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Another adventure in MemphisPosted Saturday, March 21, 2009, at 9:55 PM
I discovered this derelict castle in Memphis last weekend, when I missed my turn onto Central Avenue. The castle is squeezed uncomfortably between tall, ugly apartment houses. My daughter sent me some fascinating information about Ashlar Hall, which was built in 1896, when the Snowden family owned about 3,000 acres outside Memphis. The city has grown up around the building, which has a colorful and somewhat riotous history.
Last weekend I made yet another trip to that "Armpit of the South" (thank you, Yellow Rose), called Memphis. I don't really need much of an excuse, since it's only a 3-hour trip, and I love to see my darling daughter. However, I had an added bonus this time, as my first-born son was coming in from Minnesota to present a paper at the American Water Works Association Membrane Technology Forum being held in Memphis. No kidding, that was really the name of it! Yes, yes, my son is one of those engineering nerds who can get excited about ground water. He's an environmental engineer with a PhD and a truly off the wall sense of humor.
Anyway, our sense of humor was stretched to the max, after we picked him up at the airport and headed to the Mariott, only to be cut off at the underpass by a flying red Oldsmobile Aurora, which crashed through the guard rail up above us, came bounding down the hill, bouncing about ten feet in front of us and landing on the grass between the access highway and the highway we were on.
Two adults and a child spilled out of the car, and a third adult appeared to be unconscious with her head on the dashboard. I thought, "Oh, no, I'm gonna see pieces of brain everywhere!"
My daughter called 911, and one of the passersby, a pilot for FedX, told the medics where we were.
By that time, the woman in the dashboard had revived enough to stagger around, yelling, "What happened? What happened? I was asleep! What happened to my car?"
The driver staggered out of the car, yelling, "I don't know! I don't know!" as if he hadn't been there when it happened.
A woman from up on the expressway came down and told us that she was trying to fix a flat, and she thought the driver was "lookin' at my butt and lost control of his car."
When the Memphis fire department ambulance arrived on the scene, they strapped one girl (the quiet one with the blood on her forehead) to a gurney and let the rest of them leave with a friend. They told us we could leave, so we did. Nobody seemed to take the event too seriously, as if this sort of thing happened every day. I guess it does.
Our friend Joe said, "Well, Todd, welcome to Memphis!"
I think my son got a LOT of mileage out of the "car falling from the sky" story, when he gave his presentation. Nothing like a little levity to spice up a dull subject!
Prince Mongo's castle:
Anyway, I have more craziness to report!! I also found a real CASTLE that I'd never seen before! I didn't make the turn I was supposed to, so I continued too far on Lamar Street, and there - sandwiched between high-rise apartment complexes - was a genuine, vine and mold-covered castle! It fronts on Central Avenue, but the back of it, complete with turrets and towers, can be seen on Lamar. My daughter sent me a link with the above photo and a hilarious 2005 interview with "Prince Mongo," the then-owner of Ashlar Hall, a castle built in 1896, when it was outside Memphis on a 3,000-acre estate owned by the Snowden family.
It seems that Prince Mongo, alias Robert Hodges, is a minor Memphis celebrity, who runs for mayor (and loses) in each election. He is a millionaire and self-professed inhabitant of a planet called Zambodia, sent to Earth to save us from all sorts of calamities..."when the time is right" -- (My thinking is that he'd better get started on that project SOON!)
He has been in trouble with the law and his neighbors for allegedly selling alcohol to minors in his various bars (including the castle) and violating rules for how many people could be allowed inside the three-story structure. At the present time, the castle is empty and stands abandoned, but we did see a light in one of the windows. (eerie music)
I gather that this fabulous building was renovated and turned into a restaurant, possibly in the 1990's, but I don't know for how long. The bloggers responding to this link: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news... seem to have some information on it, but I don't know how reliable they are. One of them seems to remember being there in 1988, but that conflicts with some of the other information.
Another interesing link is http://www.dupontcastle.com/castles/ashl....
Whatever the case, the old building is FASCINATING, and I'm determined to find out more about it. Mmmm...I wonder if a reporter from the Tillman Missouri Gazette would be allowed entry????
I'VE GOT IT!! As soon as Mr. Soliman sends me my $8.84 million, I will TRANSPORT Ashlar Castle to the lovely rolling hills of Tillman!! Of course!! How could I not have seen this possiblity sooner?? This fits into my plans quite nicely, wouldn't you say?
From the soon-to-be home of Ashlar Hall, this is your bedazzled roving reporter, signing off with visions of grandeur circling in her head.
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at email@example.com.