Springfield was built in 1913 by the Knights of Pythias. This group is a fraternal organization and secret society founded in 1864. The castle was later owned by the U.S. military and housed German and Italian prisoners of war during World War II for medical treatment and as laborers.
The building received its listing on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 2009. Today, it is privately owned and open to the public for tours by appointment.
There are a few other castles across the state built by individuals who apparently wanted to create that feeling of old-world England, or perhaps allow them to live as royalty — without the moat.
Tiffany Castle is a landmark home in the historic Pendleton Heights neighborhood in Kansas City, Mo. Around the early 1900s, Flavel B. Tiffany traveled England and Scotland and loved the Tudor architecture of castles, so he built one of his own. Tiffany was a prominent businessman in the region and founded the Tiffany Springs neighborhood in Kansas City.
Others have built castles or incorporated castle-like architecture in rural areas. Here are a few more to check out:
- Bothwell Lodge State Historic Site, Sedalia
- Kansas City Workhouse, Kansas City
- Selma Hall, Festus
So this summer, grab your princes and princesses, and visit a couple of historical castles in Missouri.