Cincinnati’s Best Kept Secret – Chateau Laroche (Loveland Castle) –
My words cannot do justice to this amazing wonder. The pictures may make a better attempt, but neither will they truly capture its grandeur. The Chateau Laroche which means “Rock Castle” is nestled on the banks of the Little Miami River in Loveland, Ohio (on the northeastern outskirts of Cincinnati). Loveland is a fitting location for this architectural feat considering it is the product of one man’s labor of love and his desire to positively influence the young men in his care. You won’t want to miss the slideshow at the end of this post.
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My husband surprised me with a visit to Chateau Laroche (more commonly known as Loveland Castle) for our 21st wedding anniversary. There’s a kayak rental venue near the site, and he had originally made reservations for us to kayak along the river to the castle and then tour it. Our trip just happened to be during the massive flooding throughout the Midwest earlier in the summer, so the kayak rental place called to say we would not be able to kayak that day due to the extremely high water level of the river. It would not have been a safe venture. Kayaking would have been fun too, but honestly, Chateau Laroche was more than enough adventure all on its own. No visitor could possibly be disappointed by the Loveland Castle. It’s a steal at $5 per person. I’ve paid much more to tour far lesser sites. We will definitely be returning with the kids in the future because this is a must-see for all ages.
Mr. Harry Andrews purchased the original lots of the site in the 1920’s to give his Sunday School class of young men someplace to fish, swim, and camp. They slept in tents until the tents started to wear, and Mr. Andrews began building more permanent structures from stone. These “stone tents” were the beginnings of the two towers that face the river. Mr. Andrews and his Sunday School class started the Knights of the Golden Trail to ascribe to the high ideals of “honor, valor, and manly purity” which Mr. Andrews feared were disappearing from modern society, and since the young knights convinced Mr. Andrews that knights must have a castle, he spent the remainder of his life building on this dream. Just one individual, Harry Andrews, completed more than 99% of the work.
The architecture of Chateau Laroche (Loveland Castle) was heavily influenced by Sir Harry Andrews’ travels in Europe during World War I.
In his earlier years, Sir Harry Andrews had been an Army medic and traveled throughout Europe during World War I where he visited castles which surely inspired much of the design elements of Chateau Laroche. Sir Harry’s story is fascinating, and visitors must watch the entire video that plays in one of the upper story rooms. During the war, he contracted spinal meningitis and was declared dead. You really must watch the video because it’s so much better than my retelling. Quite a while later someone trying to move the body or something like that noticed he might be slightly alive, so they didn’t bury him. He eventually made a full recovering while everyone else around him was dying, so doctors decided he must have some special property in his blood. They used his blood to make an antidote and injected it into a number of other near-death soldiers who all made a full recovery as well. He was a bit of a miracle, to say the least. Unfortunately, according to the Loveland Castle website, he didn’t get declared undead for another six months, and during that time his fiancee married someone else. Sir Harry never married but had over fifty marriage proposals late in his life when a newspaper mentioned he was single. Sir Harry considered the castle “his family” and willed it to the Knights of the GoldenTrail upon his death at the age of 91.
There is a small counter inside the Loveland Castle that sells a few items. I purchased a copy of the small 12-page booklet Chateau Laroche Loveland, Ohio authored by Mr. Andrews himself. The booklet is sold for, I believe, $1.50 and it well worth the small fee. To think about this real castle being built by the hands of just one man is almost unbelievable. I can’t even manage to paint the stairway to my basement after a decade of it being bare drywall. Sir Harry’s booklet cites the total cost of the castle at $12,000 and “23000 hours of hard labor.” Although very few others helped with work on the castle, many did donate bags of cement and the orange juice and milk cartons Sir Harry used to mold his bricks. He carried all the rock up from the river and even laid the original road running to the castle with his bare hands.
My favorite quote from Sir Harry’s booklet is this gem on Modern Knighthood:
Nothing that God ever made on the earth is more awe inspiring and heart warming than the sight of a noble youth just budding into manhood, clean minded, honest, honorable, gentle, living in God’s image, and humbly conscious of His approval. Save God’s own direct Son such a young man is the highest achievement to be counted his friend, is probably the greatest of life’s rewards. It makes one want to bow in reverent of the Creator’s handiwork. To know such a youth, and worship and thank God for the privilege of being counted in the same category of His creatures. Thank God there are such young men. They also are saviors of mankind.
How very true, and how very fortunate I have been in all my life to be surrounded by Modern Knights in the father who raised me, the husband I married, the son I am currently raising, and the son-in-law who is now charged with the care of my daughter. Of even further importance is the Heavenly Father who sent his Son as the King of Kings. Sir Harry Andrews lived his life in service to both his fellow man and that same King of Kings, fulfilling what could be nothing less than a divinely inspired vision. He was surely a modern-day Noah, building a structure that must have seemed crazy to some. He persevered in his mission of saving mankind, not from a worldwide flood, but from the flood of moral degradation he worried would overtake the young men of his day. Surely innumerable lives have been touched by his generosity and the labor of his love that became the remarkable Loveland Castle.
As homeschoolers we often do a unit study to prepare our children before visiting field trip locations. Some of our favorite books for learning about life in a castle have been The Door in the Wall, Easy-to-Make Castle, The Castle in the Attic, and its sequel The Battle for the Castle. If your family has any favorite suggestions for studying castles, please feel free to share them in the comments.
Please enjoy the slideshow below, but you must see the castle for yourself one day! The castle is open seven days a week (except Christmas) from 11am-5pm, and admission is only $5 per person.
All photos in this slideshow were taken using my Nikon Coolpix S6300. This is not the fanciest camera on the market, but it does a pretty good job for a tiny, inexpensive camera that fits nicely in my purse. My phone is always out of storage, and I don’t want to carry around something bulky and heavy that prevents me from enjoying the moment. I’m sure it would do an even better job if I knew anything at all about photography.