There is an exquisite piece of history located on the steep of West Main Hill overlooking downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan. This historic work of architecture is none other than The Henderson Castle, established in 1895.
The castle has been recently renovated and is under new ownership since 2011 and is open to the public.
The story of this home began with Kalamazoo resident, Frank Henderson. Mr. Henderson was one of early Kalamazoo’s most successful businessmen.
He was the owner and president of the Henderson-Ames Company which made uniform regalia for secret societies, fraternal organizations, and the military. Mr. Henderson’s wife, Mary, inherited a plot of undeveloped land on the western edge of Kalamazoo before the company's large success. Mr. Henderson dreamt of building a grand suburb on this land.
Allowing that dream to come to fruition, in 1888, he enlisted the help of surveyors, engineers, and landscape architects to plot the land and create Kalamazoo’s first "natural site plan". In 1890, Mr. Henderson was ready to build his home in his new residential district.
The Queen Anne style house was designed by C. A. Gombert of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The $72,000 building costs included seven baths (one with a thirteen-head shower), an elevator, a third-floor ballroom, and a hot tub on the roof (added later). The castle’s exterior was constructed of Lake Superior sandstone and brick, and the interior wood included mahogany, bird's eye maple, quartered oak, birch, and American sycamore. The castle was built with 25 rooms in all and exemplified the most expensive tastes of the time.
The Henderson's had a grand housewarming party in 1895 at the completion of the castle's construction. Mr. Henderson however, did not live long in the residence. He died in 1899 and his wife remained at the castle until 1908.
After Mrs. Henderson moved away, nine parties have owned Henderson Castle. In 1957, the house was purchased as the future site for the Kalamazoo Art Center. However, when the Institute of Arts remained downtown Kalamazoo, the castle became the property of the renowned liberal arts school at Kalamazoo College which lies just a block to the north of the castle's grounds. The castle has been in three movies all of which were horror films, including “In the Woods”. It has also been featured on the Discovery Channel and House Hunters.