The Henderson Castle: A Midwestern Dream Home in Gilded Age America
Brooks, Elena S.
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This Castle, an extraordinary exception to typical Kalamazoo architecture, has presented a dichotomy in American history because it provides a complete model of Gilded Age society and upper-class values, but it also maintains some unusual aspects that represent the uniqueness of Frank Henderson and the Castle's subsequent owners. Henderson built his home to display his wealth in order to show his rising social status in the rapidly growing community of Kalamazoo. He embodied the values of a typical Gilded Age American man with his ambition and success in business and his desire to provide a comfortable sanctuary for himself and his family to enjoy. The home he built was ideal in its exhibition of style and its deliberate separation from the community at large. Henderson also incorporated some unique and eccentric details in his design that reflected his personal taste and style, such as the nature theme that permeates throughout the interior and landscape of the home as well as his replication of European and medieval elements. Henderson was not alone in his fascination with medieval themes and grandeur and other mansions built throughout the United States at this time reflect this same fascination, but Henderson was only a local entrepreneur living in a small Midwestern town. While Henderson was an important member of the Kalamazoo elite, he was by no means of the same status as the Vanderbilts of New York or the Hearsts of California. Henderson built his home to show his off his new-found wealth and status and the architectural designs that he chose directly related to his cultural values and personal style. The Castle has long struggled to find its place in the Kalamazoo community, but, after over one hundred years atop West Main Hill, it ultimately has succeeded in becoming a landmark for residents and visitors alike to enjoy.