The hollowed out shell of Squire’s Castle sits deep in the woods off River Road in the northeastern suburbs of Cleveland. This romantic, Medieval-looking stone edifice once served as a carriage or gate house for Standard Oil co-founder Feargus B. Squire. Squire intended to build a mansion at the site, but never finished his project. Since opening to the public, visitors claim to see mysterious lights flashing in the darkened windows. The light, they say, is the spectral remnants of Squire’s wife, “Rebecca”.
Feargus O’Conner Bowden Squire, or simply Feargus B. Squire, was born on February 12, 1850 in Devon, England. His family emigrated to the Cleveland area in 1860. Squire rose to prominence in the burgeoning petroleum industry, and served as Mayor of Wickliffe in 1923. Squire built the small Romanesque Revival gatehouse northeast of Cleveland in the 1890s and intended it to be part of a larger estate, but never finished the project. The finished gatehouse included several bedrooms, living areas, a large kitchen, library, a breakfast porch, and hunting room. Squire spent time there with his daughter, Irma, but his wife never enjoyed the rustic getaway.
Cleveland Metroparks acquired the 525-acre property in 1925 and renamed it North Chagrin Reservation. The forest preserve is located east of Interstate 271 in suburban Mayfield Village, Willoughby Hills, and Gates Mills.
According to legend, Squire’s wife “Rebecca” stayed in the tiny castle and wandered the rooms at night carrying a red lantern. One night, a mounted hunting trophy startled her and she broke her neck falling down the stone stairs. In another version of the tale, she accidentally tangled her neck in a rope and strangled to death. To this day, visitors claim to see the red light of her lantern shining in the darkened windows. In reality, Squire’s wife’s name was Louisa Christiana Squire, and she died of pneumonia in Wickliffe, Ohio on October 29, 1927.
Rumor has it that the castle used to have a basement, and that it can be accessed by way of a secret entrance. This rumor is partially true. Cleveland Metroparks filled the basement with cement for safety reasons after the castle became a hangout for biker gangs.
After years of vandalism, park staff gutted the carriage house, leaving behind nothing but its stone walls. Between 1996 and 1997, the castle underwent a $200,000 restoration, which included a new roof, paint, stone washing, new mortar, landscaping, a rear and front patio, and permanent interpretive signs.
Whatever the truth behind the rumors, no one can deny Squire’s Castle had delighted and fascinated Cleveland-area residents for generations. It is a magical place in the woods–a sanctuary from the mundane and ordinary where the imagination can run wild.