Springfield News-Sun – 10/19/2011

Springfield landmark deserves to be used

Wednesday, October 19, 2011
By Darryl Bauer

One of Springfield’s landmarks will soon receive some work.

The Turner Foundation is in the process of applying for — and will receive — a state grant to help preserve the former Castle Knoll Nursing Home at 901 W. High St.

Karen Wooten, accounting manager at the foundation, tells me the $167,000 will fund removal of asbestos in the main structure and the nursing wings. That work, to be done by local company THS Construction, is scheduled to be finished by the end of March.

“It’s still in very good shape,” Wooten said.

The Turner Foundation acquired the 11-acre property in 2007, after the nursing home operation left. New roofing and boiler replacement have already been done.

Wooten said the focus is the mansion built from 1880-1882 by Phineas P. Mast.

The Springfield Preservation Alliance calls it “arguably the crown jewel in Springfield’s Victorian architecture.”

Mast was already a very successful businessman who came to Springfield from Urbana in 1856. He and John Thomas started The Buckeye Agricultural Works, which would become the Mast-Foos Company in 1875. The Ohio State University Extension Service says Mast amassed a fortune in farm implements, and to promote them, later bought and published “Farm and Fireside” magazine, which would grow into the Crowell-Collier empire. He also served as Springfield mayor for two years and president of Springfield National Bank.

According to the Ohio Exploration Society’s website, the home was constructed for $250,000 on the highest knoll in that area. Cabinet makers and stone masons were brought in from Italy, and stained-glass windows, along with beveled and beaded glass, from France are found throughout the structure. Stone casings around the exterior doors and windows were hand chiseled with ornate designs.

Despite that beauty, it is said Mast’s wife, Marish, never liked the finished product and likely lived in the large, two-story red brick house across West High Street. She died of Bright’s disease April 21, 1895.

Mast did live in the mansion, and died there Nov. 20, 1898. He and his wife are buried in Ferncliff Cemetery.

The property was later purchased by the Knights of Pythias and was used as the fraternal organization’s Ohio Pythian Home for the aged. It also served as a boys home for a time.

As for its future, Wooten says there has been some initial interest from prospective buyers, but nothing further.

My grandmother lived at the Knights of Pythias Home for a period of time, and I remember visiting her there. I also did a live broadcast when Castle Knoll operated there. It is certainly an impressive structure and has a significant place in Springfield’s history.

It would be nice if a viable use could be found for the property, so it can remain part of the community.

© 2011, Cox Media Group

Thank you to Darryl Bauer for referencing the Ohio Exploration Society website in his article about the P.P. Mast Castle in Springfield.