Columns

Gardener's Grapevine 2015.12.30

By JO ERBSKORN

There is a little known place in Michigan that is a step back in time. Henderson Castle in Kalamazoo is close enough to be a day trip, but better as an overnight adventure into relaxation and luxury.

Art and I had the pleasure of having dinner there a few weeks ago with friends. The current owner has turned it into a bed and breakfast with a five star restaurant on the main floor.

They showcase their own wines and they were quite good. They offer a wine flight with dinner. This is simply a half glass of their six top wines. I liked the three reds and the first white. They start sweet and go to very dry. I don’t like a dry wine. I inquired about the vineyards and was told they are outside the city and there are some newer vines planted around the castle. After we left, we drove around the property and checked it out. Set on the hillside were grapevines being trained to grow in rows.

Henderson Castle was built by a member of the Masonic Temple. He made his fortune by owning the company which manufactured the furnishings for Masonic temples. There was a Masonic Lodge in Morenci above the old dime store which closed in the late 1990s or early 2000s. I was fortunate enough to have seen the inside and the furnishings were beautiful. My father’s side of the family were Masons and my husband is a Mason. They are a very old group of good men. The closest Lodge now is in Fairfield.

Henderson Castle is complete with hidden passages, turrets, stained glass, formal rooms, servants quarters and gardens. The gardens have all gone to sleep for the winter months, but the statuary, benches, gazebo and pathways are open to view. The owner prior to the current owner was Fritz Royce, heir to the Rolls Royce company. He was a local lawyer and he made some interesting  changes to the castle along with restoring the gardens and much of the house.

The first noticeable change is in the library off the foyer where he installed LED lights in the ceiling and put a period-correct mural over the lights. An interesting effect, although not in any way appropriate for the era the castle was built in.

The other change was to turn the skylight on the third floor roof into a walk-out door leading to the roof top. From the roof you can see all of Kalamazoo and it is beautiful at night. Since it was Christmas we had the added bonus of Christmas lights.

If you purchase the spa package you stay at the castle in a period-furnished room with access to the sauna, private bathing room, media room and roof top open air hot tub overlooking the city.

The castle’s second floor is all guest rooms. The third floor is the spa suite and ballroom. In the ballroom hangs four Venetian glass chandeliers—very old and very rare. Venetian glass is extremely beautiful and pretty much seen only in museums. 

I intend to return to Henderson Castle when the gardens are in full riotous bloom to see what beauty lies asleep now. I love architecture and the stories buildings hold, but I also love the landscaping and how it enhances the buildings. Neither would be as glorious alone as they are together.