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Hartford, Illinois




Lakeview Castle, near Hartford, Illinois


Lakeview Castle, located in Chouteau Township near Hartford


This photo is of the historic Lakeview Castle, located in Chouteau Township near Hartford. It was built in 1897 by Benjamin Biszant, a Frenchman, as a gift for his English bride. It contained 14 rooms, with floor to ceiling mirrors and elegant chandeliers. Much of the materials in the home came from France. The floors and hand-carved columns which supported the ceiling were made of imported cypress wood. Benjamin Biszant's hobby included making figures out of concrete, and on the grounds were several concrete dog figures, cannons, and a bridge which led to the island in the middle of a small lake.

Workers with teams of horses dug a moat, which encircled a small island. Dirt from the moat provided the hill on which the home was built. An exquisite bridge reached across the moat. Biszant and his wife enjoyed throwing lavish parties. Area residents often heard music drifting down from the castle on summer evenings. Guests at Lakeview used the estate's lakes for boating, fishing and swimming. The Biszants received so many guests who arrived by rail that railroad maps of the 1890s listed "Station of Lakeview." Biszant even had a decorative station built by the railroad tracks to accomodate Lakeview's many visitors.


In the early years of the twentieth century Biszant's wife died. He attended to her burial in England, sold Lakeview and moved to California. The Hartford Castle then began its slow, inevitable decline.


The home passed on to the ownership of J. J. Biszant. By 1913 the home became plagued with vandalism. One fellow named Mark Podner broke into the home, and after his arrest, claimed he became lost in the maze of mirrors and could not get out of the house. He told of hidden passageways, a musty dungeon, terrifying moans, high pitched shrieks and cries of pain from various parts of the building. Podner attempted to hang himself while in jail.

J. J. Biszant reportedly sold it to Lake View Military Academy, but in 1919 it was Biszant again who sold the home to two St. Louis doctors who planned a sanitarium there. It was also sold to James Marquis of Alton to be used as a roadhouse, but Marquis' death broke up the plans.

In March of 1973 the Hartford landmark was destroyed by fire. Owners Dr. and Mrs. S. S. Nemec (who had moved out), said vandals had previously reduce the home to a shell.



Lakeview Castle


Lakeview Castle - one of the ruins on the grounds


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Copyright Bev Bauser.    All rights reserved.