Squire’s Castle is perched on a hilltop in the picturesque North Chagrin Reservation, in Willoughby Hills, Ohio. It was built in the late nineteenth century by Fergus B. Squire, an English-born oil executive who emigrated to America as a child in 1860.
Squire worked his way up through the ranks in the oil industry, eventually becoming Vice-President and General Manager at John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company. He bought a large plot of forest land that he named River Farm Estate, with ambitious plans to transform it into an English style country estate boasting two grand manor houses.
To start with, he completed the construction of a rustic building intended as nothing more than a gatekeeper’s house. Designed in the style of German and English baronial castles, it had outer walls made from locally quarried silt stone and leaded glass windows all around.
He transformed the surrounding land, adding trees, ponds, bridges and gravelled pathways throughout the 525-acre estate.
But the rest of the buildings Squire planned to build on the estate never came to fruition. There are various conflicting theories as to why this happened. One suggestion was that he struggled to acquire labour and materials for the next stage of the project, so had no choice but to abandon it.
Another more popular theory is that his wife Louisa disliked the house intensely, and had no wish to live in the country at all. Squire would mostly use the castle as a weekend retreat, bringing just his daughter with him.
The Ghost of Louisa Squire
Louisa was much more of a city dweller, finding the quiet country nights with sounds of nature and animals disturbing. For a long time there have been rumours that Squire’s Castle is haunted. The alleged ghostly presence is believed to be that of Louisa Squire herself.
Louisa was said to be prone to insomnia. Feeling particularly uncomfortable while spending time at Squire’s Castle, she began taking walks at night-time. On one of these night walks, she apparently noticed something strange in the trophy room, where Squire kept his prized collection of hunting trophies.
According to the legend, Louisa caught sight of the reflection of some terrifying apparition in one of the trophies; some reports suggest it was just the reflection of her own lantern. Whatever it was that shocked her so profoundly, she allegedly lost her footing and fell down the stairs to her death.
Another similar version of this story is that Louisa had so many nightmares while at the house, that she went insane. Then one night, when trying to flee some kind of apparition in terror, she tripped and fell, breaking her neck.
Either way, her husband was said to be so devastated after her death that he never returned to the castle. But perhaps the most remarkable thing all these stories have in common, is that most people agree there is no truth in any of them.
In fact, Louisa Squire is known to have died a few years later in perfectly normal circumstances. After Squire sold the estate and gatekeeper’s house in 1922, he went on to build the mansion he had always wanted in Wickliffe, where he later became Mayor. This is where his wife is thought to have died.
Squire’s Castle is still a notable landmark, even though these days all that stands is the shell of the original gatehouse. The whole estate including the house was sold to a private developer, but the building itself was largely neglected. When the developer went bankrupt, ownership then passed to the bank.
The castle and estate were taken over by Cleveland Metroparks in 1925, who removed all the structures inside the gatehouse building, due to vandalism that had rendered it unsafe. Doors, fixtures, windows and woodwork were removed, and the basement was filled. At that point, the gatehouse building became known as Squire’s Castle.
The ruin of the castle is now well maintained, and visitors can see structural evidence of the upper floors, and mounting holes that once supported the leaded glass windows. There are also a number of plaques on the walls which outline the building’s history. These days it is used as a popular shelter spot for walkers, and sometimes even used for weddings. The legend of the castle lives on with its ghost stories. From time to time, there have been reports of a red light and sightings of a female figure in the vicinity of the property, believed to be Louisa Squire. Other witnesses claim to have seen the figure of an unknown woman in an upstairs window at night, often clutching a lantern.