On October 1, we shared a photo of a building on our Facebook page to see if anyone could guess what it was.
Apparently we chose a very recognizable place because there were many guesses and nearly every one was correct! The castle-like structure sits high on the hill at 901 W. High Street and was originally the home of industrialist P.P. Mast and later became “Castle Knoll,” the Knights of Pythias nursing home.
The home was built between 1880-1882 and was modeled after a castle in Italy that P.P. Mast admired during his travels in Europe. He chose the location for his “castle” on the highest knoll in the area, hoping to create a wealthy part of town on the west end. Mast brought over 29 Italian emigrants to work on the amazing woodwork and stonework inside and outside. (He also used local talent, including A.H. Mittendorf, a woodworker who was well known in the Dayton area). The first two floors of the home were the living area while the third floor was a ballroom. The woodwork in each room on the first and second floors was unique and intricate and the stained glass was brought in from France. Mast’s earlier home, built 1880-1881 at 910 W. High Street is right across the street and it was reportedly preferred by his wife Anna, who died in April 1895, a few months after a major fire at the “castle” across the street. Mast died in November 1898 and is buried alongside his wife in the Mast mausoleum in Ferncliff.
Mast’s home was purchased by the Knights of Pythias and was rededicated as a home for the aged in October 1915. It remained the Pythian’s Castle Knoll nursing home until around 2005 when the home closed and the residents were transferred. The early records of the home (including the records of the children’s home) until about the 1930s are available in the historical society archives.
And now a bit more about P.P. Mast:
Phineas P. Mast was born on January 3, 1825 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. His family, which included seven siblings, came to Clark County and settled near Urbana in 1830. He attended Ohio Wesleyan and graduated in 1849. He returned to the family farm and entered the grain and produce trade and also taught school. He married Anna Kirkpatrick in 1850 and eventually relocated to Springfield in 1856. He formed a partnership with John H. Thomas (whom we mentioned in our WHERE is it Wednesday post a few weeks ago) and formed Thomas & Mast, manufacturing agricultural implements. He bought out the company in 1871 and established P.P. Mast and Company. Mast founded Mast-Foos Manufacturing Company in 1876, producing wind engines, pumps, plows, and mowers (he also had the P.P. Mast Buggy Company).
Mast envisioned a magazine that could help to promote his products and hired John S. Crowell to start the magazine and his nephew T.J. Kirkpatrick to serve as editor and thus, Farm and Fireside was launched in October 1877. In 1883, the firm known as Mast, Crowell, & Kirkpatrick acquired Woman’s Home Companion and later published American Magazine. (Several years after Mast’s death the company incorporated as the Crowell Publishing Company in 1906 and in 1919 purchased Collier’s Weekly and eventually merged with P.F. Collier Publishing in 1934 to become the Crowell-Collier Publishing Company).
Mast served on the Springfield City Council for 22 years, was mayor from 1895-1897, and president on the Board of Trade (later Chamber of Commerce). He was instrumental in the formation of the Clark County Historical Society (proposing the adoption of our name in August 1897). His home, life, and ventures are well represented in the historical society’s collection: trade cards, photographs, objects (Buckeye pumps, lawn mowers, a windmill), and magazines (we have nearly a full run of all the magazines published from the 1870s-1956 when Crowell-Collier closed). Many events of Mast’s life, career and his companies is recorded in the diaries of George Netts in the archives. Netts’s diaries span the years 1868-1933 and detail many major events in the history of Springfield.
Beautiful Ferncliff: Springfield Ohio’s Historic Cemetery and Arboretum by Anne E. Benston and Dr. Paul W. Schanher III
Literary Category – George Netts Diary Collection – Transcribed 1868-1933
Photographic Category – Architecture – Residential by Style and Street Collection
Associations Category – Knights of Pythias Collection
Architectural Category – Private Homes Collection
Architectural Category – Ohio Historic Inventory Collection
Small Collections Category – Bartley Collection
Small Collections Category – Ballentine Collection
Commercial Category – Trade Card Collection