The Stone Barn Castle, in central New York State, was designed by Charles William Knight (1847-1923) a hydraulic engineer operating out of Rome, NY. The immense structure, composed of cobblestone and Portland cement, was begun in 1896 and finished in 1906.
Despite its castle-like appearance, it was designed to be a functional dairy farm, and was considered to be the finest dairy barn in Central New York. It included many state of the art innovations for its day, including an elaborate ventilation system and individual drinking fountains for each cow. The fountains were automatically supplied with fresh water drawn by windmills from a spring brook nearby and forced into a reservoir located in the top of the barn.
During the Great Depression the dairy farm went bankrupt, and the building was abandoned. Then, in 1946, a devastating fire of mysterious origin ripped through the structure, leaving nothing but its towering stone walls.
It remained a looming but forgotten relic, hidden by a dense forest, until it was discovered in 1969 by Dr. Robert Hugel and Alison K. Jockel. The couple married under its arches, and immediately set about on a life-long pursuit to rebuild the enormous structure. They were helped along the way by their four children, Katrina, Robert, Helene and William Hugel.
Instead of simply replicating the original building, they decided to accentuate its castle-like features, turning the silos into turrets, and the main barn into an elaborate inner courtyard. Among other accomplishments were an elevated spiral walkway in one of the turrets, and in the other a huge circular fireplace with a homemade, floating chimney. In all it is probably one of the greatest achievements by hobby builders in the country.
The Hugels went on to invite in the public to the now christened “Stone Barn Castle”, giving tours and hosting special events, including a wildly popular Haunted Halloween Castle and Trick-n-Treat Village. During the almost forty years they lived there it is estimated over a hundred thousand people visited the castle.
In 2006 the Hugel family decided to sell their creation, and the family dispersed. William Hugel went on to create Mystic World Press, a publishing venture that produces handmade books from his original fairy tales and fables, and Helene Hugel went on to found Helium, an Irish based Arts and Health company committed to nurturing and honoring creativity as a natural resource for a child’s well-being.
The Stone Barn Castle was eventually purchased by Hollywood actor Adrien Brody, best know for his Oscar-winning role in The Pianist. It is no longer open to the public.