King’s Grand Courtyard History

What began as a pasture and barnyard, later became the Castle’s medieval renaissance-themed entrance; following that, the space became a concert venue, and it is now a beautiful French-inspired picturesque garden! What is now referred to as the “King’s Grand Courtyard” has had many different uses over the past century under each of the four Castle owners.

Looking back to the beginning in 1918, Albert Loeb, the president of Sears & Roebuck Company, purchased hundreds of Holstein Friesian dairy cows to pursue a model working dairy farm. While the cows were housed and milked in the adjacent stone cow barns, they spent a great deal of time outdoors in the warmer seasons, grazing on grass in the center pasture. Visitors would stroll by and probably try to find “Marion”, the dairy cow who produced over 35,339 lbs of milk and 1,278 lbs of butter in one year, taking 2nd place in the World Championship list for all breeds and ages.

Though the farm was proving a success at the time, the death of Albert Loeb in 1924 in combination with the agricultural depression, caused the family to make a decision on the farm’s future. While they continued to operate it for a few more years, the family did decide to sell the farm and it was then used only as storage for quite some time. During the next 30+ years, without workers to keep the buildings maintained and cows to keep the grass mowed, you can imagine the overgrowth of the fields and disrepair of the buildings.

When John VanHaver purchased the Castle in 1963, the former cow pasture was cleaned up, serving as the renaissance-themed entrance to Castle VanHaver. He installed a gravel road lined with heraldic flags and two large signs welcoming guests to come and tour, view art exhibits, sip a hot drink in the coffee house or shop in his gift shop. Financial difficulties caused VanHaver to sell the property only 6 years later.

The King’s Courtyard received a new addition when Arthur Reibel purchased the Castle in 1969. Reibel installed a 50 foot wide stage along the center stone wall and hosted numerous concerts for over 20 years. Thousands of concert-goers would fill the field to enjoy musical groups such as Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Loverboy, Ozzy Osbourne, Bon Jovi, REO Speedwagon, and many more. The last concert took place in 1993.

Though the Castle no longer hosts rock concerts, you will find REO Speedwagon and Loverboy rocking at a couple of northern Michigan festivals this July! While REO Speedwagon’s last Castle concert was in 1987, they will be playing on July 5th at Traverse City’s National Cherry Festival. Loverboy last performed at the Castle in 1986, and they will be playing on July 19th at Charlevoix’s Venetian Festival. So mark your calendars! July sounds like a great month for you to plan your northern Michigan vacation while attending one (or both) of these concerts and taking a historic tour of Castle Farms to see where these bands played 30 years ago!

If you visit Castle Farms today, you will see the King’s Grand Courtyard transformed into a peaceful garden with landscaping inspired by the Chambord Castle in France. The work began shortly after Linda Mueller purchased the property in 2001, by removing the large concrete stage. But with so much restoration to pursue between all of the buildings, the King’s Grand Courtyard wasn’t completed until 2010. After a long labor of love, the Courtyard now features a horseshoe-shaped path lined with flowers and trees, a grand fountain, well-maintained lawns, four stone maidens representing the four seasons, and two interactive giant chess sets. If you stroll to the top of the hill just beyond the fountain, you will find a simple stone bench with spectacular views of the gardens and Castle. This is Linda’s favorite spot and she will often be found sitting on that very bench reminiscing while still dreaming of what’s next for the Castle!

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