Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sir Harry and The Chateau

There are some really quirky people, places and things here in Ohio. As a lover of all things quirky and odd (you have seen my wife, for example), I packed up the family last weekend for a half day tour of three of the Buckeye State's kooky places.
Way down in the southeast corner of the state just above Cinci lies the life-long pursuit of a very interesting fellow. His name is Sir Harry Andrews, and for a guy who was clinically dead just after the turn of the century he sure managed to do a lot.

Harry was stationed inside Fort Dix just before WWI when was stricken down with cerebrospinal meningitis. He was one of seven thousand soldiers who contracted it there, and one of only TWO who survived the outbreak thanks to a new medicine called adrenaline. Stabbing his chest with the new wonder drug, his heart began to beat again. He was blind and paralyzed, but alive. He was given a day or two to live, but instead managed to eat after weighing just eighty nine pounds...surviving by eating six times a day. His blood would later be used as a vaccine to cure others of the same deadly disease.

A short time later he was stationed in France at a forward army medical post in the southwest, located inside the magnificent Chateau La Roche, pres Razac-sur-l'Isle. After the war, he studied architecture in Toulouse. He returned from France hoping to bring some the magnificence of the French countryside with him, and started to build.

Harry bought a large chunk of land along the Little Miami river in 1927, near Loveland, Ohio. What began as a place for local boys to camp and fish (until the tents were too worn-out to use anymore) became a small stone building with two rooms. From this, the "Knights Of The Golden Trail" were born, wherein harry instructed the lads on the ways of the knight. Thing is...knights need a a castle to meet in, right? RIGHT!

In 1929 he and the boys got to work. His architecture degree being put to good use, he drew up plans for said castle. The Civilian Conservation Corps would syphon off much of his young-lad labor, and the endeavor would be put on partial hold until he retired and had time to adequately get to work. By the way, Lyd and I were not able to find any information on ANY females that were ever involved in this isolated undertaking on private land. made us both wonder if this wasn't in fact the first Neverland Ranch. He never had a girlfriend or wife, was an only child, and had no choice to live in what he could build alone. Constructed of concrete "bricks" made with milk-jug forms, he used light bulbs and normal garbage in many of them for their insulating properties. While building the Chateau, he is said to have hauled over 56,000 pails of stones by hand out of the river to build the home.
Cost to build the place? About twelve thousand dollars.
Upon completion, Harry had numerous women offer their hands in marriage, just so they could live in the castle. While we were there it was about 45 degrees outside..and about 28 degrees INSIDE, so maybe they should have thought that one through. No matter, because he would never marry any of them. Oddly enough (because this story isn't odd enough) he had applied for his military pension many years later, and had to fight like mad to convince the pentagon that he wasn't DEAD, based on the initial 1915 paperwork from Fort Dix!

It gets a little more crazy, and one more reason to hate polyester pants is coming your way right now. On March 14, 91 years old, he was out on the property burning trash. Wind picked up, and embers caught the woods on fire. Running to the fire, he began to stomp out the flames in his super-awesome disco-style polyester pants. They promptly caught on fire, and immediately melted to his legs. He was taken to the hospital and told he would need to amputate both legs, but ol' Harry never built a single lift, ramp or elevator at the Chateau..and refused medical treatment. He would die soon after of gangrene on April 16th 1981, never wanting to part with his legs.

OH...and about that title of Knight? Well, rumor has it that he saved the son of an English nobleman while in France, and the father knighted Andrews for his service. While a little beat-down from neglect, if you have a small child or two and don't REALLY want to fly to France this the hour and a half to Loveland and visit the Chateau. It's $3 per person, and yes Margaret, there ARE ghosts there.
It's also located just across the river from the beautiful Little Miami River Scenic Bike Trail and I can't wait to go ride that thing!

On the way home, we stopped by the birthplace of the Banana Split (they were closed) in Wilmington, Ohio..then we went to a little known place in Sabina, Ohio. Last stop? The final resting place of "Eugene The Mummy." I'll save his story for another day, but he lived quite a life for a guy that died in 1929 and wasn't actually buried until 1964!


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