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Cherokee Ranch (Charlford Castle)

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Charlford Castle
1924–1927, Burnham F. Hoyt. 6113 N. Daniels Park Rd. (NR)

The original owner of this twenty-room mansion, Charles A. Johnson, and his wealthy wife, Alice Gifford Phipps, gave architect Burnham Hoyt free rein to create a fifteenth-century Scottish castle on a bluff overlooking the Plum Valley. Hoyt's crew of thirty Cornish stonemasons used rhyolite found on site to build a fantasy that blends beautifully with its surroundings. Hoyt later turned the quarry into a water cistern. Chisel marks reveal that all the stone arches were carved by a single workman, the capitals by another, and the ledges by a third.

The multigabled manor has a high, half-timbered facade. Vermont slate covers the roofs, which bristle with turrets, four towers rising as tall as three stories, and dragon-head gargoyles. Crenelated parapets hark back to storybook medieval warfare with boiling oil and arrows, and the circular stairs built into the turrets spiral downward in counterclockwise rotation to give the advantage to defenders in hand-to-hand combat. The 25-by-40-foot great hall is dominated by round arches of stone and oak, a vaulted oak ceiling with carved rafters, and a musicians' balcony at the rear.

Tweet Kimball acquired the 2,000-acre ranch complete with castle and 6,642-foot Cherokee Mountain for $135,000 in 1954. The original white frame ranch house (1889) is now headquarters for her 6,000-acre ranch specializing in Santa Gertrudis cattle.

Writing Credits

Thomas J. Noel

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