Pouring molds 2

The VanHaver Collection

The VanHaver Collection

What house doesn’t need a good shield, or perhaps a crest or a hatchet?

The History

John VanHaver was born in 1916 and became a business man in Muskegon, Michigan. He was also a talented artist and sculptor, and specialized in metal castings. After John drove by the empty husk of Castle Farms in the early 1960s, he fell in love and decided to purchase the property. He contacted the Loeb family and purchase 100 acres of the original Loeb Farm estate, including the barns, blacksmith shop, manager’s house, and office. John’s idea was to create a tourist attraction where visitors could stroll the grounds, sip a coffee, and enjoy his paintings and sculptures. He also wanted to use the property as a location to create metalwork. After more than 3 years of renovations, the removal of unstable roofs, and the addition of a foundry in the original horse barn, John opened up the newly renamed Castle VanHaver to the public on June 2, 1966.

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Castle VanHaver’s gallery showcased his modern paintings, metal sculptures, and his casts in aluminum. He even created metalwork for downtown Charlevoix businesses. Unfortunately, just 3 years into the business, John’s financial difficulties forced him to sell the Castle.

The Art

Fast forward to 2013. John’s niece, Dawn King, decided it was time that her uncle’s art pieces needed to do more than gather dust. She reached out to the owner of Castle Farms, Linda Mueller, to see if Linda might want to purchase the collection of metal casts. Castle Farms purchased the entire collection, which included shields, crests, and other assorted metalwork from John VanHaver as well as some metalwork from an artist named Atkinson from Petoskey. He worked with VanHaver in the 1960s and sometimes shared molds with him.

Jessica Anderson, manager of the Castle Farms Gift Shop, cataloged, photographed, and priced each item. Jessica is excited to finally display the artwork in the Gift Shop and offer guests a little piece of history about John VanHaver.

The collection is made up of aluminum castings made from molds. Melted metal would be poured into the molds and allowed to harden. Shields were popular and often left blank so the purchaser could decorate them with their own family crest. John created some at his home in Whitehall, Michigan while others were created at the forge at Castle VanHaver. One large bowl, one small bowl, and one dish have Castle VanHaver inscribed on the back.

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Jessica’s favorite piece is a pair of bookends showing a ship on the waves. John used to dive in Lake Michigan for shipwreck wood and create furniture from the pieces, so she feels that it combined two of his artistic mediums into one piece. “They would look perfect with a set of classic books” she says.

Many pieces of the VanHaver and Atkinson collection are now for sale in the Castle’s Gift Shop as well as the online shop.  Stop in or hop online to see the artwork of a true renaissance man.

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