Toledo and Whitehouse have what can be described as A Tale of Two Castles.
Downtown Toledo’s Pythian Castle, built by the Knights of Pythias fraternal order in 1890, is an architectural gem that many people want to preserve but don’t know how.
Such a project would cost millions of dollars. It gets more expensive as the years go by. Toledo’s Pythian Castle hasn’t been occupied since the 1970s. It has deteriorated so much it is unsafe.
To Toledo’s southwest, in the charming little village of Whitehouse, lies another Pythian Castle.
With two floors and a basement, it is smaller and more modest than Toledo’s stately six-floor castle. That’s understandable. Whitehouse itself is smaller and more modest than Toledo, often living in the shadows of its higher-profile Lucas County neighbor.
Both castles helped anchor the downtown districts of their respective municipalities. They were built only a year apart. But the Whitehouse Pythian Castle, built in 1891, is in much better shape.
Its heat and electricity were never turned off. It was never vacated. The Knights of Pythias owned it until area members disbanded in the early 1980s and deeded it over to the group’s female affiliate, Pythian Sisters.
Until recently, Pythian Sisters Lodge 312 held meetings inside the Whitehouse Pythian Castle and rented it out for baby showers, family reunions, and events sponsored by other community groups, according to Louann Artiaga, lodge secretary-trustee. A newspaper article also says the building was used in years past as a blacksmith shop, grocery store, summer movie theater, restaurant, and draft board.
The Whitehouse castle is showing its age and needs a facelift. But it doesn’t need the overhaul that Toledo’s castle does. The Whitehouse castle’s new owner, Mark Martin, said he plans to spend $300,000 to $400,000 to modernize that building’s interior and get it into shape for his logistics business, Cynamar Inc., to relocate there by Oct. 1. Then, presumably for many more years, the Whitehouse castle will continue to be a vibrant part of the village’s downtown.
Ms. Artiaga, who owns Spring Valley Business Solutions a short walk down Providence Street, admitted the upcoming work on the Whitehouse castle is “horribly bittersweet” because of its 122 years in Pythian hands.
But she agreed it was time. The landmark was sold to Mr. Martin in December.
“We are still very active in supporting local charities here,” Ms. Artiaga said, adding that local Pythian Sisters will continue as an organization and will meet in her office or area homes. “We just felt it made more sense to put what money the group had into that mission, instead of the building.”
Mr. Martin said his goal is to preserve the building as a Whitehouse icon for the “rural progressive" community he loves. In addition to maintaining the castle’s structural integrity, he plans to decorate halls with some historic photos of the village and artifacts of the group.
“The appeal of the building has always been obvious to us,” Mr. Martin said. “This is a piece of Whitehouse, Ohio. It is a piece of a wonderful, wonderful community.”
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