Bonnyconnellan Castle owners not afraid of ghosts


Couple hopes to fare better than ‘The Money Pit’ movie

By Shannon Bohle - [email protected]



John Moffitt, left, and Heather Drysdale, both of Sidney, in front of their newly purchased castle on Friday, Dec. 10.

John Moffitt, left, and Heather Drysdale, both of Sidney, in front of their newly purchased castle on Friday, Dec. 10.


Luke Gronneberg | Sidney Daily News

Gargoyles perch atop the stairs leading up to this Gothic castle


Courtesy Natalie Wright, realtor at Keller Williams

Historic photos of Bonnyconnellan Castle


Courtesy of the Shelby County Historical Society

Historic photos of Bonnyconnellan Castle


Courtesy of the Shelby County Historical Society

John Moffitt, of Sidney, describes where a removed stair case was once attached to the wall before it continued up to the second floor in the Bonnyconnellan Castle. Moffitt hopes to eventually restore the staircase and original woodwork of the castle.


Luke Gronneberg | Sidney Daily News

Historic photos of Bonnyconnellan Castle


Courtesy of the Shelby County Historical Society

Historic photos of Bonnyconnellan Castle


Courtesy of the Shelby County Historical Society

Historic photos of Bonnyconnellan Castle


Courtesy of the Shelby County Historical Society

Historic photos of Bonnyconnellan Castle


Courtesy of the Shelby County Historical Society

SIDNEY — Bonnyconnellan Castle, located at 105 North Walnut Ave., was purchased through Gay Smith & Associates on Dec. 7, 2021, for $202,000 by Heather Drysdale and John Moffitt, who will be relocating to live there from Bremerton, Washington.

The Castle was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) in April 1983. It is a location that goes back to the height of Sidney’s railroad years, and the Castle was within sight of visitors arriving and departing from Passenger Station.

When asked what motivated them to buy this 5,104 square foot limestone castle with two round, crenellated towers in Sidney, Ohio, Drysdale said, “it was a momentary course of insanity,” and then she and Moffitt laughed. “For years and years, I followed this Facebook page called ‘For the Love of Old Houses,’ so when we saw it come across our Facebook stream, we joked about it the first few times it came up. When it came up the last time, we were like, ‘Why not?’”

“Once we put in an offer, we spent a lot of time on Google finding everything we could about the castle,” added Drysdale, “and there’s some great stories about some ghosts.”

For example, Hauntedplaces.org lists the castle as a site where “the apparition of a regal man in a blue military uniform has been seen on the landing, examining a display.” According to Ohioexploration.com, that display is a wedding dress on a stair landing.

“I thought it was kind of fun,” said Drysdale. “We saw that one. We also heard about a lady in red who walks around. The third one we found was when someone was still living there, they had heard children playing in the basement and it terrified them so badly that they stayed in a hotel that night.”

Drysdale admits that the existence of ghosts, in general, is “a possibility,” but the two do not give these ghost sightings much credence, however.

“I’ve lived in old houses most of my life,” said Drysdale. “There’s creaks and there’s sounds. You just accept them for what they are.”

Not all previous owners felt that way, however. According to the Shelby County Historical Society’s website, Rose Loewer purchased it in the late 1950s but never stayed overnight there during the nine years she owned it.

“We’ve heard a lot of versions of the history of the castle,” said Moffitt. “Still, we’re going all in. We’re moving here,” said, Moffitt.

There may not be ghosts, but there are two menacing gargoyles that perch at the end of the stairs near and iron fence to keep out unwanted visitors that they plan to keep.

Drysdale is originally from New Jersey. She moved to Bremerton with her now ex-husband who was in the Navy. She says she will be able to keep her job there and telecommute. After arriving in Ohio, though, she said, “Sidney feels like home. I really love the small town feel of it and the community is just so overwhelmingly welcoming.”

Moffitt is originally from Texas. He worked for the Navy in the naval shipyard in Bremerton, and says about the move, “I’m excited about doing something new.”

The castle today has a total of 19 rooms, including five bedrooms and seven bathrooms, and a full basement that may have additional rooms, and sits on a half-acre of property with a small carriage house, all of which need serious renovation.

Initially built by businessman John D. Loughlin in 1886, the home is supposedly modeled after a castle in Cork Ireland. Drysdale and Moffitt tried identifying which castle, but came up empty in their search so far, saying Cork has many castles so they could not be sure which one.

Laughlin, who had owned the Sidney School Furniture Company, became a wealthy businessman when the school desks his company produced became a phenomenal success and were sold across the country.

To build the Castle, he imported European hand-crafted woodwork, including walnut, mahogany, oak, maple, and a solid cherry staircase. Loughlin named his home “Bonnyconnellan,” which translates to “beautiful woman,” as it was likely a very impressive sight. Its price tag of $10,000 in today’s currency amounts to about $294,243.

In 1891, a fire destroyed the factory. It was rebuilt in brick, and he retired and resold it 10 years later in 1901. Just before retiring, however, in 1895, Laughlin invested a large portion of his fortune in a second venture, the Mary L. Poultry company, which eventually went bankrupt. In 1904, the German-American bank, which had held the Castle’s mortgage, failed. The Castle was held in trust until 1907 when it was resold, and Laughlin left Sidney. A decade later, Laughlin died, penniless.

J.B. Tucker, from Urbana, purchased Laughlin’s desk factory in 1907, converting it into a bicycle rim manufacturing company, and during the same year, his wife, Amelia L. Tucker, bought Laughlin’s former home. The castle had gone to public auction, but there were no buyers. Tucker obtained the home at a comparatively small sum through a private sale during probate. The Tuckers lived in the Castle from 1907 to 1919. With the advent of the automobile, the factory was converted again, this time to produce automobile frames and steering wheels.

Between 1919 and 1947, the Castle had changed hands 19 times. The owners included C.A. Keplinger, Stanley Bryan, Emma N. Clark, Stanley Bryan, Leo Roos, Jerrold W. Sindell, Leo Roos, James Pappas, Vida Bryan, Fred A. Clawson, C.O. Hanson, A.R. Edwards, John Roos and Standley Bryan et al., People Savings and Loan, Anna E. Dilbone, Edith M. Edwards, Kathryn Steward and William A. Ross Sr.

In 1947, the Castle was purchased by Charles L. Price and his wife Arlene, who hailed from Phoneton, for $12,000. Rose Loewer purchased the property in 1958, and there were several restoration efforts afterward by future owners, including what Victor Frump and his wife, who purchased it in February 1967, felt it needed a decade-long renovation. During the first few years, bats would fly in from the chimneys, and one of Mrs. Frump’s relatives was bitten and had to undergo a painful series of rabies shots. Restoration work was continued by the next owners, Vivian G. Jutte and her husband, Tom, who owned the castle from December 1979 to 1996.

But the Castle was about to face unprecedented tough times.

In 1996, Dean and Kim Shepherd purchased it with the idea of turning it into a bed and breakfast, converting every closet into a tiny bathroom, but the venture was a failure. Apparently, to recoup their investment, Dean B. Shepherd and his wife, Kim, gutted the Castle of its original woodwork. The Ohio Bank, which held the mortgage, sued them, along with the Lima-area contractor who performed the work.

The removal was estimated to have reduced the overall value of the property by $160,000.

The castle was put up a second time for public auction and had no buyers.

By the time Drysdale and Moffitt purchased it, much of the Castle’s interior grandeur had been lost.

Drysdale explained that the grand staircase with its carved banisters, the wood paneling on the walls, and the library shelves which once adorned this distinguished medieval Gothic-styled home are gone. The custom hardwood floors have holes in them which were made to install modern plumbing.

“We want to keep everything as original as we can,” Drysdale said. “But the hardwood floors are, for the most part, not salvageable.”

“There’s nothing in the kitchen,” said Moffitt. “There’s a sink, and that’s it.”

They plan to convert the carriage house into a workshop.

The time commitment to this project is substantial. “It’s going to take years,” Drysdale said.

In terms of how much money the two plan to invest, they have not yet set a ceiling on their restoration efforts. To help keep costs in check, they plan to do much of the work themselves. That way, they said, they will likely fare better than Shelley Long and Tom Hanks, in “The Money Pit.” There are going to be surprises with any old home, but the two hope one of those surprises will not be a ghost.

Because there was so much damage done to it, the Castle was de-listed from the NRHP, and the Sidney Historical Society and real estate listing agent confirmed that there are not going to be a lot of restrictions on renovations, Moffitt said.

They will live there as they are doing renovations and are not afraid of roughing it for a while. “As long as I’ve got a working sink and a hot plate, I’ll be fine,” Drysdale said.

Drysdale is no stranger to this type of work and said neither of them are afraid to get their hands dirty. She has worked on restoring homes to some degree since she was a child, helping her father and grandfather. Moffitt said he is a huge history buff and that they both really love old architecture. The two currently own a 1924 Craftsman home in Washington that they have re-plumbed, re-wired, re-did the hardwood floors, stripped all the woodwork to re-stain it to match what was original, though it was not a historic home.

“I grew up having all that rich history, and it really feels like there is not as much history in the northwest as there is in the northeast, so I really miss that being away for 20 years,” Drysdale said. The two plan to visit other historic castles, buildings, and museums in the area.

“The plan is one day at a time, one room at at time,” said Drysdale, but she admits, “its going to be a learning curve.”

Restoring Bonnyconnellan Castle will require a delicate balance to walk the line between making the spaces livable with modern amenities, like a functional kitchen, and maintaining its historicity with restoration replacements and replicas.

Overall, the concept of the Castle as an investment with ability to resell the home at a profit is less a concern to them than making it a home where they will live for many years.

John Moffitt, left, and Heather Drysdale, both of Sidney, in front of their newly purchased castle on Friday, Dec. 10.
https://www.sidneydailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2021/12/web1_DSC_7124-1.jpgJohn Moffitt, left, and Heather Drysdale, both of Sidney, in front of their newly purchased castle on Friday, Dec. 10. Luke Gronneberg | Sidney Daily News

Gargoyles perch atop the stairs leading up to this Gothic castle
https://www.sidneydailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2021/12/web1_Gargoyle-1.jpgGargoyles perch atop the stairs leading up to this Gothic castle Courtesy Natalie Wright, realtor at Keller Williams

Historic photos of Bonnyconnellan Castle
https://www.sidneydailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2021/12/web1_Bonnyconellan-Castle-2001.34.109-1-1.jpgHistoric photos of Bonnyconnellan Castle Courtesy of the Shelby County Historical Society

Historic photos of Bonnyconnellan Castle
https://www.sidneydailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2021/12/web1_Passenger-Station-1.jpgHistoric photos of Bonnyconnellan Castle Courtesy of the Shelby County Historical Society

John Moffitt, of Sidney, describes where a removed stair case was once attached to the wall before it continued up to the second floor in the Bonnyconnellan Castle. Moffitt hopes to eventually restore the staircase and original woodwork of the castle.
https://www.sidneydailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2021/12/web1_DSC_7139-1.jpgJohn Moffitt, of Sidney, describes where a removed stair case was once attached to the wall before it continued up to the second floor in the Bonnyconnellan Castle. Moffitt hopes to eventually restore the staircase and original woodwork of the castle. Luke Gronneberg | Sidney Daily News

Historic photos of Bonnyconnellan Castle
https://www.sidneydailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2021/12/web1_Bonnyconnellan-Castle-Interior-Photo-2-1-1.jpgHistoric photos of Bonnyconnellan Castle Courtesy of the Shelby County Historical Society

Historic photos of Bonnyconnellan Castle
https://www.sidneydailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2021/12/web1_Bonnyconnellan-Castle-Interior-Photo-1-1-1.jpgHistoric photos of Bonnyconnellan Castle Courtesy of the Shelby County Historical Society

Historic photos of Bonnyconnellan Castle
https://www.sidneydailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2021/12/web1_Bonnyconnellan-Castle-Interior-Photo-4-1-1.jpgHistoric photos of Bonnyconnellan Castle Courtesy of the Shelby County Historical Society

Historic photos of Bonnyconnellan Castle
https://www.sidneydailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2021/12/web1_Bonnyconnellan-Castle-Interior-Photo-3-1-1.jpgHistoric photos of Bonnyconnellan Castle Courtesy of the Shelby County Historical Society
Couple hopes to fare better than ‘The Money Pit’ movie

By Shannon Bohle

[email protected]