Berkeley Springs Castle in Winter
History Berkeley Castle
The warm mineral waters in Berkeley Springs have made it a major vacation destination for centuries. Native Americans came from as far away as Canada to cure ailments. Thomas Jefferson’s father noted it as Medicine Springs in 1747. George Washington enjoyed the spa waters so much that he and his closest friends purchased land in the town.
The English-Norman Berkeley Castle, a National and West Virginia registered historical landmark, was built by Colonel Samuel Taylor Suite between 1885 and 1891. Colonel Suit was a wealthy businessman who fought in the Civil War. When he was 46, Colonel Suit met and fell in love with Rosa Pelham, the 17-year old daughter of Congressman Charles Pelham of Alabama. He tried to persuade her to marry him, but she turned him down. He tried again when the two met five years later, successfully winning her hand with the pledge to build her a castle in the town of Bath (the official name of Berkeley Springs). That afternoon, they climbed the hill to Warm Springs Ridge and marked off the location for their castle. They purchased the land, and a few days later they were married.
Colonel Suit hired famous American architect A.B. Mullett to complete his vision. A.B. Mullett designed such buildings as the U.S. State Department Building, the U.S. Treasury Building, the old San Francisco Mint and the old New York Post Office.
The castle foundation was laid in 1885. About 100 German masons worked on the Castle until its completion in 1891. Built of silica sandstone, each stone was hand-cut from the local area and carried to the site by horse and wagon. Unfortunately, Suit did not live to see his castle completed-he died just before the six-year project was finished. Colonel Suit’s Will stipulated that his young wife had to complete the task in order to inherit his fortune, so she did.
Rosa went on to host elaborate sunset-to-sunrise parties, inviting her debutante friends from around the country and the well-to-do from Washington, DC. Sometimes she would rent whole railroad cars to bring her guests to town and put them up hotels and spas for a week or two at a time. She lived lavishly, hiring orchestras and caterers for every party.
Rosa’s spending habits would eventually catch up with her. By the time she was 50 her funds were depleted and in 1909 the castle sold at public auction. She moved to a small house and raised chickens. A son finally came and took his mother to Idaho.
Since Rosa’s time the castle has been many things. From 1938 to 1954 Dr. Ward Keesecker used the castle and surrounding land for Monte-Vita, a summer camp for boys. In 1954 Walter Bird purchased the castle and opened it up to the public as a museum. The castle remained open to the public until 1999 and its contents were sold. After extensive renovations, the castle again went on the auction block. This time Andrew Gosline purchased it. Mr. Gosline has brought the castle back to the glamour of Rosa’s time. He has restored the gardens and furnished the castle with pieces timely to Rosa’s era. While Berkeley Castle is no longer open for tours, it is available for weddings, fundraisers, and private and corporate events.
Berkeley Springs Castle sign
Berkeley Springs Castle very old picture 1
Berkeley Springs Castle very old picture 2
Like any good English castle, Berkeley Springs Castle has its share of otherworldly residents. Sometimes there are loud crashes upstairs; footsteps when people are not there and furniture rearranged. No one knows who or what walks the castle halls at Berkeley Springs, WV.
Castle employees and visitors alike have reported encountering four spirits, believed to be those of Rosa, the Colonel, a beau of Rosa’s named Jawbone, and a little girl. Psychics do not believe the child is the Suits’ only daughter, who died as a teenager. This spirit, they say belongs to a 7 year old who likes to sing and giggle.
Legend has it that two of Rosa’s suitors died under mysterious circumstances. According to one tale Rosa, in a fit of rage, pushed Jawbone off the roof, while the second suitor accidentally impaled himself upon an umbrella as he fell down the grand staircase. Visitors even today report the presence of unexplained images in the dining room mirrors as well as an over all mysterious presence within the castle.
Old Picture of Berkeley Springs Castle