Standing near the shoreline of Lake Michigan, south of Holland, is an old brick castle. The castle was built in 1894 by German Immigrant and Chicago businessman Michael Schwarz. The family with their six daughters lived in the castle for about a year but then moved to Holland and left the old castle abandoned. In 1896, Dr. John Parr purchased the Castle making it into a summertime camp for the boys and girls of Chicago Preparatory School in Chicago where he was the head minister.
It must have been a magical place for a summer camp and many of the children’s parents loved the area so much that they built summer homes near the camp. Dr. Parr and his wife ran the camp until 1917 when his nephew Carter Brown and his wife took over the duties of running the camp. Over the years their children took over managing the camp. by 1960 the camp had grown tremendously, and the taxes and maintenance had become too much and the camp became Camp Park, a private association. The association owns the magnificent castle and it is used as a library and meeting place.
But as Paul Harvey would say, here is the rest of the story. Author L. Frank Baum had a summer cottage nearby in Macatawa and it is said that the castle partly inspired the Wizard of Oz. and that some of the residents of castle park were his inspiration for a few of the characters in the book, such as the tinman. Exactly how much the castle inspired Baum is unknown but west Michigan was where he went to relax and get away from the pressures of daily life.
Castle Park remains as a private community.
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