When I first moved to Lapeer County in the late 1990's, I kept hearing people making reference to Oakdale and talking about the Castle and as I drove around the city of Lapeer, I kept looking for buildings or some sign of the fabled campus. I didn't know until I became a reference desk assistant at the Marguerite deAngeli Library that despite its relatively recent closing (about 6 years at the time) that most of it had already been demolished. Answering questions for patrons about Oakdale only sparked my curiosity more. Little did I know all my research and curiosity would eventually culminate in a book! Of all the things that I wish I could have seen from the Oakdale campus, the Castle is the one building I truly regret not being able to visit. Let me share some of the things I discovered about the Castle with you.
When the Michigan Home for the Feeble Minded and Epileptic first opened it only consisted of two resident cottages and a dining hall; there was no office to admit new residents or for administration personnel to work. Dr. Polglase, the first superintendent, obtained funds to build an administration building and a chapel and construction of the “Castle” began in 1901. It opened in March of 1904 and originally housed the Superintendent and his family while in service at the Home. The Castle contained maple flooring, 99 windows, 2 parlors, 18 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, and 4 flights of stairs. It was constructed with bricks purchased from Lapeer Brick and Tile on Bentley Street and Callis Brick in Mayfield Township and 70 cords of locally purchased stones. The Castle would become the center piece for the Home's beautifully landscaped main campus complete with a pond excavated by residents of the Home in 1909. Picnicking on the grounds and touring the campus was a popular pastime for locals and tourists alike. As state funds began to dry up and the Home (renamed and locally known as Oakdale) was moving toward its imminent closure, the Castle fell into disrepair in the 1970s. While locals worked to raise money to save the building, a fire set by arsonists damaged it too badly to be saved and it was demolished in 1973.
Check out our gallery for early pictures of the Oakdale grounds and the Castle.
Jan at the Reference Desk