Jun 20, 2006

Pythian Castle: Toledo

Photos by historymike

(Toledo, OH) One of my favorite historic buildings in Toledo is the Pythian Castle, located on the corner of Jefferson and Ontario.

The building derived its name from the Knights of Pythias, a fraternal organization that built the structure in 1890.

The building has been vacant since the 1970s when it used to house an art and music community.

The building needs a roof, and much of the interior has been stripped for scrap metal. Yet the Pythian Castle remains one of the most beautiful buildings in Toledo, and awaits an owner with the cash and vision to refurbish it.

Left: Ornate details abound on the exterior of the Pythian Castle

On the day I visited the Castle there were three men completing some sort of transaction on the front steps. They eyed me suspiciously, but continued to conduct business as I took photos.

Dealers and addicts are just temporary visitors to the Castle. Perhaps I will live to see the day when the Gothic structure is once again a thriving building, and when its 185-foot turrets gleam in the summer sun.


Kate said...

I looked at this building in '02. I was enchanted with it from the minute I moved into the downtown Toledo area. I heard rumors about it being built by german royalty or some such thing and myths abound about this building.

It is far past the state of repair that I would be able to undertake. I had envisioned a building with offices in the downstairs and living quarters in the upper floors.

I too saw gleaming ramparts in my minds eye. However, the wooden floors are rotten and it would be dangerous even to stand on them. You are right, stripped is the right word to describe the interior. It would be a labor of love because there ain't any profit for someone if they take this one on.

A little history on the Knights of Pythias.


Do said...

Another interesting tidbit about this beautiful old building:


Wouldn't it be wonderful to have the This Old House gang show up and redeem this one!? WOW!

Hooda Thunkit said...

The old lady has seen better days, for sure.

The Library's web site has dozens of pictures of the once glorious interior.

I suspect lots of rot, lots of water and ice damage.

The old pictures will tear at your heart. . .

Lisa Renee said...

I admit I've dreamed of owning and living there too.


Lloyd said...

Great posting mike!

I actually came to compliment you on your Deveaux article in the TFP, which was nicely written as well, but see you haven't posted it yet.

New blog background too, huh? I like that as well...

Do you ever participate in the downtown walking tours provided by the Urban Affairs Center at UT?

historymike said...

Thanks for the link, Do.

historymike said...


Can you imagine living in a cool old building like that?

It also has a spiral staircase in it - I've always wanted to live in a place with one.

historymike said...

Thanks for the mutiple kudos, Llyod.

No, I have never attended a walking tour in Toledo, but I will have to get around to it.

I did enjoy one I took in Charleston, SC last year.

Timothy said...

There's an old painted sign on the side of that building that I've seen driving into the downtown... it's rather faded...anybody know what it says or why it was put there?

musicwriter said...

I recall in the 1950s the 'castle' had a music-piano-organ store on the first floor named J.W. Greene. This business was later succeeded by Bleckner's.

Peahippo said...

According to the Blade a few years ago, Pythian Castle sold for $4500 in 1997, and then again for a much larger amount in 2000/1. Some mention was made about one of the owners allegedly spending $250K on electrical upgrades, and some other mention was made about back taxes. How are we to resolve this information with the claim of the building being stripped?

This building will either:

1. Fall in on itself. This will be due to neglect. Within the last year, broken windows are simply not being repaired, so water is being given an open invitation to destroy the building.

2. Burn down. THAT happened with embarassing ease to the Arbuckle Building, which sat not 200FT from Pythian Castle. All it will take is another quick arsonist like before.

3. Be converted into hyperexpensive ($250K+) condos. This has happened to too many buildings in DT Toledo already, and seems to be the primary route of so-called re-residencing of the area.

All these points make Pythian Castle no concern to me whatsoever. Nothing rational or sensible will happen to it. Either it falls, burns, or becomes a shiny speculation coin of the elite. It may as well be an ice sculpture on Mars for what it means to my life in all practical terms.

Jeffrey Smith said...

My, goodness, can't people just enjoy interesting buildings for their own beauty and interest? Does everything have to have an individual connection to be "relevant." By the way, take a look at the Venetian palazzo across the street. It's my favorite downtown building.

Jeffrey Smith said...

Forgot to mention something. I'm new to the area and I'm very impressed with the architecture in this town. I've also started a blog within the last couple days which, in a week or so, when I figure out how to work the blasted thing, may have some reviews of local buildings.

Anonymous said...

Just found this by googling. My brothers and I had piano lessons in the late '60s and early '70s there. It was Bleckner's Music Store at the time, and I think it closed in 1972 or 1973.

Many fond memories of the place - the old-fashioned gated elevator, the stairs... The spiral staircase was in an abandoned room behind our piano teacher's studio.

The Toledo Library website has some fairly recent photos of the rundown insides... if I find the link I will send it.

Carlos said...

I was interested in buying this building and turning it into an art gallery and museum which I would then leave to the city. Then I realized I would be leaving it to the same city that let this happen to it. What a mistake that would be!!

I love Toledo and I am not even from there. I am from Florida and want to go to Toledo because people are real and friendly, and the ones that stayed still care about the place. If I were mayor, I would buy the building and give it to the people, as a museum of Toledo history and architecture, so that nothing like this ever happens again.

As it is, though, I cannot imagine buying and restoring it and that is the real shame because I would love to do it.

tom said...

Here in Springfield, MO the Pythian Castle was purchased by an individual and she has refurbished it back to the or as close to the content from when it was built which was 1915. City council and the zoning board is doing everything they can to prevent this place from opening up and have made life a nightmare for the owners. check out the following website
http://pythiancastle.com/ for details.

I hope you in Toledo will not hinder anyone from restoring the structure like our elected buffoon here are trying to do.

Anonymous said...

In the summer of 93 or 94, me and two friends managed to lower the fire escape and sneak in one of the windows undetected. It was dusk in summer and I remember it being very dangerous as we had no flashlight and there were large holes in the floors as well as an open elevator shaft! There were two big auditoriums with stages also. We made it to the base of the Big tower, but the stairs were not even worth trying. they looked like something out of a horror movie! It was very cool. It was in deplorable shape then, can't imagine how much it would take almost 20 years later to rehab. I'd give money to go back in prepared and be able to take pictures though.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I lived in Toledo for years, but now live in California. I just visted Toledo and so would love to be able to say I set foot in the Pythian! However, I'm not so sure that all the facts here are right. The true Pythian Castle is in MO as Tom said. Although I must say I do agree that it is a beautfull building, someone should buy it and restore it. For that matter I might try to myself, I mean if the rumors in this blog are true I so wish I had bought it for $4500 when I was living in OH, That can't really be right can it? $4500 that is crazy

rudy said...

I remember back in ’76 I was a part of a CETA grant that provide work for kids. I was one of those kids that helped to clean up the castle which was my first real job. I remember two stages, multiple rooms for recording studios, and areas for painting and sculpting. I too remember the elevator which was still there and working at the time. I remember my art teacher from Woodward HS Mr. Garcia who told me that his friend (unknown name) painted the artwork on the side of the Castle which read “A breakthrough in Art”. He was disappointed with the way it turned out.

A Disgusted Liberal Media Pinko said...

The reason for the stages was that Pythian Castle was home to a "coffee house" in the early and mid-70's where local live bands played. Two guys that were involved in sound and lights for the Catacombs in Sylvania also did stage lights for Pythian Castle and the two Toad's Hall locations.

MtnManMick said...

As a teenager I used to go to the Castle on Friday nights around '72 to hear live rock and get high. Glad I quit smoking that stuff before it affected my mind. What was I talking about....Oh yeah, I'm glad that NFL strike got settled.
Mick Hardy
Redmond WA

mrsloribowers said...

I work from time to time at the Pythian Castle in Springfield, Missouri. It had fallen into horrible disrepair until a couple of my friends purchased it. After a long refurbish and having it recognized by the National Historical Register, it flourishes. Tonight I'll be working comedy night in the castle, followed by a Ghost Tour. It was originally built by the Knights of Pythias to house families and widows who were down on their luck. It later became an orphanage, then a military hospital during WWII. The Pythian Castle in Toledo looks just as interesting.

Anonymous said...

Peahippo here again. As 5 years have passed since my last comment, I was seized with a need to know about the building, since nothing has visually changed with the building.

Online records (AREIS) show the place is owned by "TOLEDO'S PYTHIAN CASTLE LLC". Other online records inaccurately claim the company is owned by Brian Yram. The name is actually Brian J. (James?) Uram. The man may have died in 2011 (see http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/toledoblade/obituary.aspx?n=brian-james-uram&pid=150221264). Another site (http://www.flickr.com/photos/detroitderek/2289748833/) claims a "Robert Shiffler" was also a partner, but he committed suicide.

Sadly, this is a standard state of affairs. I've done this myself, being the owner of a large commercial property, hence I've run into the onerous requirements of the City of Toledo about how to manage such a building. In my opinion from the online information, Uram just couldn't devote the money to the project. If he tried to cut corners by doing work himself (as the obit mentioned he was a home restorer), contractors would have reported him to the city for violations almost immediately, as such work would have been fairly visible.

This city needs a new category in the permit process for "work performed by the owner". But no contractor would allow that. So buildings like this just end up razed eventually.

Dan Finkel said...

It looks to me like it is scheduled to be razed. Can anyone confirm this? The fire department has put their stickers on the outside of the building. that usually happens before they get torn down.

Sunnyskies said...

Is the building due to be torn down?

Merrill said...

I remember going to the Castle as a teenager in the early 1970's to listen to bands. It was a coffee House then, that featured local bands from Toledo area and Detroit. There was 3 floors to the building as I can remember. It was a fantastic building on the inside with stages and balconies. To bad it wasn't cared for!!!

v.c. graves said...

Back in 1972 I was in a rock band (from Sylvania) that played on one of those stages in the auditorium on the 2nd or 3rd floor. The spiral staircase was still solid back then and there were hidden passageways behind the stage that led all the way around the place. We all got the creeps just being in there, as downtown was almost a ghosttown then and the building itself seemed like a horror movie set. And, strangely, I never came face to face with any human who actually "ran" the place.