Like most Michigan Weekendtrippers, I grew up thinking castles only existed in faraway countries and fairytales until I saw a photo in a magazine my grandmother was reading. I’ve been dreaming and pleading with my family for years to take me to “The Castle.”
Over the long holiday weekend, my persistence finally paid off as my family agreed to spend the afternoon at Castle Farms in Charlevoix under one condition: we attend the annual Royal Craft Show. This was definitely not my idea of how to spend summer’s last hurrah, but I figured I could sneak away from the crafts for a quick tour of the grounds.
I was blown away upon entering the grounds at 5052 M 66 North. The pictures I’ve seen of the buildings and grounds did not begin to do the scene justice. Originally built in 1918 by Albert Loeb, the acting president of Sears, Roebuck and Company, it’s difficult to imagine the castle was a functioning dairy farm for 9 years.
Loeb built the farm to showcase the newest innovations in farming equipment available through the Sears and Roebuck catalog. The farm was also open to the public one day a week where they could purchase the farms cheese and ice cream. If visitors were lucky, they’d have a chance to root for The Sodbusters, Loeb Farm’s baseball team.
The farm was closed in 1927 due agricultural recession and the beginning of the Great Depression. For the following 30 years, space on the farm was rented out to provide local Michiganders with extra storage.
In 1962, John VanHaver reopened the farm to the public as an art gallery as well as working artist studios. The grounds also housed a gift shop and a coffee shop open to visitors. The farm was sold again in 1969 and renamed Castle Farms under the ownership of Arthur and Erdwina Reibel.
The couple had a variety of ideas for the space such as an arts center and a tavern, but eventually settled on a music theater for summer concerts. While wandering the hallways from one area of the craft show to the next, my grandfather pointed out some of the old concert posters hanging on the wall. Some of the greatest musicians of the time showed at Castle Farms from 1976 to 1993 including Metallica, The Beach Boys, Bon Jovi.
Ozzy Osbourne, and Aerosmith. After perusing the posters, my grandfather recalled that my uncle used to travel from the Upper Peninsula with his friends to see shows at Castle Farms. This was a particularly touching moment for me as my uncle passed away when I was young.
It was great to experience something that was important to him so many years ago! This time period was known as “Rock n Roll Central” for Castle Farms. The property went up for auction in 1999 when Mr. Reibel passed away.