Looking Back: The Castle on North Fayette Street

By John Leland - For the Record-Herald

The K.P. Castle on North Fayette Street in Washington Court House.

The K.P. Castle on North Fayette Street in Washington Court House.

The K.P. emblem

For most of the 20th century there stood at 212 N. Fayette Street in Washington C.H. a two-storied brick building trimmed with stone.

The Smead Heating Company built it around 1908 to house a steam plant that was intended to generate heat for homes and businesses in the central part of the city. The venture failed, however, and in 1911, the Knights of Pythias Confidence Lodge No. 265 of Washington C. H. purchased the building.

The Knights of Pythias was a national fraternal organization with secret rituals that emphasized the virtues of friendship, charity, and benevolence. Early last century, there were six K. P. lodges in Fayette County with nearly 1,000 members.

Pythian knights everywhere referred to the places where their lodges met as “castles.” Before moving to North Fayette Street in 1912, Confidence Lodge operated from the third floor of the Masonic temple building on South Main Street. The Pythians’ remodeling of the Fayette Street structure was nearly completed when a horrific fire in the early morning of Dec. 30, 1911 obliterated virtually the entire west side of Main Street between Court and East streets. Only Leland’s News Depot at the southwest corner of Court and Main was left standing.

The first floor of the K. P.’s new home featured a spacious lobby with an imposing hardwood stairway, two parlor suites, a kitchen, and a banquet hall that was purported to be the largest community hall in Fayette County. On the second floor was the lodge room, a library, and a room for storing lodge regalia.

The Fayette Street castle was dedicated on Monday, Feb. 19, 1912. From mid-morning until early afternoon, several hundred Fayette County residents and out-of-town visitors toured the beautifully renovated building. The impressive dedication ritual was conducted in the afternoon by Spenser Wallace of Steubenville, Chancellor of the Pythian Grand Lodge of Ohio, and several of his Grand Lodge officers. Wallace told the assembled that “few K. P. lodges in the state of Ohio can boast of a castle of such elegance, magnitude, and completeness.”

After the dedication, the knights, their ladies, and scores of guests sipped punch and ate cake as they listened to music provided by pianist James Whelpley, Fayette County’s foremost musician, and James Kneisley, the county’s well-known blind violinist. At five o’clock in the afternoon, the Pythian Sisters served dinner to 300 lodge members and visiting dignitaries. Twenty banquet tables were decorated with bouquets of white, crimson, and pink carnations. Dr. R. M. Hughey, the city’s eye, ear, nose, and throat specialist and a witty public speaker, presided as toastmaster. After dinner, the members of Confidence Lodge proceeded to the lodge room where 14 candidates were initiated into the K. P.’s entry degree of “Page.”

Dwindling membership caused the Confidence Lodge to disband in the mid-1930s. The Washington Savings Bank was the mortgage lender, and it assumed management of the castle. In 1937, the bank rented the building to the Washington C. H. Moose Lodge. For the next six years, the old Smead building was the venue not only for Moose Lodge meetings but also for boxing matches, fish fries, rolling skating, and 50/50 dances, all sponsored by the Loyal Order of the Moose. While on Fayette Street, the Moose Lodge hosted an annual fried rabbit dinner for its members and guests, followed by a variety show that celebrated local talent.

In mid-1943, the Savings Bank sold the former K. P. castle to the American Legion Paul H. Hughey Post No. 25. The building remained the headquarters of Post 25 until a wall collapsed in August 1979 and resulted in the post relocating to 235 E. Court St. The once grand Knights of Pythias castle was demolished shortly thereafter. The scene of much happy Fayette County history vanished quickly with the blows of the wrecking ball.

The Paul H. Hughey Post moved to its present location on Route 22 NW in 1992. Post 25’s new home was an existing one-story building that had a large parking lot and was easier to heat, cool, and maintain than either the K. P. castle or the building at 235 E. Court Street in downtown Washington Court House.

The K.P. Castle on North Fayette Street in Washington Court House.
https://www.recordherald.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/27/2017/10/web1_LelandSend1.jpgThe K.P. Castle on North Fayette Street in Washington Court House.

The K.P. emblem
https://www.recordherald.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/27/2017/10/web1_KP-Emblem.jpgThe K.P. emblem

By John Leland

For the Record-Herald