Once Upon a Time: A Look at Lakewood’s Historic Thornewood Castle

Lakewood's historic Thornewood Castle is actually a 400-year-old mansion that was transported from England to Lakewood and reconstructed, brick by brick, in the early 1900s. Photo courtesy: Thornewood Castle/Facebook.

Thornewood Castle has a storied history that spans more than 400 years, and there are still many more pages of tales yet to be written — or even shown on the silver screen.

Whatever future movies might use Thornewood Castle as a backdrop, they likely could never rival the actual story of the castle itself.

Thornewood Castle, Chester Thorne
Chester Thorne not only made his fortune in Tacoma, but also was a founding father of the Port of Tacoma. Photo courtesy: Thornewood.

That story begins with the brain of Chester Thorne, a wealthy man of finance who wanted a grand mansion for his scenic estate on American Lake. Not wanting a locally produced knock-off of a traditional castle, he simply bought a 400-year-old one in England and had it shipped — every last brick — to his estate in what is now Lakewood.

The Elizabethan mansion offers 54 rooms, including 28 bedrooms and 22 baths, across 27,000 square feet. Workers took four years to reconstruct the mega-home, finally completing the work in 1911.

But the Tudor-meets-Gothic style manor was just the centerpiece of what was a 100-acre estate that also included a 37-acre garden that required two dozen gardeners just to keep up with pruning and watering. Housekeeping at the manor added another 40 servants with additional waiters and chambermaids being hired when Thorne and his wife Anna opted to hold a house party.

Those parties were legendary, not only for their opulence but for their guest lists, which routinely included well-known icons of commerce who became popular during the Gilded. More noteworthy, however, were visits from Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, who were also known to stop by.

Thornewood Castle
The remaining gardens at Thornewood have been restored. Photo courtesy: Thornewood Castle/Facebook.

Thorne lived at the castle for some 15 years before he died on October 16, 1927. His death was front-page news.

“Thirty-seven years ago, he took a place in that fast-growing city’s financial life,” the Seattle Post Intelligencer wrote two days after his death. “He was not long in rising to leadership, which he maintained to the end. His interests were broad, evenly balanced between private business and promotion of civic enterprises. His activities resulted in the acquirement of a large personal fortune, but his wise direction probably contributed a much vaster amount in the enrichment of his city. He was truly a pioneer in founding the business structure of Puget Sound.”

The mansion bearing his name stayed in the Thorne family for another generation before his daughter sold it and the estate around it to Harold St. John in 1959. He subdivided the estate into 30 home sites. A meager four acres around the mansion remain part of the original property, which includes part of the original garden and 110 feet of waterfront.

Thornewood Castle
Today, Thornewood Castle is a popular venue for weddings, allowing happy couples to live out real life fairytales. Photo courtesy: Thornewood Castle/Facebook.

New owners of the mansion came and went as the decades passed until Wayne and Deanna Robinson found themselves with the keys in 2000. They immediately set out to restore the castle and the surviving gardens back to their former glory for use as a bed and breakfast for newlyweds and those seeking a restful night fit for a king, literally.

The Thornewood Castle Inn has also found itself home to more than its fair share of film crews, most notably for Stephen King’s mini-series “Rose Red” in 2002 and its prequel “The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer,” based on the book by Ridley Pearson. Thornewood’s grounds were also used for the Daniel Day Lewis film “There Will Be Blood.”


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