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Pratt's Castle, formerly located at 324 South Fourth Street, Richmond, VA From its completion in 1854, the house of William Abbott Pratt on South Fourth Street at the summit of Gamble's Hill was the city’s most curious, commented upon and photographed residence. Thomas Jefferson’s statehouse and Pratt’s Castle served as defining representations of the city. At a two-day 1940s open house, an estimated 14,000 people trooped through the home. They marveled at the Gothic decorations, the stained-glass windows, a hidden staircase and secret passageways. The place had an air of mystery, from rumors of Edgar Allan Poe’s relationship with Pratt to legends about tunnels leading, some said, to the river. The place was built on a foundation of James River granite with a wooden structure covered by rolled sheet iron, perhaps from Tredegar Iron Works, that Pratt scored and painted to resemble stone. Like a well-made theater set, Pratt’s Castle conveyed the idea of high drama by appealing to a desire for the unusual and fooling the eye: castle dreams on a cottager’s budget. From a WhatWasThere User: PRATT'S CASTLE WAS DEMOLISHED IN 1962, WHEN IT WAS RAZED TO ALLOW THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE HEADQUARTERS BUILDING OF THE ETHYL CORP. I WAS AN ENGINEERING EMPLOYEE OF ALBEMARLE PAPER - THE COMPANY THAT PURCHASED ETHYL FROM GENERAL MOTORS AND DuPont. WE WERE TOLD TO GO TO PRATT'S CASTLE AND SEARCH IT FOR ANYTHING WE DEEMED OF SIGNIFICANT HISTORICAL VALUE, AND MAKE CERTAIN IT WAS NOT DESTROYED IN THE RAZING. THE CASTLE HAD HIDDEN PASSAGES WITHIN SOME OF THE WALLS.. AT ONE PLACE, WHILE STANDING ON THE HIDDEN STAIRS, ONE COULD LOOK INTO A ROOM - THROUGH THE EYES OF A PAINTING ON A WALL - AT THE ACTIVITIES IN THAT ROOM.. THE BUILDING WAS ACTUALLY A WOODEN FRAME STRUCTURE, COVERED WITH EMBOSSED METAL, WHICH AT ONLY A SHORT DISTANCE, APPEARED TO BE STONE. THE LOWER LEVEL - ACTUALLY BELOW GRADE - CONTAINED AN ACTUAL DUNGEON. SOME THE NEIGHBORHOOD CHILDREN (AND SOME ADULTS, TOO) WERE AFRAID TO ENTER THE BUILDING, CONSIDERING IT A HAUNTED HOUSE.. I AM NOT CERTAIN IN WHAT MANNER PRATT'S CASTLE WAS USED IN ITS FINAL YEARS BEFORE ETHYL PURCHASED IT., BUT I THINK IT WAS A ROOMING HOUSE, AS IT WAS NEAR A RUN-DOWN PART OF THE CITY.
Detroit Publishing Company Photograph Collection
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
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