The History of Meyer's Castle
Joseph Meyer: The Man Behind an Architectual Region Wonder
Joseph Ernest Meyer (September 5, 1878 – March 9, 1950) was a botanist, writer, illustrator, publisher, and supplier of pharmaceutical-grade herbs and roots to the drug trade who became a prominent citizen and eventually one of the first millionaires in Northwest Indiana. He was the founder of the Indiana Botanic Gardens, Calumet National Bank and Meyer Publishing (now MeyerBooks). At his death he was said to be the world's largest distributor of herbs used in salves, cosmetics, and medicines.
Meyer not only supplied large pharmaceutical firms with drug-grade botanicals, he made up and packaged medical, culinary, and magical herbs for retail sales through his mail order catalogues and yearly almanacs. Many of the plants were raised in Indiana, but he also travelled the world to connect with growers in tropical and Mediterranean climates, and was a major importer of raw botanicals. The Indiana Botanic Garden catalogues and almanacs were illustrated with his own artwork, both line-art and water colours, and he wrote extensively about the folkloric customs employed by herbalists from many cultures. The articles and illustrations that he produced for the yearly catalogues were eventually collected into books, among which the most popular was titled The Herbalist and Herb Doctor.
EXAMPLES OF HIS WORK
Meyer's Castle is an example of Jacobethan Revival Architecture that was built between 1929 and 1931 by architect Cosbey Bemard Sr. as a replica of a Scottish castle, and to be the private residence of Joseph Meyer. He had seen the exact same castle once while traveling in Europe, and fell in love with it till the point that he had to re-create his own in the United States. It's location in the forested area on top of the highest point of Lake County, was perfect to continue his practice of Herbology. When it was completed in 1931, it became the largest, and most lavish home in the surrounding Calumet region. Meyer lived in the castle until his death in 1950. His wife Cecilia, remained there for several years after her husband's passing.
One enters the property through wrought iron gates set in Lannon stone piers, and drives uphill along a 1/4 mile driveway, which circles the castle. The grounds are terraced and many original plantings still survive with every tree native to Indiana. The castle has 43 rooms, 215 windows and immaculate rolling gardens on 16+ acres surround the building. The historic landmark features two octagon-shaped bays located at it's northeast and southwest corners.
A quarry-tiled veranda stretches 125' long by 12' wide and wraps around the south. The veranda railings and spindles are of Indiana limestone. There are 18" large, hand-carved limestone urns spaced at regular intervals among the spindles on the veranda. A large hand-carved limestone double stairway leads from the lower level patio to the main (south) entrance at the second level, and is highlighted by large stone ball ornaments located at both ends of the steps. There is another 20' wide hand-carved limestone stairway on the northeast corner of the estate at the octagon veranda.
Three double-stack and four single-stack chimneys with limestone funnels and caps rise above the steeply pitched roof. The roof is laid with red clay slab tile and hip roll tile that still remains in excellent condition. All flashings, gutters, and downspouts are of copper.
The oversized three car garage is joined to the west side of the castle, and is angled towards the southwest. All windows are either crystal 3/8" cut or acid-etched crystal in a scored or diamond pattern. Exterior arched doors are thick hand-carved solid oak with leaded glass inserts.
The grand entrance hall features north and south entrances with the principal entrance being from the south. The living room and octagonal veranda are located to the east of the formal entrance hall. The study, library, kitchen, butlers kitchen, breakfast room, formal and informal dining rooms are located to the west. Large oak paneled walls and vintage tiled hallway with oak staircases, divides the kitchen area from the maid's quarters and the garage below.
The opulent foyer, living room, dining room, and grand staircases are highlighted by fine hand-carved oak paneling and detailing. European craftsmen spent two years completing the carving inside the castle. The grand entrance features oak paneled walls as well as the two exterior doors. The grand staircase railing's hand-carved details include large facing griffins, rosettes, dragons, serpents and leaves throughout the main and upper floors. The balusters and railings were carved from 10" blocks of oak. A beautiful ornate brass chandelier, weighing more than 400 pounds, hangs in the grand entrance from the spectacular plaster figured third floor ceiling.
The paneling and trim in the formal dining room are black walnut. The fireplace face, mantel and over mantel are extremely unique due to their fine and intricate carving. The floor of the main, second, and third floors are very thick solid teak parquet. On the stair landing between the main and third floors there is a large magnificent stained glass window wall (north facade) with castle motifs and doors that open to a balcony that oversees the north gardens and coach house.
The third level consists of amazing custom detailed bedrooms and baths. It is accessible via the grand staircase from the main floor. The embellished ceilings in the living room and vestibules are continued to the third floor hallways. The third floor is serviced by an elevator, dumb waiter, and a laundry chute.