Standing in the main ballroom of Springfield’s Pythian Castle, you can feel the history of the room.
“It’s kind of interesting that we have a 100-year-old castle right here in the middle of Springfield and it has very interesting history,” said owner Tamara Finocchiaro, who purchased the castle 13 years ago.
Pythian Castle was built in 1913 by the Knights of Pythias as a orphanage and retirement home until the U.S. military took over it in World War II to house POWs and to serve as a rehabilitation facility for U.S. troops. In the 1940s, the swinging sounds of the era’s big bands filled the ballroom while U.S. troops took to the dance floor.
Finocchiaro purchased the castle with the idea of using it as a banquet space and opened it to the public in 2009 as a cultural arts and events facility.
“Castles are just naturally alluring and we're the first people in the castle’s history to actually open it up to the public,” said Finocchiaro. “So people haven’t been able to experience this historical gem until the last few years. And we’ve found out that people love having a chance to experience the history of it and then just do some fun activities and create their own history while they’re here.”
Children explore the basement of Pythian Castle in Springfield, Missouri.
On a recent tour of the castle, Finocchiaro guided the group of visitors of all ages through the castles corridors while providing fascinating details of its history.
Sherry Edwards and her husband, Eddie Beach, were visiting the castle for the first time.
“I was amazed at the rich history of the building,” said Edwards. “It has had such a variety of owners and occupants over the years, from orphans to POWs. I found myself thinking, that if only the walls could talk, what stories of the human experience they could tell.”
Eddie Beach and Sherry Edwards look at an original inscription by a Japanese POW at Pythian Castle in Springfield, Missouri.
Besides the history tours, Finocchiaro also offers ghost tours and even interactive murder mystery dinners. She says one question she gets a lot is whether the castle is haunted.
“Oh, yes and we sort of found out it was haunted the hard way,” she said. “Nothing scary but I was in the lobby by myself and I heard a voice clear as day say “hello.” No one was around. Ghost tours were added to our schedule once we found that out.” In fact, the castle is considered by some to be one of the more haunted places in the Ozarks.
Tamara Finocchiaro gives a tour to visitors at Pythian Castle in Springfield, Missouri.
To visit Pythian Castle, reservations are required and there are minimums for each so plan your visit carefully and in advance. They also offer holiday parties for New Year’s Eve and Valentines Day or the space can be rented for private parties such as weddings, birthdays, proms and more.
Finocchiaro says she’s proud to be able to share Pythian Castle with the public. “We’ve spent a lot of time and effort to make sure that everybody appreciates how well built this was and how beautiful it is and we hope that even beyond us it is kept for the people of Springfield to enjoy forever.”