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Curwood Castle: a literary shrine

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A short distance from Lansing, and certainly worth the trip, is a literary shrine to one of Michigan's distinctive authors. James Oliver Curwood built a miniature castle on the banks of the scenic Shiawassee River, and it has since been turned into a museum and a mecca for those interested in the inspirations of the creative mind. It has also spawned an annual festival in honor of this noteworthy Michigan talent. A contemporary of Jack London, Curwood had some interesting things in common with him. Both loved adventure and set their stories in Canada and the far north. Both died young, in their forties. Both enjoyed a measure of commercial success from their work, which does not always overtake authors! It was this financial achievement that permitted Curwood to indulge his fantasy vision of an ideal home for his literary inclinations.

The Castle and park

Curwood built his dream home in 1922-23, modeling it loosely on French Norman lines, with a hint of English half-timbered Tudor added. He used one turret of the castle for his writing studio. It is easy to see how he was inspired by the windy nature of the river rushing by even today. In later years, he became an ardent conservationist as well. In the building itself, he employed yellow stucco and native fieldstones.. Inside, he frequently entertained, including Hollywood producers who turned several of his works into movies. Elsewhere on the grounds is to be found the Comstock log cabin in fine preserved condition, somewhat reminiscent of the Perkins-Copland log cabin at the Meridian Historical Village in Okemos (see the article at www.examiner.com). Another noteworthy part of the park is the Heritage Footbridge, with a plank roadway, stone towers and suspension chains, crossing the Shiawassee. The entire park is obviously a popular destination, and can be used for weddings and other group activities.

Beyond the Castle

As interesting as the Castle is, it is really only the start of what can best be described as "the culture of Curwood." A whole phenomenon has grown up around this man, including a Heritage Festival each June. Since 1978, various festivities have commemorated Curwood's life and work, as well as the local pride in his Castle. For example, a parade is held while nominations for Grand Marshal are eagerly sought. At .times, an amusement park atmosphere prevails with rides including a Ferris Wheel. The next Festival is scheduled for June 5-8, 2014. It is unclear what Jim Curwood would have made of all this, but one suspects that he would have been proud.

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