Castles in the Sky

On a surprisingly warm, Sunday (Dec.) afternoon under a sunny, azure blue sky I leisurely sauntered over the grounds of the Dunham Woods Riding Club, across the street to the rolling green acres surrounding historic Dunham Castle ….

This is quite a sight to behold (I thought to myself): a real life castle, looking like something straight out of a Walt Disney fairy tale book in all its glory and splendor.

The setting was perfect: a Sunday afternoon, 63 degrees, barely a breeze, and the front doors of a castle swung open to an adoring public.

Two friendly ladies welcomed us inside the entrance, collecting an admission fee, hoping to reach a milestone: $100,000 for “Alex’s Army” a group determined to raise money for cancer research.

Exceptionally tall ceilings, arcing window panes, grand old fireplaces, and centuries old one – of – a -kind tapestries greeted visitors everywhere we turned ….

Very accommodating refreshment tables awaited us in the foyer room to the right; offering gourmet desserts, cupcakes, hot chocolate, and apple cider to one and all who came to call on this splendid Sunday afternoon.

Walking through the main floor was like walking back in time, when neighbors visited each other, relaxing in front of fireplaces, and even playing pianos like the one positioned on the back of the main floor.

This magnificent architectural achievement was built in 1883 by Mark Dunham, (founder of Dunham Woods Riding Club) and is symbolic as a monument to the success and ambition of late 19th century entrepreneurs.

A creaking wooden staircase lead us up to the 2nd floor, where I discovered remarkable views of acres of forest land to the West and South ….

Suddenly a trio of beautiful female choir voices (emanating from girls dressed in period costumes) echoed around the spacious, dignified rooms; beckoning visitors to slow down, relax, and listen to songs of yester – year ….

An amiable real estate lady became the tour guide for me and other two guests as we ventured up another proud, oak staircase revealing an architectural gem: an arching cathedral ceiling with huge wooden beams built by the Armbrust family (who took ownership in 1987).

Between the shadows a distinct ray of sunlight revealed a historical treasure: a newspaper dated March 15th, 1909. Unbelievable !! I thought.

One peak out a window on the 3rd floor and for one significant instant I felt what Mark Dunham, the Armbrust family, and all other owners must’ve felt: this is definitely a one – of – a – kind masterpiece worthy of all your time, attention, etc. because it will all come back to you ten – fold.

Just when I thought I had seen it all, a pristine, black 1947 Bentley pulled up in front of the entrance, gleaming like a black diamond on four wheels …. This extravagant automobile came directly from the old country, complete with a steering wheel on right side and 10 inch head lamps.

A proud owner – chauffeur in a top hat gave three lucky passengers an elegant ride back (across the street) to the Dunham Club as onlookers gazed with envy.

Walking away from the castle, I couldn’t help but wish that I lived back in the 1880’s when this breath taking show place was built and I couldn’t help but wonder how the quality of life would’ve been like back then …. When a pioneer (by the name of Mark Dunham) had the vision, insight, and courage to travel in a covered wagon (with his wife and six kids) from New York to the Midwest and pursue his dreams, ultimately materializing in the form of a castle.


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