A Look Back In Time – What’s In The Attic?
A Descendant Comes To Visit
Hello from the Castle!
This summer, we have been very busy with guests taking advantage of good travel weather. Brandon and I continue to learn a lot about the history of the Castle and the La Crosse area. Recently, we had the great-great-great grandson of the man who built our home stay with us for a couple of nights. The Castle is 127 years old this year! How amazing that our guest could walk through his ancestors’ home, imagining his relatives in the rooms where he stood or walking along the same hallways he did, maybe even checking out the attic! What a rare treat!
Brandon and I shared a few facts about the house with him and he shared some family history with us. I promised our guest that as soon as I finished the book “Castle La Crosse – History of a Home”, I would be sure to send him a copy.
He gave us a wonderful gift: a photo of Jesse Holway, the Lady of the house from 1892 to 1920. She was, by all accounts, a friendly and generous lady. Mrs. Holway was also a strong business woman who successfully managed her husbands’ lumber empire after his sudden death. Jesse Holway was from a prominent family and used to the good life. Therefore, Living at Castle La Crosse for many years, some by herself, was probably not difficult for her. She raised her children, managed the business, and then eventually moved to another home in La Crosse. Jesse is buried next to her husband in a simple grave in Oak Grove Cemetery.
WIth her portrait in our hands, we now have a face with a name and stories about her to go with it.
A Glimpse Into The Attic
I promised in our last blog post that I would write about what I found in the attic. Many of our guests have asked to hear about what we’ve found or discovered.
First, let me tell you that there are a full five floors in the Castle. That includes the basement and four floors above that. The basement was at one time the working area of the home with a kitchen and pantry, work rooms, laundry rooms, and a few others. Yes, the Castle even had a wine cellar and cheese room too. Cheese rooms are required by Wisconsin law…just kidding!
The first or ground floor of the Castle contains the public rooms such as the parlors, music room, and the dining room. Bedrooms are located above on the second floor. The ballroom, school room or playroom for the children, and some servants quarters are on the third floor. Then there is the fourth floor, or attic, which is a large door room for more servants. Of course, Mrs. Holway never had servants.
That’s five floors from basement to the attic!
A home built of this grandeur in 1892 would typically have come with many things all fine homes were supposed to have, whether you needed them or not. There might be a room for a nurse even when a nurse did not exist in the home, rooms for several children when there was only one child, or rooms like the ballroom meant for grand parties that never happened.
Another Glimpse – The Moody Mansion
I remember the famous Moody Mansion on Galveston Island, Texas. That mansion had a huge ballroom located just inside the front entryway. The mansion was never finished and, when the Moody family purchased the home after the 1900 hurricane, that room was finally completed for a debutante ball for their daughter. Today, the ballroom is still decorated for that special night and is a large part of the tour of the home.
Back At The Castle
And so here I am on the the top floor, the attic, of Castle La Crosse, reminiscing, in this vast room with tall twelve foot ceilings. I measured that just for you! I can just imagine this floor containing a dorm room with several beds for younger girls that might have worked in the home. Ms. Holway of course did not have those servants, but she had the space just in case. When you climb the fine staircase leading to this top floor, it’s hard to image that this room is actually an attic. You will see at the top of the staircase, a horseshoe shaped banister that surrounds the stairwell. Can you just imagine this room filled with twin beds? I can!
Think about the series, Downton Abbey, or the film, Gosford Park, written by Julian Fellows. Both films highlight fine examples of important homes and the families that lived in and maintained them during that time period.
At Castle La Crosse, on this top floor, there are three arched windows with clear glass in the front of the house and three more on the West side and no others. Two massive chimneys of red brick are also in the space. I understand from some historians that those chimneys could have been modified to add heat to the top floor, if needed. At the time, the house burned coal for heat so a small heater could have been inserted into the chimney. But then you would have had to haul that coal up five floors. Not fun! It would be so much easier to just add another quilt and hope that the heat rises from the other floors!
Stained glass was one of the topics of conversation at breakfast this morning. The Castle was designed with 30 stained glass windows; all are still in place since the house was built. Ten more were added over the years, but they are not in the main living area of the home. The most amazing window is the 8 foot tall by 8 foot wide stained glass triptych located along the grand staircase. That one depicts sunlight on the water. The colors are very soothing and thought provoking. People love the colors and the glass is very similar to favrile glass made by Tiffany. Our window, however, was made locally.
Our guests mentioned this morning about how the different colors made them feel, and we all agreed that waking up to the sultry amber colored glass was very calming and a great way to start the day. Colors and light definitely influence our moods, so starting your day with sunlight filtered through beautiful colors sounds like a very good thing to me.
The Carriage House
Another guest gave us a quick education on the doors to the carriage house where we currently have a modern garage door. His family has been making huge doors of this type for many years, so he knew what he was talking about . On the front of the carriage house, there are three heavy cast iron hinges on each side of the doorway. Carriages and horses would have entered through that doorway in the early years. He asked if we had a photo of the doors open or closed but, alas, we do not. After a bit of research, he decided that the original carriage doors were probably bi-fold. What fun to imagine those massive doors being folded back on each side so a carriage could enter or leave to take Mrs. Holway into town. We don’t really know for sure what was there so we continue to hunt for more photos of the house, inside and out. Those doors may need to be reconstructed one day. But first, we have a few other projects to attend to.
Last But Not Least, Our Landscaping!
Outside we have added blueberry bushes and a few other plants. The grounds around the Castle are going to take some thought. We may need to locate a good landscape architect to get a professional opinion on plants to embellish this stately home.
Stay With Us!
Are you a history buff of the late 18th century? Enjoy Bed and Breakfasts? Why not stay with us and learn a little history as well. We would be very excited to have you stay with us. You can learn about local history as well through the La Crosse County Historical Society. LCHS discovers, collects, preserves, and shares the history of La Crosse County, Wisconsin. Check it out.
More soon, dear friends. For our next post, we will share news of supper clubs, more stories of the Castle history, more photos, and a recipe from Chef Brandon. Stay tuned!