North of John’s Lake in Clermont is a wooded area known as “Castle Hill”, named after a mansion built there years ago and it’s resemblance to a castle.

Built in 1927, it was first owned by Louise Bovingdon, daughter of Geroge A. Thorne, co-founder of Montgomery Ward. She became a leader in cultural affairs, often hosting musicals and other events to help benefit for local organizations. She and her daughters traveled extensively and lived in France for some time.

The mansion grounds were extensively landscaped and were surrounded by 150 acres of woods. Most of the workmen and supplies of the Bovingdon house came from Clermont; A.G. Moore was contractor, E.B. Cashwell did the stucco and plaster work and the hardware came from Clermont Hardware.

Her estate was sold to Kimball Marshall of Chicago in 1938.

The mansion’s last owner was Joseph Austin, a gardener who purchased the property in 1978. He had a number of greenhouses on the property containing a large variety of exotic plants, which later burned down. He sold the property in 1984. The property exchanged hands again in 2006 and once again in 2008 to a land developer, where the property was worth over $10 million.

Heavily vandalized, the mansion that the area was named after was ultimately forgotten. After multiple fires, it finally met it’s demise in 2013.




27 Comments

  1. Has it met its demise or is this the current state of its demise? Google Earth appears to show a building that could be this one to the east of Hartle Road accessible by an unmarked dirt road that runs south of the building. Google shows an address of 16800 Castle Hill Road.

    • Yep, it’s nothing but a dirt lot now. Goggle Earth images of that area are probably 1-2 years old.

      • looking to see if you know of any recognizable structure that still exists that would show where the house was.
        I am a metal detecting enthusiast and would like to try my luck there.
        thanks,

    • Sallie Kosanke

      My name is Sallie Austin Kosanke, Joesph Austin was my grandfather who passed away some time ago. I have a few photos of myself at the castle when I was a little girl, do you happen to know if it is completely burned down? I would like to visit the property. Any information will be greatly appreciated.

    • Its burned down completely, Google has updated its pictures, and there is nothing there, looks like they are building new homes there.

  2. What a shame! Looked like it was really beautiful, back in it’s day. So it’s been demolished? :(

  3. Wow, was that some sort of mock-lighthouse on the property?

  4. It was a cool house actually unbelievable for the era of the late 70’s.Im a carpenter and was recomended by cousin George which was a meticulous painter that refinished the beautiful pecky cypress all throughout the house.I completed a few custom jobs, laminated counter tops which was the thing in that era.I fabricated the double wood screen doors on the back, and the arched top door i built at the top of the spiral staircase where you could open the door to a small balcany for fresh air. Pecky cypress was hard to find , and i never give up when i need something. I found the boards I needed and had them milled at another lumber yard behind McDonalds for two dollars. Built, finished, and installed it ,enjoyed the challenge of creating a beautiful door that complimented the house. The closet lights came on when you open the doors by way of a switch at the bottom of the jamb. the down stairs had the kitchen, master bedroom and a huge dance floor made of cork where you see the big windows. The rest of the bedrooms were upstairs.On My first visit I was awestruck by the huge ponytail palm growing by the rotunda on the south side,I never seen any stores locally sell them. I never got a chance to see the big wing span owl that lived in the tower by the garage.Someone started a rumor that the mafia owned it at one time. I believed it as it looked like a good party place well hidden in BFE. And that was the reason for being the target of vandalism, It happens everyday and its just tragic. Im glad to find out what happened to this place searching the web and google maps for a while. Working in around Clermont sparked my memories and curiosity.

    • looking to see if you know of any recognizable structure that still exists that would show where the house was.
      I am a metal detecting enthusiast and would like to try my luck there.
      thanks,

      • Sorry to say but you have no right to do that, that at one time was my home and look what they did to it leave it along!!! People are so damn cruel and can’t mind their own damn business, that was a happy home to me and they destroyed it I say leave it alone! I wanted the Castle so bad and I know the real damn reason behind it all!!!

  5. I was there in 2011 when I worked for the power company. It was a strange creepy place.

  6. I believe the home should have been put on the historic registry and restored; I am deeply saddened it was not. I have walked through every inch of it, most recently in the summer of 2012. It was absolutely outstanding, even in its abandoned, vandalized condition. The ceiling wood beams in the living/great room were breathtaking as were the opposing mirror-image north and south windows and doorways on each side of the great room which I think was close 1,000 square feet. At the end by the kitchen, there was a huge stone fireplace. The floor plan, even in modern day, was fantastic. The bedrooms were in the east wing and upper and lower end bedrooms all opened to adjoined screen porches. I believe the last private owners sold to MI Homes around 2006, and since that time, it sat vacant. MI Homes never developed it, assumed due to the real estate crash. Next it was bought by Johns Lake LLC, as well as many surrounding acres that border Johns Lake. Under their ownership, the historic home was destroyed. I believe the fire occurred at night, though according to land dev plans I’ve viewed (a huge housing development), I did not see any evidence they planned to save the structure in anyway. It would have made an incredible historic “club house” for a development. Locals have stated the home served as a brothel at one point in time. Its demise is truly a loss.

    • Jackie my name is jackie austin and I am Joseph austin daughter in law.
      I live in Kissimmee,Fl. Not a day go by that i dont think about Castle Hill. My ex husband Dan and I lived there along with Joseph and his wife Margerate aka Peg. I wanted so much to visit my old home, but didn’t think I was allowed. If I am allowed sure would love to see it again. I have photos of it. The great room was my favorite. The tower was also my fav my ex husband and I used to sit there and watch the sunsets and look at the lake. My god how beautiful it was! I also remember the bamboo trees. I was so in love with the Castle and still am. IT WAS SO SADDEN TO ME when he sold it I cried.. That at those times was a very happy home. One xmas day coming down those spiral stairs did i surprise them all by announcing i was going to have a second child her name is Billie Jo named after her both grandfathers my dad and Joseph. My daughter Sallie is the first grand child for Joseph and BJ [short] for BillieJo is the second grand child and yes they lived there too. That Castle was a very happy home to us it was so well cared for when we all lived there and looking at it now makes me more sadden. I always believe someone was taken care of it i now know no one did. If i had known all this i would had done it. i want to bring back its beauty and all the happiness it once had known!!!

      • Unfortunately some of you people have the story wrong, how I know this is I was joseph daughter in law I was married to his son Daniel, I now live in Kissimmee, Fl, I always looked at the Castle when I go to visit my sister who also lives in Clermont. the castle for one is not haunted it was a very happy home to us at one time and there was also so much love in it. who ever wrote all that awful stuff on the tower and the walls should be ashamed of theirselves! Dan and the whole Austin’s family knows the whole truth and that includes me! if you were to ask me if I would live there my answer to you and everyone will be yes it was my home once and a very happy home at that! Our family loved the Castle and the neighbor who lived in the house on the corner leading up to the castle was a good friend of mine while I lived there.

  7. My grandfather was the last known person to own the castle. Joseph Austin!

  8. I was there about a year ago, being a Clermont resident. There is nothing but a chared structure to the main house. I got a strange feeling being in that area and in the remains. I don’t believe in ghosts, but damn that place gave me the creeps. I bet it was real beautiful in its heyday however.

  9. My friends and I have been to the castle house dozens of times in the past few years. We used to all get together and make the walk all the way back there. The house itself is amazing! But when you are in there you get the weirdest feeling. Like someone is in there with you. I have looked through every little bit of this house and still have some souviners that I’ve taken such as a National Geographic from the 1980’s and a little house that must’ve been some type of children’s toy. I’ve always wanted to know the history behind the house but never did until now. But now it’s too late. One day we all went back there as usual to go to the abandoned mansion and what we found was ruins. Someone had dug a trench around the house and everything was burned to the ground. It truly is a shame :(

  10. My parents (Smith) owned the castle from around 1982 to 2006 when it was sold to developers who planned to make it a clubhouse. I t is so sad to see it gone. I have many good memories there and it was my kids favorite place. Hard to heat or cool but otherwise a wonderful place to visit.

  11. Some more info. There was a cabin structure across the lake from the house. It also had peggy cypress wood inside. I think it was associated with the house at some time. My father said the castle was also associated with a citrus operation and there was a Castle Hill brand and logo. A sample of the logo can be seen at a museum in Winter Garden. The lighthouse was a water tower at some point. There were lots of sago palms planted around the property. My father brought them in from a Pacific island that was being cleared and developed.

  12. About 6 years or so ago, I saw the top of the water tower through the trees as I was traveling east on 50. I’ve always wondered what was back there but too chicken to check it out. I could tell it resembled a lighthouse, this is what piqued my interest as I love lighthouses. Even as recent as last week, I drive past and wonder what it had been. (Even though I could no longer see it) Thank you for posting about this!! I’m so glad to have finally found out some history and also see some pics!!! I live in the rural settlement of lake Avalon and I hate seeing how built up WG and Clermont are becoming. So many houses, so few orange groves :(

  13. i lament the loss of so many historic homes, most were created by the real entrepreneurs of the early 1900’s when actual products were produced, grown or manufactured for sale nationwide. they employed hundred if not thousands of locals in a wide area with a job and paycheck. no unions to interfere as people were actually sensible in their own means of living back then.

    the offshoot of their great wealth was oft invested in a spacious grand home of their own unique tastes and designs, often mimicking the great houses of europe, perhaps of their own ancestry or family roots. the construction was often the very best with no expense spared, built to last and comfortable to live in.

    as these family business’s succumbed to the devastating influx of cheap, low cost imported goods, dirt cheap immigrant labor and pernicious union organizers, their ability to sustain these homes failed and the communities around suffered from lost wages and family stability.

    government entered and demanded certain ‘tidings’ to support their own misdirected dictates, political intrusions and other activity that dissipated any sense of unified community.

    we now abound with golf courses for the idle rich, tract housing built quick and dirty, massive retail and entertainment venues that dispense grossly inflated prices and fleeting amusement. with that, the loss of the natural habitat and fauna that was the real value of florida. (and nationwide as well)

    these pages depict a nation unable to realize or preserve it’s own historical legacy, other than some wall street chart with people treated as mere numeric blips. europe has history, america will be a forgotten history.