Not so long ago Picton had two castles, both overlooking Picton Harbour. They were significant architectural and historical landmarks in Prince Edward County. They’re both gone now, an irreplaceable part of Picton’s identity.
Castle Villeneuve (previously called Castle Inn), was a magnificent building on Bridge Street overlooking Picton Bay. The castle’s restaurant was popular for family get-togethers and special occasions. An explosion in 1986 resulted in its demolition. Here is a comment from a previous owner:
The Castle was a very unique and beautiful place to grow up in. My family are the ones who owned it during that unfortunate event. The magnificent ballroom with the ornate plaster work, grand fireplace with huge oil painting that hung over it. I remember the bustle of the weekends with the packed restaurant, the Kidds playing live music in the bar area. The view from the bar deck overlooking the bay was gorgeous. My favourite room was the one on the third that resembled a ship’s cabin–so neat. We never used that area or the bath with the clawfoot tub, just off the stairs. I can never forget my time living there. The stories that went with the old place or the house itself, in and out. Many times I have walked through the house in my memories. It truly was like losing a work of art. Houses like that aren’t built anymore.”
Recollections from the people that worked there …
.. Romany: I was the bartender for the last New Year’s Eve party, best memory was watching Dr. Taylor lead a conga line around the big dining room, dancing to “the locomotion”
.. Gale: Can remember mom saying she used to clean there and it had all kinds of secret rooms in it.
.. Cheryl: I worked there. Loved it, the history the architecture. Fond memories of my time there. Long dresses, low neck and white aprons. LOL
Rumours of ghosts …
.. Kandace: I remember it being haunted and I was very little. My mother served there. I spent a lot of time there
.. Steve: Friends from Toronto used to own it before Mr. Uhlmann. Spent many days and nights there ghost hunting. Crawling around in attics and basements with free reign of the “castle” as a 10 year old was VERY cool though.
The night of the explosion …
Propane was being used to unfreeze a frozen waste line. The valve on the tank was faulty, leaking propane across the basement floor to the furnace pilot light. The rest, sadly, is history.
The four heroes of the explosion were Paul Vidito of Picton; Paul Nelson Bartlett, an ambulance officer from nearby Consecon; Lionel Hicks of Picton; and Hicks’ visiting brother-in-law Lawrence White of North York.
Carolyn Hinde-White: “My husband Larry White received a medal of bravery for running into the building following the explosion and saving lives. The Castle itself was a beautiful Ontario landmark. How tragic that you lost it. I have a lovely painting of this historic Castle on my wall.”
The Rickarton Castle aka “The Rick”
The Rickarton was also on Bridge Street in Picton, and had a few cottages and a dance hall (boat house) on the waterfront. My good friend Daneen March (Daneen Douglas) lived at the Rickarton. Her parents owned it, I remember exploring the castle and grounds, helping Daneen out with chores occasionally. And partying at the dance hall in later years!
The castle was named after the Scottish Hepburn castle. It was built just after WWI as the ‘International Yacht Club’ – there were giant IYC letters in the floor. In those post-war years, this area had many American nautical tourists.
Fond memories …
Our Facebook followers recalled many good times at the Rickarton …
- the Rickartons’s boat house was the party spot
- great entertainment – saw David Wilcox at the Rick – in the boat house 🙂
- green beer and shuffleboard
- the horses on the black/white wall paper
- the furniture nailed to the floor
- Nellie (door person) in her New Year’s hat
- if those walls could talk — good times at that place!
What happened to the Rickarton ….
The owners retired and sold the property. The buildings were demolished and the property was divided into four residential lots. It is a beautiful waterfront location.
A comment from one of the new homeowners on that property ~ “Living on what was once the Rickarton’s lot, we have found a few things that survived. I wish I’d seen the original building. I’ve heard lots of “interesting” stories about it. The good vibes continue to be emitted from the land.”
Ancestral Roofs: Love and Loss – Villeneuve Castle
Ancestral Roofs: Love and Loss 2 – Rickarton Castle
Toronto Star – Toronto, Ont., Author: (AP-STAFF), Date: Dec 22, 1988