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Barnesville woman finds her castle

Structure was originally a doctor’s office, residence

By Bill Vossler

The home was built in 1898 and was originally used as both an doctor’s office and residence for Dr. Robert Patterson. Photo by Bill Vossler

Anne Kramer of Barnesville always wanted to live in a castle. “As long as I can remember,” she said. “I came from the Valley City, North Dakota area, and when I got married and told my husband that I always wanted to live in a castle, he said ‘There aren’t any in our area, so we would have to build one.’ That would have been too expensive.”

After living in a small house for a few years, Anne decided she still wanted to find a castle, so they traveled to a number of small towns in search of one. “In Barnesville we found a castle for sale, which I thought was the most wonderful house I had ever seen--but we couldn’t afford it,” she said.

After her father passed away, leaving Anne some money, she saw the house was still available, so they set up an appointment, and discovered the house was now in their price range, so they bought it. 

Anne Kramer of Barnesville sits on the front steps of her “castle.” Photo by Bill Vossler

“So that’s how I ended up with this unique house,” the 70-year-old traveling salesperson said.

What makes it unique? The size, and appearance, with different-colored rocks making walls 18 inches thick with unique mortar “ropes,” on the outside of the house, one huge turret, and second small one, nine stained glass windows, plus all the regular windows angled, allowing a breeze from any direction to enter the house and help cool it, as it has no air conditioning. “I use the fireplaces a couple times in the winter, but just for ambience.”

A year after moving in her husband decided he didn’t want to live there any more. “So he left and I’ve been here ever since 1988,” she said. Living in a stone house, regularly called “The Castle.” Her long-time wish.

Castle History

The castle has many interesting features, both on the interior and exterior. It is located on three lots in Barnesville. Photo by Nikki Rajala

Dr. Robert Patterson came to Barnesville because James J. Hill  “persuaded Dr. Patterson,” said Streetlight 2020 Progress Report of the Barnesville Record-Review newspaper, “to move his practice to Barnesville to treat Hill’s railroad workers. Dr. Patterson arrived in Barnesville in June of 1887. According to tradition, the stone castle was built for Patterson starting in 1898, although the lot was first deeded to him in 1901 when the acreage was platted. It is said to have been built with some stones that Dr. Patterson accepted from his patients in lieu of payment for his services,” the report concluded, but that last may be myth. “The Pattersons were very influential here, as they also had a hospital and drug store,” Anne said.

Patterson first lived in the house, and had his office there, Ann said. “His office was in the room off the kitchen, and the foyer was his waiting room. His examination room was by the other fireplace off the kitchen. Domestics to do the cooking and perhaps other work also lived there, as the house has 15 rooms,” she said. “I don’t know any more than that.”

Patterson’s son lived in the house starting in 1911 after the elder Patterson’s death of typhoid in Mississippi. 

“Dr. Patterson was very popular, I was told,” Anne said, “and had a large funeral here with people coming from many miles around, and he is buried here in town.”

Inside the house, the only rock that shows is on the fireplaces, which Anne uses only for ambience, she said. Photo by Bill Vossler

At one time the house was divided into apartments, Anne said. “At that time changes were made to some windows and sills. Later another owner kind of trashed the house, but the people before us were trying hard to get the house in better shape, and redid the  kitchen and other work to make it better.”

Outside of the rumor that patients paid their doctor bills by bringing in fieldstone, another said money is hidden in the walls, Anne said, which may be why one owner trashed the inside of the house in a search for money. “But people checked that out and didn’t find anything like that.” 

Some people think the house is haunted, but Anne has never had any paranormal experiences here. “If it was haunted I wouldn’t be living here,” she said.

Air Conditioning and Heating 

Anne said some summer days get pretty darn hot. “We don’t have any air conditioning, but I’ve managed all these years. Each floor gets hotter and hotter as you go up. The basement is cool, but is too gloomy for me to stay down there. I want to see daylight, so I stay in the Queen’s room in the big turret. I have a little decoration that is sort of Queenish. I live in a Queen Anne house, so I am Queen Anne,” she laughed. 

Heating costs used to be a disaster, she said. “When I moved in the house was heated with fuel oil, which was a cost nightmare. So many winters I struggled to get by, but I made a go of it. Then six years ago I added a natural gas furnace, which cut costs down to a quarter of what it used to be. The floorboards have hot water pipes in them, so I get nice warm heat. The only time it’s really cold is when it’s 20 below or so, then first floor is hard to keep warm. I usually stay upstairs where it’s warmer when it’s that cold.”

One of the stained glass windows in the castle. Photo by Bill Vossler

The house has many stairs, which cause Anne trouble, especially after she broke her leg two years ago. “We have bats in the attic, which bothers me every year, and I try to do something about them. Like any house, things need to be fixed. But they are different from most modern houses, so I haven’t found the right person to do it, and it will cost a lot. I need somebody to fix some masonry, steps, window sills, and the chimney, all by a professional. Then there are the sculptured shingles below some windows outside. They form a pattern, and I have the replacement shingles, but I need somebody who knows how to do something like that. Many things need to be done, but more than I can do right now.”

Viewing The House

People take pictures of the house, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, and some want to see the inside. “They say they always wanted to go through it. I did have an open house when it turned a hundred in 2001, and it went very well, but I don’t have the energy to do another one.” She added that she considers herself the Queen of Halloween. “Every year every kid in town comes here, over 200 each year.”

“A professional told me the stained-glass windows are fabulous turn-of-the-century windows that are worth quite a bit of money, but I would never take those windows out. They belong here,” she said.

The living room window is one of her most favorites. “It has a shell pattern in the middle and scrolling around the blue edge, and colored blue, purple, parrot red, and gold. It’s just a beautiful window, especially when the sun shines on it. Other windows in a little room off the kitchen, and two in the foyer, all look like what you would expect a castle to have, a crown, dolphins, and an emblem. Then the one on the stairway is of a fleur de lis, very nice.”

Interesting details can be seen on each side of the house. Photo by Bill Vossler

The first time Anne saw the house, she thought it looked like a courthouse. “But it is much more cozy. The room are livable, not huge or big and intimidating. It doesn’t feel like a big house. Though the walls are 18 inches thick, the house really isn’t so big. All the stone inside has been covered and the rooms are all standard, most covered by wallpaper, and some of the walls were plastered inside. When I moved in I made it my own by changing some details. I used to sell wallpaper, and I like wallpaper, so I put some in. The only stone still showing is on the fireplaces.”

One upstairs bathroom has a claw foot tub, Anne said. “My grandchildren and great-grandchildren love that tub. When they visit me they all want to take a bath,” she laughed.

She has different people with her in the house from time to time, including her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. “My married son, his wife, and two kids lived here for 10 years.”

Anne said her main room is in one of the turrets. “It has a round edge to it, and the attic is not finished, so up there you can see how it’s round.”

Anne and her granddaughter Sophie in an upstairs room, relaxing. Photo by Bill Vossler

“Sometimes I’ve thought of getting out of this house and finding something a little more appropriate or easier for me to handle. But I don’t know if I will or won’t. I need to find the right person who would take this house over and love it the way I have.”

Anne enjoys many things about the house. “The yard is so spacious, as the house is on three lots. And I don’t know how many times I’ve looked at something done here in the house, and think it is perfect,  just like I want it to be. It has always been my dream to have a special house sort of like a castle. Usually big old houses are so cold and kind of sterile feeling, but this one isn’t. It looks like a home. It looks cozy, and has a very comfortable feeling to it. It’s always felt like a home, never like a museum.” 

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