From the Vision of a Railroad Baron to a Tale of Murder

In the 1840’s, Erie railroad baron, Eleazar Lord, built this 30 room, 15,000 square foot castle, which he named “The Cedars”. Locals would call it the Castle. Lord’s Castle was influenced by a Gothic revival sentiment that had begun sweeping the eastern seaboard in the 1830s and was said to be modeled after the manor house on Sir Walter Scott’s Scottish estate, Abbotsford.

Until it was sold to the Shah Family in 2015, just 3 families owned the castle. When Lord passed away in 1871, his daughter Sarah and her husband, William Whiton, struggled to hold onto the house. They never regained financial footing after the Panic of 1873 and were relieved when Pittsburgh banking and railroad heir, Alexander Blair Thaw bought it in 1890.

Under the ownership of the Thaws, the house was transformed by leading New York City architectural firm, McKim, Mead & White who began work on the Castle in 1892. The house was expanded and the interior was remodeled in their signature Beaux-Arts ornate style. The original gable ends were stepped, the pointy Gothic windows were Edwardianized, the wooden porches reconstructed in stone, the tower on the west capped with a conical roof, the forest of delicate chimney pots combined and bulked up, and the reconfigured interior given heavy doses of classical columns, balusters, dadoes, fireplaces and moldings. (1)

Stanford White Killed at Madison Square Garden

In a twist of fate decades later, Alexander Thaw’s half-brother, Harry Kendall Thaw, would kill architect Stanford White as a result of his jealousy over the relationship between White’s wife, chorus girl Evelyn Nesbit, and White. Thaw shot and murdered Stanford White on the rooftop theatre of Madison Square Garden on the evening of June 25, 1906, leading to what the press would call “The Trial of the Century”.

Legend of the Ivy

The castle is famous for the ivy gracing the home’s exterior.

Eleazar Lord was a friend of Washington Irving, whose house, called Sunnyside, is across the Hudson in Irvington. Legend has it that the ivy given to Lord by Irving for one of the castle walls was from Beethoven’s grave in Bonn while ivy for another wall was from Sir Walter Scott’s grave at Abbotsford. Together, the two friends planted the boxwood gardens adjacent to the Castle.

Upon occasion, the Lords boarded their large rowboat, The Barge, and, propelled by two oarsmen in livery, were rowed across the Tappan Zee to Sunnyside for an evening’s entertainment.” (2)

Childhood Memories of Living in a Castle

In 1968, Gerald and Charlene Ikelheimer moved in with their 3-year-old son Doug. Charlene would later marry Richard Stern in a wedding at the Castle and remain there until 2015 when the current owners, Tejas and Akshie Shah, purchased the castle and refurbished it as their summer home.

Bruce Ikelheimer recalls growing up in the castle.

“My folks, Charlene and Gerald (Gerry to everyone) moved while my mother was pregnant with me in 1968 – my brother [Doug] was about 3 at the time. They moved in from Manhattan – they were looking at houses in Piermont and Snedens, and the Castle had been vacant for a while. The Realtor thought they’d get a kick out of seeing it, never thinking they’d actually buy it! We grew up in the house, and it was many years before I realized that it was anything other than just a house!

Three feature films were, at least partially, filmed there and several TV shows. The craziest and most fun was the horror slasher ‘Silent Madness’ – where a deaf mute runs amok in a sorority house (the Castle)! Originally filmed in 3D, it pretty much bombed, but it was fun while they filmed it.

As kids, we drove pedal cars around the main floor, and had sock-slid­ing competitions on the parquet floors. Hide-and-go-seek had the single rule: you could not move to another floor to hide!

We had dinner parties in the dining room to rival Downton Abbey, and threw some incredible parties. The Y2K party my brother and I threw definitely stands out! A number of weddings were held at the Castle, including my own and my mother’s second marriage. I have a cousin who was married there, and several family friends over the years. All told I think the number is about 7 different weddings.”

Extraordinary Details Throughout the Castle

The Great Hall of Lord’s Castle is executed in a delicate classicism reminiscent of Federal era design and was likely influenced by the burgeoning Colonial Revival Movement complete with ornate columns and coffered ceilings. The paneling in the dining room was reported to have been sourced from Northern Europe and is said to date from the 18th century.

The movement of architectural “salvages” from Europe to the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries was a common phenomenon, as rich Americans looked for paneling to fit their antique furniture collections. The library is paneled in mahogany and features delicate painted stencil work and an amazing reading nook. The original M. M. & W. floor plans are framed on the library wall.

Below: The Great Hall of Lord’s Castle; Carved fireplace surround, an architectural “salvage” from Europe; Painted stencil work in the library

The grand staircase features an impressive tripartite window complete with an elegant fan­light, a common design element during the Colonial Revival period. Note that each tread has 4 ornate balusters adding to the staircase’s grand appearance.

The arts and crafts style features an original light fixture over a billiard table. The former gas jets now have electric bulbs.

The house also boasts an elevator, an original icebox and dumbwaiter as well as a walk-in safe in the basement. Lord’s Castle sits on 19 acres.

The estate includes a small 2-bedroom cottage, a vintage carriage house and a pool. (3)


  1. Foreman, John. I Love this Old House.
  2. Saveli, Isabelle K., Martin VanBuren And Washington Irving In Rockland County- Part II South of the Mountain, The Rockland County Historical Society, Vol 28, No. 1, January- March 1984, p. 16.
  3. 3. Wilcke, Vincent. Lord’s Castle: An 1890’s Beaux-Arts Dream.

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