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Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria <BR>
Inspired Walt Disney
Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria
Inspired Walt Disney

Ten Fairytale Fortresses in San Diego County

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San Diego has 10 castles around the region.

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Believe it or not there are 10 castles in San Diego or very close by. Once upon a time, people dared to build castles that they could call home. Each is unique and defined as a castle by those who built them.

We became curious about what castles, if any, were in San Diego. Here's what we found out:

Ramona Castle or Amy Strong Castle

Have you or someone you know ever golfed at Mt. Woodson? For those of you who have not heard about Mt. Woodson, it is located off of Highway 67 on the way to Ramona. Don't feel bad if you never knew the castle existed, you weren't supposed to know. The 27-room castle was surrounded by iron gates and what was basically a horticultural moat. Now you know why you might have passed by a castle on the way to Ramona and never knew of its existence.

Did you know that on the property of Mt. Woodson, a stone castle built by a San Diego seamstress still stands? Officially called Mount Woodson Castle, most locals refer to the national historic landmark as the "Amy Strong Castle." Who was Amy Strong? She was a very successful seamstress who came to San Diego in 1881 for health reasons.

The beautiful, 27-room castle was made possible by Ms. Strong's 27 years of hard work sewing dresses for the San Diego élite. Who were the élite? None other than the Grants, the Marstons, the Scripps, and the Speckles. She journeyed to Europe on many occasions in order to get the finest cloth for her loyal customers. In fact, Ms. Strong's clothing designs were so sought after that at one point she employed 75 work-at-home seamstresses!

A cool $50,000 and five years of construction bought and built the custom-made castle she so desired. Ms. Strong's many travels to Europe inspired the design of the castle and the grounds that can be seen today. For example, she decided to put a painted domed ceiling in the dining room because she loved seeing them in Europe.

Amy did not stop there. She asked her friends (and noted architects) Emmor B. Weaver (Rosecroft), John Vawter, and Irving Gill to futher help her with the designs and the layout. She also consulted with none other than Kate Sessions to help her plan the garden and yard areas. Olive trees descended from the padres planted at Mission San Diego de Alcala, Martha Washington roses, and Mt. Vernon Ivy were some of the more historical contributions to Ms. Strong's castle garden.

Ms. Strong also asked Kate to plant species that would both attract hummingbirds and provide privacy. Privacy was very important to Ms. Strong. She was practical however. Because of the remoteness of the caste, she had a telephone installed which was a rarity in those days.

What we admire most about Amy Strong was that she was living a sustainable lifestyle before the term was even coined. Ms. Strong wanted to incorporate the latest Craftsman, "back to nature" design complete with a windmill to pump her own water. It was a Dutch-style windmill that contained a cold storage room with a water tank above. She had the castle's main fireplace on the first floor placed directly below the second story bedrooms so that the heat would rise and help warm the upstairs rooms. She also used a lot of glass, including tall windows and stained glass, to let in the natural light as much as possible.

Some of the walls were made with very large local boulders, and adobe bricks made from her property's clay soil. Back then, the adobe bricks were actually made by the local Mesa Grande Indians. The steps were made of grey granite rock that was located on her property. The lumber she used came from her own eucalyptus, oak, and redwood trees that were felled to be built into the mansion.

Like a good Craftsman home, many of the porches allowed fresh air to circulate around the house providing much needed relief from the backcountry heat. Ms. Strong was especially sensitive about the kitchen. Aside from having plenty of cupboard space, she made sure that the kitchen was situated so that it would catch the prevailing westerly breeze.

However, what continues to hold peoples' imaginations the most is Ms. Strong's séance room. In those days, séances were a popular form of entertainment. The séance room has a circular ceiling complete with astrological symbols. It was actually hand painted by Strong and her niece, Margaret Meyers. If you happen to go, you might just get visited by someone who used to visit the old stone castle during these séances.

But you won't find Amy Strong on the castle grounds. She and her niece lived in the castle until 1950 when, once again, ill health prompted her to move somewhere near Lemon Grove. Ms. Strong passed away two years later in 1952.

The Strong Castle has been a historic landmark since 1978 and you are free to come visit during the operating hours of 6am-4pm Monday through Friday. The address of Mt. Woodson is 16422 North Woodson Drive, Ramona.

Woreland Castle - Escondido

Issac Jenkinson Frazee built the Woreland Castle in 1893. It overlooks Moosa Canyon near what is now Old Castle Road. If the name Frazee is familiar to you, it wasn't necessarily because of Frazee Paints, Isaac Frazee was a great uncle to former Carlsbad mayor and state assemblyman Robert Frazee.

As a poet and a painter, Isaac Frazee, took to the natural beauty of Moosa Canyon and the Native American culture. He convinced his wife to settle in the area to build his dream home, er, castle. The idea of building a castle rose up from Mr. Frazee's interest in his ancestral home of Aberdeen, Scotland. In fact, he traced his ancestry to the inhabitants of Dunnotar Castle near Aberdeen.

Inspired, the artist sketched a blueprint for a castle home modeled after Dunnotar. It would be three stories high with turreted top and walls that were three feet thick. At first, he and his wife lived in a tent and later in a two-story wooden house erected nearby. For two years Frazee worked on his own, breaking up rocks to be used in the project. As luck would have it, Frazee happened to meet a Scottish stonemason to help him build his dream castle which kept it as authentic as possible.

By 1893, Frazee and the Scotsman had built the tower and part of an adjoining outer wall. However, the rest of the castle was not completed because Isaac ran out of money and the Scotsman had to leave. So he has no other choice but to move his two-story, wood-framed house next to the tower.

The Frazee Family lived in the castle and raised a family of seven children. Mr. Frazee was a generous man who opened his property up to annual outdoor musical pageants. The pageants were held in a natural amphitheater that Frazee built on the castle grounds.

In 1922, the Frazees grew tired of living such an isolated life and began spending the winters in Laguna Beach, returning to their castle in the summers. In 1927, they moved permanently to Laguna Beach. Isaac Frazee died in 1942. Woreland Castle, with more rooms added, has continued as a private residence for a number of owners over the decades.

DIRECTIONS: If you want to take a "look-see," the Woreland Castle is located off of Gopher Canyon Road and I-15. Take Old Castle Road to get there.

Cupid Castle - Pauma Valley

The Cupid Castle was built in 1995 and is located just at the foot of Palomar Mountain. The Cupid Castle is a 4-suite bed and breakast establishment. The most recent owners haved added murals, medieval accents and other decorations to enhance that new castle-feel. This is a fairy tale type castle that also serves as a location for small weddings (up to 75 people), special events or romantic getaways, of course.

The castle is secluded and sits in the middle of a lemon orchard. Gardens are located around the castle and feature waterfalls, flowers and artistic fountains. According to the owners, overnight guests have a choice from four romantically decorated suites with a Jacuzzi tub and private balcony. A full breakfast is served each morning and a daily mid-afternoon happy hour features local wines, fruits and hors d'oeuvres.

DIRECTIONS: Cupid's Castle- 17622 Highway 76 Pauma Valley Phone: (760)742-3306

The Alpine Castle

The castle, built in 1983, is a custom home known as "The Alpine Castle." John Pottenger built the home with his Scandinavian Master Stonemason. Nestled among the hills of Alpine, it is somehow in the center of town. The castle is adorned with rare stone and precious woods found worldwide.

This custom castle features a 1.5 million gallon private pond, two water falls, three bedrooms, two kitchens, 2 lofts, 5 bathrooms, 6 fireplaces, 3 car garage, a large guest house (1 bedroom, 1-3/4 bath, and 3 car garage), and to top it all off, a bank-sized vault. How big is this man's castle? 16,000 sq ft. with a 4200 sq ft. deck! How much do you ask? The most recent price has been quoted at a cool $10 million.

DIRECTIONS: Take I-8 east to Tavern Rd exit. Right turn onto Tavern Rd. Left on Alpine Blvd. Right on Marshall next to the Alpine Inn. Left on Eltinge Street. Go slowly over three speedbumps. You'll see it on the right side. Miss Elle Street will be on your left.

Note to lookie-loo's: Be careful when snapping photos. Park on Miss Elle Street not on Eltinge Street as the road is too unsafe.

Aimee's Castle-Lake Elsinore

Aimee's Castle was built by famed evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson in Lake Elsinor's Country Club Heights from 1926-1929 on five city lots on a hilltop on the northeastern side of Lake Elsinor. This Christian Pentecostal evangelist built the $5,000, 14-room, 5,000 sq. ft. home as a retreat.

She commissioned an architect to design the castle. Based on her interests and religious beliefs, he envisioned an Arabian mansions including turrets and minarets. As the story goes, this eccentric evangelist was given the property by local developers and the castle was paid for by the the tithes and offerings of her followers. The developers thought it would lure other big names down to the Lake Elsinore area.

Aimee Semple McPherson
Aimee Semple McPherson

Known as "God's greatest saleswoman," she really was a pioneer in spreading "the word" through all the latest means. Stories suggest she drove her 1912 Packard across the country painted with the message "Jesus is Coming-Get Ready." She also took to the modern airwaves for a radio broadcast and brought jazz music and dramatization to her sermons.

Aimee moved out of castle in the early 1940s. The castle changed hands many times. The current owner, Foursquare Church, bought the castle and property for $1 million. Thankfullt, they have restored the property back to its original luster.

The Lutz Castle -Julian

The Lutz Castle was built in the 1940s as a private residence. Designed from the Army Engineers insignia, this dual turret castle offers two historic adobe cottages built from Julian bricks and timber. The current owners are Sue and Gale Lutz who run an inn at the Lutz Castle. In fact, wall hangings inside the castle include samples of Sue Lutz's paintings and Gale Lutz's photography.

If you are interested in staying at this castle, it features a natural rock fireplace, fully equipped kitchens, and antique furnishings. The smaller Gwendolynn Cottage offers a mini library, full kitchen, teak and leather furnishings, and an expanded shower and bath. There is also a large swimming pool in the back courtyard.

DIRECTIONS: Go South on I-15, then South on State Highway 79 from Temecula. Connect with State Highway 78 to Julian, or connect with State Highway 78 at Escondido, and travel East to Julian.


Go South on I-5, then East on State Highway 78 to Julian or go East on I-8 then past Alpine, North on State Highway 79 through Cuyamaca State Park to Julian.

The Lutz Castle is located at 1291 Canyon Drive, Julian, CA 92036. Phone: (760)519-7718

Castle Cottage-Jamul
Castle Cottage-Jamul


We tried valiantly to get more information on these homes. While we may have curiosity about these homes, the residents want to keep things private. We honor that.

THE ENCHANTED FOREST - FALLBROOK This castle is way off-the-beaten path, 1/2 hour from the freeway and down 10-mile paved country road between Temecula and Fallbrook. There is no address for this castle. The castle is available for special events and weddings, only. You must arrange a special event to see it. Bummer.

CASTLE COTTAGE - JAMUL This has been a private residence for the last 38 years. No information can be found on the house, perhaps by design.

THE D.E. MANN HOUSE - CORONADO (1045 Loma Ave on Star Park, Coronado) A 1928 Richard Requa-designed Moorish "castle" that's almost 5,000 square feet on a 12,375-foot lot. Richard Requa built many historic homes in San Diego.

THE DEL MAR CASTLE - DEL MAR (544 Avenida Primavera) This castle is located on a cliff overlooking the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

·  Amy Strong and Her Fortress in San Diego

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