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A History of The Stone Barn Castle

The Stone Barn Castle, in central New York State, was designed by Charles William Knight (1847-1923) a hydraulic engineer operating out of Rome, NY. The immense structure, composed of cobblestone and Portland cement, was begun in 1896 and finished in 1906.

Despite its castle-like appearance, it was designed to be a functional dairy farm, and was considered to be the finest dairy barn in Central New York. It included many state of the art innovations for its day, including an elaborate ventilation system and individual drinking fountains for each cow. The fountains were automatically supplied with fresh water drawn by windmills from a spring brook nearby and forced into a reservoir located in the top of the barn.

During the Great Depression the dairy farm went bankrupt, and the building was abandoned. Then, in 1946, a devastating fire of mysterious origin ripped through the structure, leaving nothing but its towering stone walls.

It remained a looming but forgotten relic, hidden by a dense forest, until it was discovered in 1969 by Dr. Robert Hugel and Alison K. Jockel. The couple married under its arches, and immediately set about on a life-long pursuit to rebuild the enormous structure. They were helped along the way by their children, Ulrich, Anna, Katrina, Robert, Helene and William Hugel.

Instead of simply replicating the original building, they decided to accentuate its castle-like features, turning the silos into turrets, and the main barn into an elaborate inner courtyard. Among other accomplishments were an elevated spiral walkway in one of the turrets, and in the other a huge circular fireplace with a homemade, floating chimney. In all it is probably one of the greatest achievements by amateur builders in the country.

The Hugels went on to invite in the public to the now christened “Stone Barn Castle”, giving tours and hosting special events, including a wildly popular Haunted Halloween Castle and Trick-n-Treat Village, which at its peak drew ten thousand people a year. During the almost forty years it was open to the public it is estimated that over a hundred thousand people visited the castle.

In 2006 the Hugel family decided to sell their creation, and the family dispersed. William Hugel went on to write two literary novels and is the author of a group of original fairy tales available through Mystic World Press. Most recently he has turned his attention to writing plays, the first three of which had staged readings in New York City in 2014.  Helene Hugel went on to found Helium, an Irish based Arts and Health company committed to nurturing and honoring creativity as a natural resource for a child’s well-being.

The Stone Barn Castle was eventually purchased by Hollywood actor Adrien Brody, best know for his Oscar-winning role in The Pianist. It is no longer open to the public. In 2015 Adrien Brody screened a documentary called The Stone Barn Castle at SXSW, detailing his adventures renovating the building.

For a more thorough and detailed history of the Stone Barn Castle, please check out  the official Cleveland Historical Society’s blogpost by Gary M Comins.

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One Comment
  1. In the mid 1960s my family would picnic there; I was told that my grandfather, William Joslyn, helped build it.

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