Castlewood State Park

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Castlewood State Park was created back in the 1970′s out of the remains of what was once a thriving resort community along the Meramec River. The name comes from the gigantic cliffs, once the edge of an inland sea, that dominate most of the park. The views from the top of the cliffs surely drew the first vacationers here.

People would come out to the area via the train; they would disembark at the bottom of the cliffs and then either climb a long staircase or take a ferry across the river to Lincoln Beach.

The staircase still clings to the side of the gully near the old railroad station–now completely gone–where it appears and disappears in the deep foliage. Originally there were various speakeasies and private clubs on the bluffs, some of which are now private homes.Further along the hiking trail, which was once a precarious road, there are the ruins of the reservoir that stored water for the resort. Every once and a while, a rusted pipe sticks out of the ground in the area, a remnant of the old water system.

The railroad trestle that cuts through the park still bears the marking of the “Scenic Railroad” which brought the crowds out from the city

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Up on the bluffs again, the ruins of a small cabin that could be rented for the weekend still remains on the side of the hill.

Down below sits another cabin that is still in pretty good shape.

Nearby and outside the park, the village of Castlewood still has some of the original inns and clubs that have now been turned into private residences.

Apparently there was a fair amount of gravel dredging in the area back in the day, so much of the lowlands along the river are not the original topography. One can only imagine what it must have been like to come out on the train, through the wilderness essentially since there weren’t any paved roads, and swim in the river or party in the clubs on the bluffs. What’s pretty cool is that the modern borders of Castlewood seem to have been set at least over a hundred years ago when the bulk of the park was owned by “J. Kieffer for the use of C. Gratiot.” Also note the plot inside the larger “Survey 1997,” that there is a plot owned by “Nich. Destrehan.” All three names are now streets in St. Louis or roads in the county. Note the off kilter tilt of the plot; most likely the strange dimensions are indicative of the plot being platted by the Spanish, who did not obsess with the grid system that permeates the land of the United States. Who the Spanish originally gave the plot to is a mystery.

Sadly, the history of Castlewood’s life as a resort community is difficult to research; there is no one singular source that one can read for information on the area. Instead I have pieced this information together from talking to park rangers, local pamphlets and other books that detail the history of the county in general.

 

26 Responses

  1. Nick

    12/11/2007, 03:49 am

    Chris, I think your wrote this for me! I am facinated my the area that Castlewood once was. I have tried extensive web searches and like you have found very little. Thanks for the info you have provided. I really wonder why there aren’t any photos or more details on this area. I wonder if the city of Ballwin or the local library might have something of interest.

    Reply
  2. Chris

    12/11/2007, 07:02 pm

    Nick,There are actually a lot of photos; it’s just that they’re not located in one central location. Ballwin is pretty bad about preserving its history, but I imagine that the Missouri Historical Society might have a good collection of photos.Congrats on the job by the way. You wouldn’t need any help, would you?

    Reply
  3. Susan

    04/23/2009, 03:20 am

    Did you ever happen upon any history regarding the Lone Wolf Restaurant? It’s remains are located next to the Wildlife Sanctuary. My son is very interested because his dad told him that his..not sure how many “great” grandparents use to own land and that they owned and/or operated the Lone Wolf Restaurant. The last name is Alley. Just wondering if you had happened on any information. Thanks!

    Reply
  4. Chris

    04/23/2009, 03:52 am

    Susan,I wish I knew more; most of what I’ve found out about the park is from talking to park rangers. I know there is a Lone Wolf Trail–no doubt named after the restaurant. Let me know if I can help; it seems from Google search that you know alot about the area.

    Reply
  5. Sandpit

    12/20/2009, 10:59 pm

    My great uncle owned a large cabin in Castlewood in the 1920's-1936. I have an extensive picture collection from that era. I too am fascinated by the area as I heard about it my entire life from my mother. Her memories from that era were ones of great joy.

    Reply
  6. jan

    03/29/2010, 06:07 pm

    I lived on East Hill drive from 1958 until 1973. My parents sold their home there in the 1980's. Miss Alley was a sweet lady who lived along the roadway within the gates of Eddie Paul's farm. Eddie was a little touched in his latter years. When I was a teenager he tried to run me over with his jeep one day while I was walking home from school, just for the sport of it. I ran up the hill where the remanants of the old Catholic church was. I was told that Miss Alley was related to Mr. Paul. She was a very sweet lady and always exceedingly kind. She gave my sister a duck to raise one spring. That thing followed her around everywhere.There were at least a dozen houses following the strip along the left side of East Hill when I was growing up. Eddie leased a few of them but he was also accused of burning them down, one by one. The house directly across the street from us was owned by an older couple called the "Kerns" I believe when we were little. The house fascinated us because it was full of beds and bedrooms. From what I have read on the history of the town this may have originally been one of the inns that were used for city folks to crash for the weekend. The house caught fire in the early 70's and it was history once the fire hit the propane tanks. The heat was so intense that I felt my skin burning just watching the fire from our living room window.During the 70's a lot of the old cabins and houses along the cliffs became occupied with the hippie types that were seeking refuge from the city and a place to enjoy their weed without a lot of attention. We had long haired types roaming the hills and I was facinated by them. My parents were mortified. LOL!Lincoln Lodge burned to the ground in the early 70's, as well. It was a colorful place to grow up. With all of the fires I am glad that at least some of the history has been preserved.The last time I was down there I tried to find the old jail house that once sat across the street from the pool. I didn't see any of its remanants this time so it has probably gone the way of the dinosaur, as has the old pool and clubhouse. When I was a little girl the pool was owned by a family called the "Kennedy's" from what I recall. They once turned our neighbors daughter away from the place because she was so tanned that they thought she was not caucasian. It was my first encounter with racism. I didn't understand it as a child.I remember when the old hotel was still standing along the railroad tracks near the river. A large family was renting what remained of the place. The concrete stairs outlasted the hotel by decades.I have a few other interesting stories from that era but I will save them for another time. Some could get me in trouble. LOL!

    Reply
  7. jan

    03/29/2010, 06:07 pm

    I lived on East Hill drive from 1958 until 1973. My parents sold their home there in the 1980's. Miss Alley was a sweet lady who lived along the roadway within the gates of Eddie Paul's farm. Eddie was a little touched in his latter years. When I was a teenager he tried to run me over with his jeep one day while I was walking home from school, just for the sport of it. I ran up the hill where the remanants of the old Catholic church was. I was told that Miss Alley was related to Mr. Paul. She was a very sweet lady and always exceedingly kind. She gave my sister a duck to raise one spring. That thing followed her around everywhere.There were at least a dozen houses following the strip along the left side of East Hill when I was growing up. Eddie leased a few of them but he was also accused of burning them down, one by one. The house directly across the street from us was owned by an older couple called the "Kerns" I believe when we were little. The house fascinated us because it was full of beds and bedrooms. From what I have read on the history of the town this may have originally been one of the inns that were used for city folks to crash for the weekend. The house caught fire in the early 70's and it was history once the fire hit the propane tanks. The heat was so intense that I felt my skin burning just watching the fire from our living room window.During the 70's a lot of the old cabins and houses along the cliffs became occupied with the hippie types that were seeking refuge from the city and a place to enjoy their weed without a lot of attention. We had long haired types roaming the hills and I was facinated by them. My parents were mortified. LOL!Lincoln Lodge burned to the ground in the early 70's, as well. It was a colorful place to grow up. With all of the fires I am glad that at least some of the history has been preserved.The last time I was down there I tried to find the old jail house that once sat across the street from the pool. I didn't see any of its remanants this time so it has probably gone the way of the dinosaur, as has the old pool and clubhouse. When I was a little girl the pool was owned by a family called the "Kennedy's" from what I recall. They once turned our neighbors daughter away from the place because she was so tanned that they thought she was not caucasian. It was my first encounter with racism. I didn't understand it as a child.I remember when the old hotel was still standing along the railroad tracks near the river. A large family was renting what remained of the place. The concrete stairs outlasted the hotel by decades.I have a few other interesting stories from that era but I will save them for another time. Some could get me in trouble. LOL!

    Reply
  8. Paul McCain

    04/05/2010, 05:13 pm

    Thank you very much for this post. I am fascinated by the history of this area. We were just hiking there yesterday and I was wondering what some of the structures were that I saw, at least, what's left of them. Thanks for filling in a lot of missing pieces for me.

    Reply
  9. Chris

    05/04/2010, 05:32 am

    My uncle's mother was Sally Alley. I can remember spending time at the Lone Wolf and at the farm. We had a clubhouse on the Meramec until the Parks Department bought us out. My grandfather owned Lincoln Lodge and I can still remember sitting at the bar with my father eating Hershey bars while Danny and Franky served him cocktails.

    Reply
  10. Chris

    05/04/2010, 05:36 am

    My uncle's mother was Sally Alley. I can remember visiting The Lone Wolf and the farm as a child. My grandfather owned Lincoln Lodge and I used to go there often with my father and sit at the bar eating Hershey candy bars while Danny and Franky served my father cocktails. My parents and their friends owned a clubhouse on the Meramec for years until the Parks Department bought us out to build Castlewood Park.

    Reply
  11. Tammy (nee) Harder

    08/24/2010, 11:49 pm

    Just stumbled upon this website. I was trying to see if I could find out any information about my uncle's involvement in Castlewood. His name was Richard Harder and he owned Harder Contracting Company. My father, Clifford Harder, worked for him as a crane operator. They were probably responsible for the dredging that was talked about on your site. I remember that my uncle also owned 2 bars in Castlewood. One was named "The Trees". It had big tables that were cut cross sections of huge trees. I have a picture of myself taken sitting with my cousin on the old concrete steps that went down to the water. Probably taken around 1947 or 48.

    Reply
  12. Anonymous

    01/12/2011, 12:10 am

    Oh I remember The Lone Wolf, we use to go there in the early 70's. We use to go see the band 'The Road Apples' every time they played there! It was one of my favorite places in the world. Sooo sad it burned, I think all that is left is the entry stones and maybe the chimmeny. Good memories of that place!

    Reply
  13. Chris

    01/12/2011, 02:12 pm

    Where was the Lone Wolf at exactly? Thanks everyone for providing all of the interesting information. The Wildlife Sanctuary is on the south side of the river, right?

    Reply
  14. Anonymous

    03/13/2011, 03:45 am

    hey! i just came across this site.I was born in castlewood and have a lot of info.I remember alot of things if someone could get ahold of me. my name is sandra wirsing feick but do not do well on computers.plEASE FEEL FREE TO CALL ME-I Hve tried to reach mrs barrett price with no luck.please no crank calls-i am posting my # hoping to find the right people to add my info and find out missing info. my address was 625 castlewood drive. 636-375-3435. serious inquiries only.

    Reply
  15. Anonymous

    09/16/2011, 01:43 pm

    Lived in Castlewood from 1968 – 2007. I was born and raised in the community. As a youngster I explored all the territory from Valley Park, through Castlewood and Sherman/Jedburgh to Glencoe along the Meramec River on foot, on a dirtbike (1971 Honda XL250) and a 4-wheel drive (1965 International Scout). I listened to the stories about the area from the elders of the community. Stories about places I had expored, "Castlewood Landing", "Lincoln Lodge",and so many others. Sources were, My father Clyde Pfountz Jr, Clyde Pfountz Sr, Eddie Paul, Russell Dickinson, Stanley Kietz, and others I'm having trouble remembering their names. As a Boy Scout I helped clear the land, tear down old club houses and lay trails for the establishment of Castlewood state park. From exploration I've discovered so many structures and artifacts hidden in the woods. Found buried trash dumps with artifacts dating back as far as the early 1900's. Played in the abandoned church on Eddie Paul Hill, explored the abandoned houses and cars all along the river and in the hills hidden in the woods, one had a sedan from the 40's in front of the collapsed house, so many abandoned concrete structures. Many foundations, stairs, cisterns. Cisterns that dated back before Clyde Pfountz Sr and Jr, Russell Dickinson and others started the Castlewood Water District and started building the water service infrastructure, laying water mains and pipes, installing pumps from the deep rock wells and the water tower for local water service. It was a great place to grow up. I used to refer to Castlewood as "The Town That Time Forgot". When I was young "The Lone Wolf", "Breits Tavern", the log cabin which was orignally called "The Trees", "Dickinsons Market", "Dubuques Antiques", "The old firehouse" which was originally owned by a convent, were all in operation. The town is loaded with history. I'm rather proud to be a part of that history. If you want to know anything more, feel free to e-mail or call me. raypfountz@yahoo.com. 314-223-6826.

    Reply
  16. Wild Bill

    10/10/2011, 09:47 pm

    I Frequented the Lone Wolf in the 1980's after returning from school in San Antonio, Texas. It most duplicated the kind of places in small Texas towns that I loved to frequent and dance. When Eddie Pahl died, The Apted Family (Miss Hullings, Cheshire Inn, St Louis…) took over..sometime around then…and turned it into an Urban Cowboy Honky tonk, following the recently released movie by the same name. People took it on as a trend from cowboy boots to hats. They even had a mechanical bull on the patio for a time. The place was packed on weekends with mostly non residents. I lived in Manchester at that time. Kay Thompson ran a real stagecoach drawn by draft horses between the old "Ponderosa" restaurant, a log cabin on North New Ballwin Road and the Lone Wolf all night long on weekends. As I knew the owners son I befriended the place and would ride my motorcycle out and park under the stone breezeway. The Lone Wolf Band played classic country songs but no one knew how to dance Texas style. I had to teach every gal how, and ultimately was asked to teach free lessons a few nights a week for tips and drinks. Since I didn't drink anything but orange juice I was a find for them! I got the house in order and people were two stepping, western swingin and later some line dancing. We packed the place on Wednesday and Thursday for dancing and then it became too crowded on weekends with such great popularity. I boarded my white horse along with a band member's horse out in the large dairy barn..now replaced by the wildlife sanctuary. We would ride Castlewood Park and even Tyson Park. This is back before mountain bikes were ever seen, much less many folks. I think we added to the cowboy feel of the Lone Wolf. The interior of the tavern was all western art and authenic objects like pony express rider pictures on the walls and western saddles in the rafters.. More stories to be had about the mysteries and magic of that wonderful speakeasy The Lone Wolf will come. Meanwhile go to The Lone Wolf Club on facebook and like the page. It's a dedication page hoping to catch all the stories and pictures specific to its rich history from those who experienced it first hand! Please contribute if you can. Thanks,Bill Webster

    Reply
  17. Wild Bill

    10/10/2011, 09:49 pm

    I Frequented the Lone Wolf in the 1980's after returning from school in San Antonio, Texas. It most duplicated the kind of places in small Texas towns that I loved to frequent and dance. When Eddie Pahl died, The Apted Family (Miss Hullings, Cheshire Inn, St Louis…) took over..sometime around then…and turned it into an Urban Cowboy Honky tonk, following the recently released movie by the same name. People took it on as a trend from cowboy boots to hats. They even had a mechanical bull on the patio for a time. The place was packed on weekends with mostly non residents. I lived in Manchester at that time. Kay Thompson ran a real stagecoach drawn by draft horses between the old "Ponderosa" restaurant, a log cabin on North New Ballwin Road and the Lone Wolf all night long on weekends. As I knew the owners son I befriended the place and would ride my motorcycle out and park under the stone breezeway. The Lone Wolf Band played classic country songs but no one knew how to dance Texas style. I had to teach every gal how, and ultimately was asked to teach free lessons a few nights a week for tips and drinks. Since I didn't drink anything but orange juice I was a find for them! I got the house in order and people were two stepping, western swingin and later some line dancing. We packed the place on Wednesday and Thursday for dancing and then it became too crowded on weekends with such great popularity. I boarded my white horse along with a band member's horse out in the large dairy barn..now replaced by the wildlife sanctuary. We would ride Castlewood Park and even Tyson Park. This is back before mountain bikes were ever seen, much less many folks. I think we added to the cowboy feel of the Lone Wolf. The interior of the tavern was all western art and authenic objects like pony express rider pictures on the walls and western saddles in the rafters.. More stories to be had about the mysteries and magic of that wonderful speakeasy The Lone Wolf will come. Meanwhile go to The Lone Wolf Club on facebook and like the page. It's a dedication page hoping to catch all the stories and pictures specific to its rich history from those who experienced it first hand! Please contribute if you can. Thanks,Bill Webster

    Reply
  18. coneill

    02/27/2012, 01:59 am

    I just stumbled upon this site! And am so glad I did. I hike/run Castlewood alot and love the area. I always wondered about the cabins and who had visited the area. Much to my delight I found a bit of info on how Castlewood was an incredible resort town in the 20's and 30's! I would love to know more. Does anyone know where photos can be found or if there is a book on the resort. If those trees could talk I bet we would hear some good stories.

    Reply
    • nancy

      07/14/2013, 01:01 am

      Coneill, the park office has a lot of old pictures from that era. It’s not always open….you have to catch it when a ranger is there.

      Reply
      • Chris Naffziger

        07/14/2013, 07:52 pm

        Yeah, I looked at them about ten years ago, but like you said, it’s hard to catch the office when it’s open.

        Reply
        • Em

          07/15/2013, 08:41 am

          This summer the office is generally staffed 8am-4pm, with a friendly interpreter to greet you :) Check out Missouri State Park’s event page- Castlewood is offering several history-themed interpretive events in the next few weeks!

          Reply
  19. Barbara

    03/23/2012, 07:18 pm

    My name is Barbara and I just want to correct some of your comments I just read.My Grandparents had a "club house", summer home what every you want to call it on East Hill Drive.They bought it in 1932 and named it "ALL INN" referrng that after everyone had come home that evening after visiting some of the local watering holes as Bill Britts,Dickersons and Reins or having a chicken dinner at Halls by the rail road tracks on the road to Lincoln Beach.That's wasthe reason nameAll INN.The Currans not Kern,Hohmanns,Prices,Barretts,enjoyed it for manny years and had lots of friends fron the city over the weekend to Bar-BQ and enjoy the cooler weather there in the summer. The house had a large,LR,sun roon,kitchen on the first floor. The second floor the women and children slept,the third floor the men slept. As a child growning up my brother George and I spent lots of summers in Castlewood,swimming,walking up to the cliff to look out and see the trains and the river.We loved to go along the creeks and catch craw fish…. We would stop at one of the watering holes and get a "chocolate soda" before heading up the big road "East Hill Drive" . We knew everyone there and no one was afraid of your children walking along the roads back then. MY HOW TIMES HAVE CHANGED!!!! I remember we could not wait to get out to the club house and play with our friends the kids who lived across the road from us..the Browms.Buster,Earl, and Barbara…wonder what every happen to them ????Regarding Eddie Paul we were always aware that he had dogs and they would sometimes chase us up the road so we would try and be very quiet as we walked on the rock road as not to disturb the dogs…I really do not think they would bite us as they stayed on their own property but it was always exciting to sneak by them without them seeing or hearing us…My grandparents were getting older as were our parents,aunts,uncles so it was time for them to sell that wonderful "summer house". They sold it around 1965/66 just after I was married. I will always have fond wonderful memories of Castlewood As to what every happen to the ole house after my grandparents sold it I do not know…I did hear that it burned down but we still have all the memories that will never burn out…Thats why after I married my husband and I bought a lake house at the lake of the ozarks as our children too have many wonderful memories of the summers growning up….:-)

    Reply
  20. Lamz633

    11/22/2012, 06:56 pm

    I graduated from Parkway West in 1970 and shortly thereafter moved to Castlewood. I was one of the “hippies” mentioned above. Lived on Sontag when Russell Bliss sprayed his dioxin oil on the road, other roads in Castlewood, and the town of Times Beach (see Wiki – Times Beach, Missouri). We had a big German Shepherd wolf lookin’ dog, Wizard (1971). There were a couple of Wizard’s puppies that died. Not sure if it was the oil or the raw sewage running down the hill that got em, no sewer system in Castlewood at that time.

    Used to go to Bill Breit’s Tavern, now the Elks Lodge. He had several sepia tinted photgraphs about 6 inches by 24 inches that showed hundreds of people in one piece striped bathing suits. The pictures were taken on the sand beach in Sherman just down the tracks from Castlewood. There were 2 daily trains during Prohibition that went from downtown St Louis to Sherman via Castlewood. There was a roundhouse in Sherman to turn the train around.

    During Prohibition there were 30 some residents of Castlewood and 33 Taverns offering illegal alcohol, gambling, and probably other vices. One of the bigger ones was Eddie Paul’s. Last time I was down there it was still standing and being used as a wildlife sanctuary. In the early 70′s it was being used as a bar. Missouri had “blue laws” at this time and only 3.2% beer could be sold on Sunday. Well Eddie Paul was only open on Sunday. After a knock on the door an old woman would look out the speakeasy port on the door and you were invited in if she knew you. Usually she would say, “Eddie is back in the small bar today, go on back”. There were at least 2 bars that I knew of in the building on the north end that looked like a chicken house. The big one was square, had tooled leather panels on it, the lights were wagon wheels with neon tubes around them. The small bar sat 6 or 8. I forget how much a bottle of 3.2 beer cost, but I do remember that for 75 cents he would sell 3 fingers of bourbon to go with that weak beer. I enjoyed many a Sunday afternoon at Eddies. Eddie used to say that one day gambling would be legal again in Missouri and that he was ready for that. Close to the small bar was a room with a big padlock on the door and a sign above that said, ‘Shoot The Works”. One Sunday Eddie took me into the Shoot The Works room and I was speachles. I had never seen so many neat old gambling devices in my life, dice tables, roulette wheels, slot machines, you name it. I moved to Columbia, Mo in ’75 to go back to school. While I was gone Eddie died, The Cheshire Inn bought his estate and turned it into a country bar called the Lone Wolf. I always wondered what happened to the contents of the shoot the works room?

    In the early 1900s, the area that’s now Castlewood State Park was a popular retreat for partying St. Louisans. The dance clubs are gone, but the winding Meramec River and the lush valley that surrounds it remain.

    Another good friend had a house on the East end of the cliff. There is a wide trail from down around the railroad bridge that goes to the cliff, that used to be a road. At the top of that road was 3 houses and the well house for the Castlewood water system. The 3 houses are gone except for foundations, the last time I was up on the cliff the well house was still there minus its roof. This was the site of the highest rope swing in St Louis County. My friend leased the house from the Rankin Estate (France) they owned a lot of the land that makes up Castlewood State Park. The 3 bedroom house with screened in back porch that hung over the cliff was a speakeasy in the 20′s, had the speakeasy port on the front door (2 inch thick oak) with bars on the outside. A firplace that could burn 4 foot logs made of stone. The rent was $175 per year with a 5 year lease. The nextdoor neighbor to the west was teaching photography and was wanted by the FBI for an explosion at an ROTC building, he left suddenly one afternoon. Every once in a while the St Louis County Police would want to see what was going on up there and it usually ended badly for them. A flat tire, broken leaf spring, broken drive shaft, oil pan puncture, etc. This was not a road you drove unless you knew it. I never had a problem, but then I knew how to go from Valley Park to Sherman via Glencoe without using a paved road, LOL. When the Rankin Estate sold out to the Parks Department the Park Ranger came up and told my friend he had to leave. A lease had just been signed, he did not want to leave, and lawyers were hired. Before the case could be heard the house burned to the ground. The fire was reportedly started at 2 a.m. with an accelerant, and not by my friend as he wanted to continue to live there.
    Today the road in the park goes under the railroad tracks and back to the river. Back in the day there was a chain link fence across the railroad bridge and my frind had the key as he ran the Castlewood water system. Drive in lock the gate go fishin’, skinny dippin’, it was like a private resort. Had a great time out there, some thought we were having too great a time.
    I can be reached at lamz633@gmail.com, I do not post phone numbers on public sites. There is a lot more, and a lot not fit for print, we were all hippies, but we were all working, some more honestly then others, enjoy!

    Reply

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