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Feature Article on Bonnyconnellan Castle. Topic: DOWNTOWN/BUILDINGS
Written by Rich Wallace in February, 2000 (Photos by Tom Homan)

BONNYCONNELLAN CASTLE INTERIOR STRIPPED AND SOLD

Even in our current fast-paced, ever-changing, throw-away society we have learned to appreciate and honor the meaningful symbols of our past. The renovation of the Monumental Building and the loving caretaking of the GreatStone Castle by Frederick and Victoria Keller are examples. It is an accepted community responsibility to honor the legacy our ancestors created by preserving, where possible, these monuments of our past.

Bonnyconnellan Castle has occupied a dominating position, both physically and historically, in Sidney for the past 113 years. The Castle. No other words are needed to identify Sidney's first great residence. The massive Bedford limestone towers of the castle rise sharply above one climbing the forty hand-cut stone steps to the Walnut Street entrance.

The thousands of people who made that walk and opened the front door, marveling at the richly appointed hand-carved wooden interior would now gasp at the carnage that lies beyond the great front door. The great lady has been systematically destroyed.

It was a symbol of the best that America had to offer when it was built in 1886. John Loughlin had arrived in Sidney eight years earlier. Loughlin was a first generation American and the son of Irish parents. He started the Sidney School Furniture Company two years later and personally experienced the American dream. His company rapidly grew, becoming one of the largest makers of school desks in the country.

With his success came wealth. Local legend has it that the Castle was patterned after another castle in his homeland of Cork County, Ireland. It cost the enormous sum of $10,000 to build in 1886. Mr. Loughlin carefully chose the finest cherry, walnut, mahogany, oak, and Birdseye maple woods for the interior and had them hand crafted by European woodworkers. Local residents must have been filled with wonderment when they first viewed the majesty of the interior.

The majesty has turned to devastation and the wonderment to anger. A carefully planned pillaging has gutted the Castle. The massive, solid cherry main staircase is gone, leaving only a gaping hole and barren plaster. Doors and their frames, window sills and frames, fireplace mantles, mirrors, and any wooden items of marginal value have disappeared.

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The thousands of people who opened the front door, marveling at the richly appointed hand-carved wooden interior would now gasp at the carnage that lies beyond the great front door. The great lady has been systematically destroyed.

bonnyconnellancastleinterior.gif (157068 bytes)

Only cold plaster walls remain. The richly appointed wooden panels of oak and walnut have been cut away and sold. The impressive wooden ceiling beams are gone.

 

The Castle survived 113 years and more than a dozen owners. After selling his school desk factory in 1895, Mr. Loughlin continued to live in Bonnyconnellan Castle for a number of years. The failure of Sidney's German American Bank in 1904 created personal hardships for the Loughlin family and many others. The Castle, which had been placed in trust by the creditors of the bank, was sold in 1907 to Col. J. B. Tucker of Urbana. Mr. Loughlin, who then moved from the area, died penniless in 1917.

Col. Tucker, who also took over the Loughlin factory site and converted it to the manufacture of wooden bicycle rims, became very wealthy. The subsequent owners did not fare quite as well, and the Castle was passed from family to family. Stanley Bryan, the proprietor of the Venice Chocolate Company, owned it in the 1920's. Local physician Dr. Austin Edwards lived there eight years until his death in 1943. Army Major Charles Price owned the Castle until 1949, and it was used as a nursing home by the Morris family in the 1950's.

Bonnyconnellan survived 113 years of various owners, some perhaps indifferent to her needs, but she could not survive the plan of her current owners to carve her up and sell her part by part. Gone are the hand-tooled leather panels in the den. Only cold plaster walls remain. The richly appointed wooden panels of oak and walnut have been cut away and sold. The impressive wooden ceiling beams are gone.

Through its long history until this year, the Castle had helping hands along the way. Rose Loewer had purchased the Castle as an investment in the late 1950s. She never stayed there overnight during her nine year ownership because "I'd be terrified. I read too many detective stories," she stated in a 1967 Sidney Daily News article.

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Above is the before -- below is the after.  A gaping hole in the ceiling only hints at the once stately wooden staircase. The woodwork surrounding the fireplace, the doorways, and the doors themselves have been stripped and carried off.

bonnyconnellanstairsafter.gif (95817 bytes)

The uninhabited Castle became a personal renovation project of its next owners, Mr. and Mrs. Victor Frump. Their efforts extended over the next ten years, and included ridding the home of the many bats who resided there (one of whom bit Mrs. Frump's sister).  Tom and Vivian Jutte assumed stewardship of the Castle in 1979 and began anew the task of restoring Bonnyconnellan to its original splendor. They spent much money and thousands of hours in making her a showpiece again.

"If we had not tackled it, we would have lost it," Mrs. Jutte stated in a 1995 Dayton Daily News article. Both of those families felt an allegiance to the Castle and its legacy. Mrs. Frump commented in a Sidney Daily News article "Living here has really made me feel like a queen in a castle."

The Frumps and Juttes today would weep over the tattered remains of the castle. Garbage, litter, rejected books, and the remains of the hand-crafted wooden interior lie scattered across the cold floors.

Various owners reported from time to time on the personality the old Castle developed. One family fled the Castle after hearing noises in the basement one night. Sounds of a children's party drifted up from the dark basement on another occasion. Bonnyconnellan survived repeated changes in ownership, and the ravages of time and weather for 113 years , but in the end she could not survive the planned, systematic destruction carried out by her owners.

The Ohio Bank, which holds the mortgage to the premises, has filed a suit against the current owners, Dean and Kim Shepherd, and a Lima area contractor who removed the woodwork. Bank officials charge in the suit that the Shepherds "willfully, wantonly and fraudulently" removed fixtures from the interior of the Castle. Sources have indicated that about two-thirds of the woodwork has been located. Its condition is unknown. The suit is still pending. The bank reappraised the Castle from $250,000 to $90,000 after its dismantling. It is set for a sheriff's sale on February 4, 2000.

We closed out 1999 on a somber note. Violence in the community was a tragic and continuous theme this year. Count the Bonnyconnellan Castle among the victims. Although the odds against her this time are long, perhaps she can survive. Time will tell.

bonnyconnellandiningroombefore.gif (94074 bytes)
Above is the dining room before -- after is below: a chandelier, survivor of the architectural tragedy, now hangs over bare plaster areas once covered by beautiful woodwork.

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