On Wednesday, June 2, 2021, I drove to the first special place (that I haven’t seen yet) from a book I bought a few years ago, called, “Lost in Michigan,” Curwood Castle in Owosso, MI. The Castle was built in 1922-1923, long after Curwood was famous, as a writing studio and as a place to meet with people. Let’s start with the man who was born in Owosso, Michigan and was laid to rest there.
from wikipedia: James Oliver Curwood (June 12, 1878 – August 13, 1927) was an American action-adventure writer and conservationist. His books were often based on adventures set in the Hudson Bay area, the Yukon or Alaska and ranked among the top-ten best sellers in the United States in the early and mid 1920s, according to Publishers Weekly. At least one hundred and eighty motion pictures have been based on or directly inspired by his novels and short stories; one was produced in three versions from 1919 to 1953. At the time of his death, Curwood was the highest paid (per word) author in the world.
Over 180 films based on or inspired by Curwood’s novels and short stories have been made! For a list of them, see here. If you go to youtube and put his name in the search box, you’ll see a lot of movies and audiobooks. I asked the lady at the castle if his books were similar to Jack London’s books and she said yes and that Curwood was more popular than London when they were both writing.
Curwood was an internationally famous author and took a tour of Europe and saw many castles. He decided he wanted a castle of his own.
Before we go inside this magnificent building, you’ll notice “his work with conservation” on the plaque. Reading about Curwood in the building exhibits, it talks about a transformative experience he had while out hunting.
from shiawassee history website:
Curwood was an avid hunter until about ten years before his death. While on a hunting trip in the Rockies, he saw a large bear he called Thor. He tried to shoot him three times in three weeks. One day as Thor approached him, he slipped and fell, breaking his gun. The bear reared up before walking away. Curwood turned from hunting for trophies to championing the cause of wild things.
Afterwards, in the book, “The Grizzly King,” (1916) he wrote:
The greatest thrill is not to kill, but to let live.
shiawassee history website goes on to say:
His philosophy was to lead to his active campaigning for the preservation of Michigan’s natural resources. He wanted to limit or even close hunting seasons, including the season for spikehorn deer and was always interested in stocking streams and game preserves, as well as reforestation. On January 1, 1927 he was appointed to the Michigan Conservation Commission. He was also instrumental in planning and building the Shiawassee Conservation Club. Unfortunately, after his death most of the measures he had fought for were revoked.
Although Curwood wanted to live to be 100, a freak incident while fishing in FL, where he was stung by an unidentified creature through his wading boots, led to a lingering infection that ended up killing him in 1927 at the age of 49.
In 2010, Ryan Leslie, a born-and-raised Owosso sculptor, had a dream of creating a life-sized sculpture of Curwood. He made a small bronze model and then went on a mission to get enough donations to create the life-sized one. Unfortunately Ryan passed away before his dream could be realized. His brother, Nathan, carried on until enough funds were donated to make it happen.
According to the Owosso Independent article:
While researching Curwood for inspiration for the sculpture, Ryan came across the tale of the time Curwood purportedly was fishing with a small fly rod and caught a sunfish. While reeling in the sunfish, a large pike ate the sunfish and Curwood was able to pull the pike out of the water. This is the design that Ryan chose for his sculpture.
OK time to go inside. There are 4 floors total:
1) the basement, which has exhibits on other famous Owossoans, Frederick Frieseke, 1906 World Champion West Side Indoor Base Ball Team (yes, baseball was two words!,) Thomas Dewey, and Felix Schlag.
2) the 2nd floor, which is the main reception area, with chairs, couches, a fireplace; an area to meet and greet others. You go up a few steps to Curwood’s writing room/landing in the turret.
3) the 3rd floor, which is also in the turret, has the display for the writing desk his father made for him as a child
4) the 4th floor, which is also in the turret, has all of the photographs, the blueprint for the castle, newspaper and magazine articles about the author, etc.
Sorry to say I didn’t take a lot of pics in this room as they were mostly cases with photos and written information on the wall. Then it was time to go back downstairs.
I’ve got other pics I took of a neat cabin on the property as well as an arts center next door (that I couldn’t go inside of because they were closed) but I’ll possibly do another on them at some point.
I hope you have found this post about the man and his castle as interesting as it was for me to go there and have a look around.
(c) photos taken by me at Curwood Castle and the grounds
I just finished reading The Grizzly King, the novel that includes Curwood’s life transforming experience mentioned above. Read my review here