Monday, December 15, 2014

Where's There: Winnekenni Castle

(The fourth in a series about places or things John Bellairs didn't write about in towns where he lived.)

For the final installment in this series we're going back to Duston Heights. And Haverhill. And castles.
Round Pond is introduced in a few of the books by John Bellairs and mentioned a few more times in books Brad Strickland penned. It's not a recurring location - like Peter's Sweet Shop - but there is one memorable scene in The Revenge of the Wizard's Ghost which Fergie and Johnny visit the pond:
In the middle of soon as Round Pond was solidly frozen over Fergie taught Johnny to skate [37]. One Saturday afternoon in early April, Johnny and Fergie took a hike around the chain of ponds at the eastern end of Duston Heights. Around six in the evening, when the sun was setting, Johnny and Fergie stopped at the top of a hill to stare at the view.

Remember what happens next? Anyway - 

Haverhill does have a number of bodies of water on the east side of town. Among them are Lakes Kenoza (originally known as Great Pond) and Pentucket (originally known as Round Pond). Bellairs lived on Hamilton Street for much of his time in Haverhill. A quick walk up the street to the northeast would take you to Lawrence Street which borders Pentucket and then just east of that is Kenoza. The southwestern border of Kenoza Lake touches Winnekenni Park and, if one were on the water, one would see an Old England castle standing amongst the New England scenery.

Inspired by buildings he saw while visiting England, Haverhill chemist James R. Nichols (1819-88) built the structure as a summer home in the mid-1870s using area granite and named it and the surrounding land "Winnekenni" - an Algonquin word meaning "very beautiful". Remember the Algonquin?

The Haverhill Gazette in 1875 described the interior of the castle at the time. Below is a brief summary of what the castle looked like then.
  • The original structure contained a gothic door opening up to a spacious Grecian Drawing Room, a Pompeian style dining room, Roman-tiled, black-walnut finished library, in addition to a kitchen, sleeping room, storeroom and laundry.
  • A spacious stairway opened up to a hall on the second story that had entrances to nine bedrooms and a “bathing room.”
  • Access to the roof from the four towers.
  • From the roof of the castle at the time was a view of seventeen surrounding towns, three counties, three states, as well as Mt. Monadnock, Mt. Agamenticus in Maine and the ocean.

The city of Haverhill purchased the castle in 1895, and in 1976, the city acquired 50-plus acres of conservation land between the castle and nearby Lake Saltonstall. Sadly, the castle's elaborate Victorian interior was destroyed by a fire in 1967, but in the years since, the Winnekenni Foundation has preserved the iconic building to make it available for weddings, reunions, and music and theatrical events.

So, in short, while this exists in Haverhill, and while we know John loved transporting bits of England back to the states for his writing (notably Staunton Harold, Salisbury Cathedral, and the amalgamation of Mounts Stewart and Stuart), we can't help but think how much fun Johnny, Fergie, and Professor Childermass would have had if their adventures took them to a castle in their own backyard.

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