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Friday, Nov. 28, 2014

Another adventure in Memphis

Posted Saturday, March 21, 2009, at 9:55 PM

(Photo)
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.
Since the name of my blog is "Off the Wall," I feel obligated to post this new entry in the name of pure idiocy and WEIRDNESS.

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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You can find more interior and exterior pictures of Ashlar Hall on my Facebook page. Rising Fyre Productions has optioned the screenplay of the novel The Hall, and will hopefully be making a feature length movie in the next year or so.

https://www.facebook.com/K.RoweAuthor?re...

Enjoy!

-- Posted by Sturgeon3736 on Mon, Jan 21, 2013, at 1:10 PM

Sturgeon3736 please share inside photos of the castle!!!!!

-- Posted by Jqwalls on Sat, Jul 7, 2012, at 10:50 PM

It may sound crazy, but I know Prince Mongo, and he still owns the Castle. It's no longer a club, and the insides have gotten some damage. But there are still parts of the original plaster and wood work that are intact. And I don't know how, but nearly all the stained glass is OK too.

I used to pass Ashlar Hall every day to work and always thought it would be a great place to write a horror novel about. Well, 20 years later, that's what I'm doing. Simply called "The Hall" I've been collaborating with Mongo on the project, and he's even agreed to be a character in the book-(a lively one!). He had his friends take recent photos of the castle, and I contacted the National Register of Historic Places and have the original nomination package for the building. Fascinating reading!

Prince Mongo has a Facebook page, he has over 5,000 fans and growing. Yes, he's terribly eccentric, and talking to him on the phone is an interesting experience. But all in all, he's actually a wonderful person who really does care about the homeless. He emailed me the other day to tell me that he took some of the kids from St. Jude's Children's Hospital sledding in the snow. He joked that it was hard to walk on ice with bare feet. Yup, he doesn't wear shoes- even in winter. And he also tells me the spirits in the castle like to play pranks on him.

I never thought I'd have the luck to cross paths with the owner of the castle- let alone it be a Memphis notable. It's been fun, and it hope the book captures the "spirit" of the fantastic old building and the eccentric owner.

-- Posted by Sturgeon3736 on Wed, Feb 16, 2011, at 5:14 PM

Kristy, this is a wonderful first-hand information about the castle! I wish you had discovered the blog last year when Madeline first posted it, so everyone could have shared in your knowledge! Your description is exactly how I would have imagined the place!!

It seems that when people have too much fun in a location, the "Powers That Be" can't tolerate such joy! Of course, if drugs were involved, that's a sure kiss of death!

Maybe Madeline will one day post an update on this delightfully weird topic!!

-- Posted by goat lady on Thu, Aug 26, 2010, at 9:26 AM

Hello, blogger. I grew up in Memphis, TN, lived there for 23 years of my life. I also have a fascination with The Castle, I guess because it is so unique and looks kind of creepy lol. When I was about 19 years old, the castle was at its finest! This is when Prince Mongo ran it, and used it as a club. When we would pull up for an anticipated night of partying, it felt like we had arrived at Dracula's castle. For years, an old funeral home hearse sat out side in front. This was part of Prince Mongos idea of decoration, and it contributed to the decor! When you enter the castle, it feels just like it looks..an old castle with a creepy victorian decor. The inside is made of original wooden floors, and large red velvet drapes cover the windows. As you walk through the main forum, there are hallways and rooms throughout the building. A large stair case leads to other "hang out spots" (At that time, these other hang out spots were used for making out and pretty much doping whatever. The bar was awesome. There were beams of light shooting directly over the bar counter, so the bartenders would make drinks in the beams of light for effect. Pretty cool. Eveeryone dresses in the craziest outfits, and wore their makeup and clothes to a prince mongo extreme. Anything was okay at the Castle. At first, I was a little intimidated, but when I realized how free everyone felt, I felt like I could simply enjoy myself. An old grand piano sat in the main area (probably the old living room...huge) and people would take turns playing on it. Some people danced, while others hung out on the stairs, sat in the different gathering rooms, or partied in the bar area. The house has a flow to it. Each room allows an exit or entry into the next. It is true that Prince Mongo was repeatedly investigated for his management of the Castle. There is no doubt that too many people were allowed in the club, and it was unsafe in case of an emergency. Not to mention, the large pool that occupies the back, (or moat...whatever you wanna call it). People would get drunk, and jump in! Basically, it was the ultimate, weird, party spot. Of course, people had too much fun, and the Memphis police shut it down. It still sits there...looking drab...in the middle of a bustling city. Every time I pass it, I am reminded of the good times we all had there. I've wished over and over I had the money to purchase it, and turn it into something wonderful! Even after it closed, the hearse sat outside for years. That was the weirdest thing about it. lol

-- Posted by kristy1028 on Thu, Aug 12, 2010, at 2:53 AM

Buckelew, though I'm a bit envious that you've actually been inside the castle, I also find your account rather disturbing....so I guess it's just as well that I wasn't around at the time!

Most of us live sheltered lives here in the heartland. Though I might like to visit Ashlar Hall, once it's moved to Tillman, Mo., I would hope that it's spotted past is left behind!

-- Posted by goat lady on Thu, Sep 3, 2009, at 9:33 PM

My memory of "The Castle" was Thanksgiving weekend 1992, meeting my old college roommate, up from Miami, for one more wild Memphis weekend.

I was on the dance floor with two beautiful women twice my age; he was at the bar talking to a girl I recognized. Sure enough, she was a senior my freshman year in a rural Middle Tennessee high school. Oh the crushed I'd had on her! Absolute FEAR contorted her smile as I screamed her name. Surprised, Ed asked, "Do you know her?!" and I said "Yeah, we went to high school together!" After we left, Ed told me he knew her as a recovering drug addict and prostitute in New York City!!

After crashing a few parties, Ed invited me to stay with another of his friends downtown. We got there about 2AM, and Mike was waiting up for us. I was there for five minutes and the phone rang. Mike answered, talked a little while and said, "Well, praise Satan! That's great!" This required an immediate council outside. Ed told me he knew Mike from college and clubbing, that Mike had this thing for heroin addicts, strippers, Satan, etc.

Needless to say, that was the end of my stay in Memphis. All the hotels were probably booked up, so I drove the rest of the night to get home, getting hypnotized by the road near the AL/MS line and waking up in Sheffield!

And it all started at The Castle.

-- Posted by Buckelew on Mon, Aug 31, 2009, at 3:27 PM

This is EXACTLY the information we need here, FJ! This is perfect to round out our totally unbiased blog on the Armpit of the South! Armed with these statistics, we can analyze the crime rate in the city and come to some accurate conclusions!

Alas, I fear that Ashlar Hall is lost, unless we can gather up the funds to move it to the peaceful, rolling hills of Tillman.

If we're lucky, we'll also move the resident ghosts, who will be very handy in plans to turn the Memphis eyesore into a Southeast Missouri tourist attraction!!

-- Posted by goat lady on Sun, Mar 29, 2009, at 10:35 PM

It was discussed in a previous blog that Memphis is one of the highest crime cities in the U.S., but like all cities some areas are better and worse than others The Memphis police have a webpage where you can enter an address and find all the various types of crimes committed in the last 30 days within either a 1/4, 1/2 or 1 mile radius. For example, I looked up the address of Ashlar Hall, and within a 1 mile radius 20 burglaries, 2 rapes, 5 stolen vehicles, and 0 (Yeah!!) homicides have been reported in the last 30 days. The police webpage is, https://crimemapper.memphispolice.org/cr...

-- Posted by FJGuy on Sun, Mar 29, 2009, at 3:49 PM

Wow! That is REALLY scary!

-- Posted by goat lady on Sun, Mar 29, 2009, at 8:26 AM

Prince Mongo is legally crazy. No kidding. And as for Memphis, and any unfortunate soul that walks that city; praise God if you get out alive! My girlfriend was robbed at gunpoint last summer by 3 black *******! There is a warzone there and if you go there, YOU WILL GET ROBBED! Graceland is in the middle of the GHETTO! I hope Memphis falls off the face of the planet!

-- Posted by sunndance on Sat, Mar 28, 2009, at 11:32 AM

MD, this is a picture of the entire Ashlar Hall property from directly above. It is a good sized swimming pool. http://forejustice.org/md/ashlar_hall_to...

This is Google Earth's satelite photo of Advance (with street names filed in), http://forejustice.org/md/advance_mo.jpg

This is the link to Virtual Earth. It should work on dial-up, although it would be a bit slow because so much data is transmitted. http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&cp...

-- Posted by FJGuy on Thu, Mar 26, 2009, at 1:53 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
I'm on the DSL system at the office, and everything is SLOOOOW today, it seems! I've been able to see the new photo of Ashlar Hall (minus the cows), and that Google Earth photo of Advance is pretty clear. It isn't current, as there are now NO BUILDINGS in the entire block in the middle of town (I use the word "town" loosely these days). The block bordered by Gabriel, Ash, Sturdivant, and Cypress has been leveled as of this week in preparation for a new medical center. (Believe me, it was an improvement!)

I've tried to operate the map in your Virtual Earth link, but I can't control it. It just takes off across Texas or Louisiana or wherever it wants to wander! Maybe I can fool around with it some more tomorrow.

This is all FASCINATING!

MD, this is the Live Earth view of Ashlar Hall from the back. The turret to defend against invaders is clearly visible, http://forejustice.org/md/ashlar_hall_ae...

-- Posted by FJGuy on Wed, Mar 25, 2009, at 7:23 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Wow! This aerial view of the castle is AMAZING!! FJ, you are a wonder!!

I had read the comments about how "Prince Mongo" got in trouble for letting guests swim naked in the pool (fortunately none of the guests show up in the photo!), and I thought, "Pool? What pool?" From the front of the castle, there is no way to see all that stuff in the back yard. There's a pool all right, and it looks as if he has two COWS poolside!! However, I feel sure that those are plywood cutouts!

Live Earth is phenominal! I've tried without success to use it on my home dial-up, but I've never tried it on DSL at the office. I'll have to check into it!

Thanks a bunch for this wonderful addition to my blog!!

MD - I hope you get that castle transported to Tillman so I can come visit it!! It's always delightful to find hidden treasures.

-- Posted by SKDellinger on Wed, Mar 25, 2009, at 5:58 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
I agree, Dellinger! This is super-dooper, big-time fantasy!! I really have my work cut out for me if I get that $8.83 million, though: Take a look at the aerial view that FJGuy found - I had no idea the castle had all those extensions on back! I wonder what they are?? I may have to settle for the main part of the castle and leave the extras behind!

I'll bet it would take a veeeerrrry large portion of my money to get it to Tillman!! Hahahaha! Can't you see it being transported down Highway 25??? I might have to buy and transport it a stone at a time!!!

Try Houston's/5000 Poplar!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yummy

-- Posted by shannonhoon on Tue, Mar 24, 2009, at 12:24 PM

kk, Silky's still is a hoppin joint and the ribs at Rendevous are still great with servers that have been there 30 years. Yes, Memphis has it's bad parts, but it sure does have a lot of soul. It's a great place to eat and drink.

-- Posted by BonScott on Mon, Mar 23, 2009, at 7:27 PM

Dear Ms. D - I love this story! You really have a talent for painting a picture with words. I can just imagine the aforementioned driver losing control of his car while admiring the backside of the lovely lady changing her tire.....As for the suggestion of obtaining a GPS system, our daughter says that is one of the best gifts we have given her. She can find any address without fear of being lost thanks to the TomTom......Thanks for the smile today ;)

-- Posted by cheers4dhs on Mon, Mar 23, 2009, at 10:26 AM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Thanks, cheers! Too bad I'm not as fond of numbers as I am of words! However, I find the two fields contradictory!

I've promised myself that I must get a GPS system, but it hasn't happened yet! Do you think it'll take too much of the mystery out of life???

Maddy!!!!The Armpit of the South????I must take umbrage, but nonetheless acknowledge that I have not been within the confines of Shelby County, Tennesee in some thirty years!!!(sic)or sick if you will!!!We used to drive down from the way south end of MO to go party on Overton Square when Silky's was still a hoppin joint, or go over to the Rendevous for ribs.....spent a few years in Memphis over one or two weekends, just too many party "favors" to remember exactly, but an old girlfriend of mine from Little Rock can attest to at least four trips across the river from Arkansas, to PARTY!!!!! Sadly though, your assessment is more probably accurate than my distant memories, though I will be doing my darndest to be down on the river for the BBQ event in May this year with my buds from KCBS....MEMPHIS ROCKS!!(but you still got to know where to go, Raleigh, White Station, out east, and south into the Missisippi suburbs.....Sardis Lake is a hoot, but you gotta know WHERE to GO!!!

Glad to hear that the offspring is into groundwater preservation technology, the Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club, and my buds in the caving community, are all most interested in the subject, ground water fails, and we all drink from cisterns!!! molater, kk

-- Posted by kkcaver47 on Sun, Mar 22, 2009, at 9:06 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Not my phrase, kk! One of our blogger buddies labeled Memphis "the armpit of the South"!

It is a city of striking contrasts. I love the old, towering trees that make ours look TINY! So many areas are beautifully landscaped with flowering dogwood, cherry, tulip trees, and (soon) azaelas. I love to drive through the old sections and see the old Southern charm....

...but THEN, just when I think, "Ah, I must move down here!" I find myself in a slum area with broken-down cars, broken-windowed houses, trash, and aimless, ragged people out looking for trouble....

And, of course, I am long past the partying stage...

When my son went into environmental engineering, it (unfortunately) meant that he would probably be moving out of Missouri, a state which is not known for its environmentally friendly atmosphere.

MD, I'm sure that you are suitably appreciative of the nerds who worry about things like drinking water and sewage. You would live in much greater harmony and happiness in a world without politicians and lawyers, but try doing without ground water engineers and plumbers!

Travel around the "old" area of any large city and you will see quirky large houses/mansions. Ashlar Hall is only unusual in being a little quirkier than most large old homes -- at least the ones that don't have turrents. I'll bet a lot of kids in Memphis grew up believing it was a haunted house!

-- Posted by FJGuy on Sun, Mar 22, 2009, at 5:29 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Yes, FJ, I have a special fondness for "nerds" - always have! They are the ones who keep the world running. I always reminded my students (esp. the girls) that Bill Gates was a nerd when he was a kid -- and look at him now!!

The turrets are on the other side of the castle - the side that faces Lamar Avenue - so they don't show up in this photo.

I'll try to get my daughter to take a photo of that side -- but, if what Dexterite says is true - She may have to be accompanied by an armed guard!!!

So much of Memphis IS scary! You can see the efforts to make it better, but you can also see the efforts which failed miserably in the past.

-- Posted by goat lady on Sun, Mar 22, 2009, at 8:12 AM

Oh my friend, find yourself a 'GPS' and never venture onto Lamar Ave alone or with an army of marines. Interesting story, thanks for sharing. I lived in Memphis about 3 year in the 60's and Lamar and the likes were forbidden back then. So sad.

-- Posted by changedname on Sun, Mar 22, 2009, at 7:21 AM

If the castle was converted into a restaurant at one time, the inside may look absolutely AWFUL! What a shame that wonderful old buildings like this can't be preserved in their original form!

-- Posted by goat lady on Sat, Mar 21, 2009, at 10:27 PM


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Madeline DeJournett
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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 advancensc@sbcglobal.net or by phone at 573-722-5322.
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