The owners of the Château de Bonnyconnellan are not afraid of ghosts

SIDNEY – Bonnyconnellan Castle, located at 105 North Walnut Ave., was purchased through Gay Smith & Associates on December 7, 2021, for $ 202,000 by Heather Drysdale and John Moffitt, who will relocate to live there from Bremerton , Washington.

The castle was named to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) in April 1983. It is a place that dates back to the heyday of the Sidney Railroad years, and the castle was in full view of arriving and departing visitors. from the passenger station.

When asked what motivated them to buy this 5,104 square foot limestone castle with two round crenellated towers in Sidney, Ohio, Drysdale said, “It was a momentary course of madness,” then she and Moffitt laughed. “For years and years, I followed this Facebook page called ‘For the love of old houses’, so when we saw it appear on our Facebook feed, we joked about it the first few times that we did. She came in. When it happened the last time, we were like, ‘Why not?’ “

“Once we made an offer, we spent a lot of time on Google finding everything we could about the castle,” Drysdale added, “and there are some great stories about some ghosts.”

For example, Hauntedplaces.org lists the castle as a site where “the apparition of a royal man in blue military uniform was seen on the landing, examining an exhibit.” According to Ohioexploration.com, this display is of a wedding dress on a stair landing.

“I thought it was pretty fun,” said Drysdale. “We saw that one. We also heard about a lady in red walking around. The third one we found was when someone was still living there they had heard children playing in the basement and it terrified them so much that they stayed in a hotel that night.

Drysdale admits that the existence of ghosts, in general, is “a possibility,” but the two don’t give these ghost sightings much credit, however.

“I have lived in old houses most of my life,” said Drysdale. “There are crackles and sounds. Just accept them for what they are.

However, not all previous owners felt this way. According to the Shelby County Historical Society website, Rose Loewer bought it in the late 1950s, but never stayed there overnight in the nine years she owned it.

“We have heard a lot of versions of the history of the castle,” Moffitt said. “Nonetheless, we’re going all out. We’re moving here,” Moffitt said.

There might not be any ghosts, but there are two ominous gargoyles that perch at the end of the stairs near an iron fence to prevent unwanted visitors from staying.

Drysdale is from New Jersey. She moved to Bremerton with her ex-husband who was in the Navy. She says she can keep her job there and telecommute. After arriving in Ohio, however, she said, “Sidney feels right at home. I really like the vibe of a small town and the community is so welcoming.

Moffitt is from Texas. He worked for the Navy in the Bremerton Shipyard and said of the move: “I am delighted to be doing something new. “

The chateau now has a total of 19 rooms, including five bedrooms and seven bathrooms, and a full basement that can hold additional rooms, and sits on half an acre of property with a small shed, which requires all a serious renovation.

Originally built by businessman John D. Loughlin in 1886, the house is believed to be modeled after a Cork Castle in Ireland. Drysdale and Moffitt have tried to identify which castle, but have been left blank in their search until now, claiming that Cork has many castles so they couldn’t figure out which one.

Laughlin, who owned the Sidney School Furniture Company, became a wealthy businessman when the school desks produced by his company achieved phenomenal success and were sold across the country.

To build the castle, he imported handcrafted European woodwork, including walnut, mahogany, oak, maple, and a solid cherry staircase. Loughlin named his house “Bonnyconnellan”, which translates to “beautiful woman” because it was probably a very impressive sight. Its price of $ 10,000 in today’s currency is around $ 294,243.

In 1891, a fire destroyed the factory. It was rebuilt in brick, and he retired and sold it 10 years later in 1901. Just before he retired, however, in 1895 Laughlin invested much of his fortune in a second business. , the Mary L. Poultry company, which ultimately went bankrupt. In 1904, the German-American bank, which held the castle mortgage, went bankrupt. The castle was held in trust until 1907, when it was sold, and Laughlin left Sidney. A decade later, Laughlin is dead penniless.

JB Tucker, of Urbana, bought the Laughlin office factory in 1907, converting it into a bicycle rim manufacturing company, and in the same year his wife, Amelia L. Tucker, bought the old Laughlin house. The castle was up for public auction, but there were no buyers. Tucker obtained the house for a relatively small amount through a private sale upon probate. The Tuckers lived in the castle from 1907 to 1919. With the advent of the automobile, the factory was converted, this time to produce automobile frames and steering wheels.

Between 1919 and 1947, the Château changed hands 19 times. The owners were CA Keplinger, Stanley Bryan, Emma N. Clark, Stanley Bryan, Leo Roos, Jerrold W. Sindell, Leo Roos, James Pappas, Vida Bryan, Fred A. Clawson, CO Hanson, AR Edwards, John Roos and Standley Bryan et al., People Savings and Loan, Anna E. Dilbone, Edith M. Edwards, Kathryn Steward and William A. Ross Sr.

In 1947, the castle was purchased by Charles L. Price and his wife Arlene, originally from Phoneton, for $ 12,000. Rose Loewer bought the property in 1958, and the future owners made several restoration efforts, including what Victor Frump and his wife, who bought it in February 1967, felt it needed a renovation. of a decade. During the first few years, bats would come in from the chimneys, and a member of Ms. Frump’s family was bitten and had to undergo a painful series of rabies vaccines. The restoration work was continued by the following owners, Vivian G. Jutte and her husband, Tom, who owned the castle from December 1979 to 1996.

But the Chateau was about to face unprecedented hard times.

In 1996 Dean and Kim Shepherd bought it with the idea of ​​turning it into a guest bedroom, turning every closet into a tiny bathroom, but the business was a failure. Apparently, to recoup their investment, Dean B. Shepherd and his wife, Kim, emptied the castle of its original woodwork. The Ohio Bank, which held the mortgage, sued them and the Lima-area contractor who carried out the work.

It is estimated that the move reduced the overall value of the property by $ 160,000.

The castle was put up for public auction a second time and had no buyers.

By the time Drysdale and Moffitt bought it, much of the castle’s interior grandeur had been lost.

Drysdale explained that the grand staircase with its carved handrails, the wood paneling on the walls and the library shelves that once adorned this distinguished medieval Gothic-style house are gone. Custom hardwood floors have holes that have been made to install modern plumbing.

“We want everything to stay as original as possible,” said Drysdale. “But hardwood floors are, for the most part, not salvageable.”

“There is nothing in the kitchen,” Moffitt said. “There is a sink, and that’s it.”

They plan to transform the shed into a workshop.

The time spent on this project is considerable. “It’s going to take years,” Drysdale said.

When it comes to how much money the two plan to invest, they have yet to put a cap on their restoration efforts. To help keep costs under control, they plan to do much of the work themselves. That way, they said, they’ll probably do better than Goldie Hawn and Tom Hanks, in “The Money Pit.” There are going to be some surprises with any old house, but the two hope one of those surprises isn’t a ghost.

Because there was so much damage, the castle was removed from the NRHP’s list, and the Sidney Historical Society and the real estate agent confirmed that there would not be many restrictions on renovations, a Moffitt said.

They will be living there because they are doing renovations and are not afraid to push it around for a while. “As long as I have a working sink and a hotplate, I’ll be fine,” Drysdale said.

Drysdale is no stranger to this type of work and said none of them are afraid of getting their hands dirty. She has worked in house restoration to some extent since she was a child, helping her father and grandfather. Moffitt said he was a huge history buff and they both loved ancient architecture. The two currently own a 1924 craftsman’s house in Washington which they have re-plumbed, rewired, redone the hardwood floors, removed all the woodwork to stain it to match what was original, although it was not a historic house.

“I grew up with all of this rich history, and I really feel like there isn’t as much history in the Northwest as there is in the Northeast, so I really miss it. be away for 20 years, ”said Drysdale. The two plan to visit other historic castles, buildings and museums in the area.

“The plan is one day at a time, one room at a time,” said Drysdale, but she admits “it’s going to be a learning curve.”

The restoration of Bonnyconnellan Castle will require a delicate balance to distinguish between making the spaces habitable with modern amenities, such as a functional kitchen, and maintaining its historicity with replacements and replicas of restoration.

On the whole, the concept of the Chateau as an investment with the possibility of reselling the house for a profit worries them less than making it a house where they will live for many years.

John Moffitt, left, and Heather Drysdale, both of Sidney, outside their newly purchased castle on Friday, December 10.

Gargoyles perch at the top of the stairs to this Gothic castle

Historical photos of Bonnyconnellan castle

Historical photos of Bonnyconnellan castle

John Moffitt, of Sidney, describes where a secluded staircase was once attached to the wall before continuing to the second floor of Bonnyconnellan Castle. Moffitt hopes to eventually restore the castle’s original staircase and woodwork.

Historical photos of Bonnyconnellan castle

Historical photos of Bonnyconnellan castle

Historical photos of Bonnyconnellan castle

Historical photos of Bonnyconnellan castle

Couple hope to do better than “The Money Pit” movie

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