Illinois Castles

20080705142500We were out driving a couple of Sundays ago when we stumbled upon the latest castle going up.  Castles in Illinois are kind of rare.  For example, we did stop in the driveway of this castle and take some pictures.  However, they are not completely unknown.

That old adage “A man’s home is his castle” was taken quite literally by a number of old industrialists back in the 19th Century.  The dead white guys who sold the nation dry goods and butchered hogs and drove the trains built impressive edifices all around Chicago.  Many are still around today.  The castle rate does drop as you move out of the city; the suburban farmland seems better suited for bumper crops of box mansions rather than castles.  Still, there are several castles outside of the big city.  The one we discovered – Castle Raven Stone – is just north of Marengo.

Shopping at a castle isn’t as easy as it used to be.  When I was a kid, the jingle of Dispensa’s Castle of Toys filled the airwaves (“in Oakbrook Terrace… Ill-i-nois”).  The Castle Car Wash has closed down in Riverside.  However, Enchanted Castle is still around in Lombard.  And while Water Tower Place itself is more of a big blocky skyscraper, it’s namesake across the street does look a lot like a castle turret.

Finally any food “fit for a king” only tastes better when eaten in a castle.  I can think of several castle oriented pizza parlors.  Sam’s Pizza in Rockford is the closest example of this architecture.  Medieval Times in Schaumburg tries to be more traditional.  They serve fowl (tastes just like chicken) and you can watch a joust while a bawdy wench serves you more mead (or Diet Mead if you prefer).  Then there’s my favorite castle that glows white like crystal upon the night time landscape throughout the suburban land.

Where each evening from December to December,

Before folks drift to sleep upon their cots,

They think back on all the tales they remember

After they drink a lot.

Ask every person if he has a story,

He will tell it strong and wave a lot.

That once there was this place that smelled like onions

And you got them hot.

Apologies to T.H. White, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederic Loewe.


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