Henderson Castle

Henderson Castle, located on West Main Hill in Kalamazoo, Michigan, is an attraction for tourists and Kalamazoo residents alike. Bordered by Mountain Home Cemetery and Kalamazoo College, the castle provides both a fine example of late nineteenth century architecture and an excellent view of the Kalamazoo skyline.

Henderson’s Vision

Frank Henderson was one of Kalamazoo’s most successful businessmen. He was owner and president of the Henderson-Ames Company, which produced regalia for secret societies and fraternal organizations, and military and other kinds of uniforms. Henderson’s wife Mary had earlier inherited a plot of undeveloped land on the western edge of the city. Her husband envisioned a stylish suburb on this land, so in 1888, he enlisted the help of surveyors, engineers, and landscape architects to plot the land and create Kalamazoo’s first "natural site plan". By 1890, Henderson was ready to build his home in his new residential district.

A “Castle” is Built

The Queen Anne style house--always called "The Castle" by local residents because of its ornate style and imposing hilltop location--was designed by C. A. Gombert of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and cost $72,000 to build. With seven baths, a thirteen-head shower, an elevator, a third-floor ballroom, and a hot tub on the roof (added later) the 25-room castle exemplifies high society and expensive tastes. The castle’s exterior is made of Lake Superior sandstone and brick, and the interior wood includes mahogany, bird’s eye maple, quartered oak, birch, and sycamore. The home opened with a large party in 1895, with many prominent Kalamazoo citizens as guests. Henderson did not enjoy his castle for long, however, since he died in 1899. His wife remained there until 1908.

Castle Dwellers

Over the years, nine parties have owned Henderson Castle, including Charles B. Wing, the Vice-President of Bryant Paper Company, and Bertrand Hooper, President and Treasurer of Kalamazoo Stationary Company. In the 1920s, Hooper converted the brick stable on the property to a four car garage; it has since been transformed into a separate residence. After it had lain vacant for several years, William Stuifbergen purchased the house in 1945, and divided it into several apartments; he and his family occupied one of the units. In 1957 the house was purchased as the future site for the Kalamazoo Art Center, but when the Institute of Arts remained downtown, the castle became the property of Kalamazoo College. In 1975 Dr. Jess Walker bought the house and began a restoration process that continued under Frederick Royce, who purchased the property in 1981. Laura and Peter Livingstone-McNelis took ownership of the castle in 2005, opening it to the public as a bed and breakfast. It even served as the setting for a science fiction movie filmed in Kalamazoo. The castle has been, and will continue to be, the crown jewel of Kalamazoo and the West Main Hill Neighborhood.

Sources

Books

Kalamazoo: Nineteenth-Century Homes in a Midwestern Village

  • Schmitt, Peter and Balthazar Korab
  • Kalamazoo: Kalamazoo City Historical Commission, 1976, pages 204-209

Newspapers and Magazines

"The Queen of West Main Hill"

  • Kalamazoo Magazine 
  • May 1984, page 17

"There’s nothing common about this castle: renovations give castle new life"

  • Kalamazoo Gazette 
  • 26 September 1990, page D1

Local History Room Subject File

Henderson Castle