Eighteen hours after our visit, the grandeur, mystery and majesty of the castle is still fresh. There it was again, in my dreams, as I revisited the hallways, the hand-painted murals, the parquet patterns of oak, walnut and maple floors. I was, I imagine, trying to find the answers to so many mysterious questions – why did they build tunnels at the Piatt Castles?
It’s astonishing really, to see a limestone tower peeking out through the hills of this Ohio valley, just west of Mad River Mountain, near the Ohio Caverns, where, just across the road, there is a pasture of cows gently grazing in the meadow.
Here, the gothic architecture of two castles fills the Midwest landscape, like a bucket overflowing with opulence. With a bit of fog rolling in, you would be hard-pressed not to believe you were roaming through the Moors of England.
The Piatt Castles are two historical mansions, Mac-A-Cheek and Mac-O-Chee built in the 19th century. They were the homes of Brigadier General and farmer, Abram Sanders Piatt, and his brother, famed journalist, poet, and diplomat, Colonel Donn Piatt.
The two castles sit less than a mile apart, in the valley where the Shawnee Indians once had a village. A book can explain the historic struggle of our ancestors’ efforts in taming Ohio’s rugged frontier; but if you really want to grasp the exquisite struggle of these pioneers, you must see the castles.
They stand as living testimonials of man’s ability to create harmony with nature, while adding the panache of art, cultivation, sophistication and a wise use of natural resources.
The castles boasted intricate indoor plumbing and heating systems, at a time when most Ohioans couldn’t fathom such luxuries. There is a copy of a check, dated 1881 for a furnace: $750. Just by the front door, is a miniature "castle" for the family dog.
A sculpture adorns the entry, and the walls are hand-painted in Victorian-era patterns by French artist Oliver Frey.
The bedrooms hold intricate iron and wooden beds, enclosed with draperies, to keep in the warmth.
Hands-on stations, with games and art projects, are strategically placed throughout the castle to keep kids engaged throughout your self-guided exploration of the castle.
Just to the east of the master bedroom, is a small room, the tower room, flanked by carved angels, which served as a chapel for Ella Piatt, Don’s second wife, as a chapel, and is topped by
a hand-painted ceiling mural of Genesis 3.
You’ll also find Native American artifacts, firearms and military relics on display.
For as many historical artifacts you'll find here -- you'll find just as many mysteries. One visit to the castles is not sufficient. You’ll need time to admire Frey’s painstaking hand-painted art on the walls and ceilings, to review Donn’s political writings and war relics, and time for Mac-O-Cheek, the castles that raised generations of children.
As Thomas Corwin, the 15th Governor of Ohio, said, “If there is a line where Mac-O-Chee ends and heaven begins, it is imperceptible.”
Hours are May 25 - September 2: Daily, 11am - 5pm; September 7 - October 27: Weekends, 11am - 4pm. Here is a link for maps and directions.
In addition to Ohio Caverns and Mad River Mountain, the castles are close to Marie's Candies.