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Hartford Castle

Download this issue!Hartford Castle – Hartford, IL
By Michael Kleen

Read about this location and more in Legends and Lore of Illinois: The Definitive Collection

Read about this location and more in Legends and Lore of Illinois: The Definitive Collection

“Hartford Castle” is the colloquial name for a mansion that formerly stood on a tract of land just outside of Hartford, Illinois, across the river from St. Louis.  The mansion’s actual name was Lakeview, but few besides the original owner referred to it as such. The original owner was a French immigrant named Benjamin Biszant, who built the imposing home for his bride, an Englishwoman whose name has apparently been lost to history.

Sparing no expense (which was certainly an impressive dollar amount in 1897), Biszant surrounded Lakeview with sprawling gardens, statuary, romantic gazebos, and, finally, a moat to keep out trespassers.  According to Louie Haines, a neighbor who recalled helping to dig the moat with his father, the Frenchman stocked it with goldfish that interbred with local crappie, producing what he described as “unusual looking fish” (Lewis & Clark Journal 25 March 1973).

Eventually, Biszant’s wife died and, perhaps, the pain was too much for him to remain at Lakeview.  He sold the mansion and moved west.  A number of owners and tenants occupied the mansion until 1923 when a husband and wife from nearby Wood River purchased the property.  They lived there until 1964, when the wife became a widow and decided to move to less lonely surroundings.

What happens next? Click here to download the entire issue (.pdf) and find out!

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Legends and Lore of Illinois Vol. 2 Digital Edition

Order all 12 issues of the Legends and Lore of Illinois from 2008 in a special digital edition for your favorite e-readers. Places covered in Vol. 2: Archer Cemetery, Sunset Haven, Peoria State Hospital (Bartonville Asylum), Airtight Bridge, University of Illinois, Calvary Cemetery and ‘Seaweed Charlie,’ Lakey’s Creek, Peck Cemetery, Blood’s Point Road, Old Union Cemetery, Hartford Castle, and more! Plus, read letters from our readers, book reviews, ghostly games, and put your knowledge of these locations to the test with challenging trivia questions. Don’t miss these classic issues from the archives of the Legends and Lore of Illinois.

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Comments

  1. I VISITED THIS PLACE ONCE AS A TEENAGER CAN’T REMEMBER HOW TO GET TO IT WOULD LOVE TO GO THERE AGAIN CAN YOU HELP

    • Yeah Nikki, Go East of Route 3 on New Poag Road. I think an overpass goes over the tracks now. As soon as you cross the tracks it’s on the left. Went out there about about 2004. Badly overgrown now. It’s primarily used for hunting now.

  2. RandyT62048 says:

    Hey, I live here in Hartford, And I go there atleast once or twice or month. I take my metal dectector. I found lots of good stuff. Cant tell ya what.. But if you ever wunna go let me know and be sure to bring wade’n pant’s or water proof boot’s

  3. mike Cottrell says:

    who owns this property now?

  4. Katie Plummer says:

    Who owns this property now? Does anyone have any information on this topic? I can’t seem to track down the owners for the life of me!

  5. Last I was there, a hunter told me a local doctor owns the land.

  6. Jerry Minks says:

    Having 3 years of Paranormal Investative experience- Hartford Castle is with in our Riverbend local area- Our research team Riverbend Independent Paranormal Services R.I.P.S. is preparing to showcase local haunts for our tourist attractions. I’ve already collected countless hours at McPike and I’m on the volunteer staff there. (With lots of nitevison cameras. I also remember hearing of Hartford Castle and want to do a documentery on it if at all possible. PLEASE REPLY?

    • I live in hartford and know exactly where the castle is but need help getting to it. id be willing to take you as far as i know and then venture on forth to find a way to it

    • As a young kid me, my brother and my dad used to search for this place when a friend of my dads told him about it.. we never found it.. when I was 17 me and a friend searched for it and found it.. Ive been going there for years now.. Ive explored the area a great deal. When the trees are thick and its wet navagation is difficult and hard to find your way around. I used to have tons of great pictures but lost most of them. its a neat place.. nothing like it once was. I wish I could have seen it in its prime.. of course I wasn’t born till 1972

  7. I live in hartford currently and know exactly where the castle is but can’t find anyone to go with nor anyone to lead me there. I have never been there but iv been right next to it and know how to get in the general area, id be willing to take people with me as far as i know and on a scout team to figure out a good route.

  8. Tbucket3 says:

    we found it have pics of what is left not hard to find google earth if you know hartford real good i live in east alton ten minutes away their is not much left but still cool found old hair dryer switch that was burned in the fire that took the house it was lying next to some rubble way cool that it was still their and its from the 50’s-60’s

  9. how do u get tot the place?? i am into photography and i would LOVE to take some cool pics..help?

    • From the pictures I have seen on the web, there probably aren’t any cool pictures to take, unless you run into the yeti that one site says lives there. If you go on Google earth and go to the intersection of New Poag Rd and 111, it is just west of there on the east side of the railroad overpass. Once again, it is private property and supposedly the police watch it for trespassers.

    • Stephen says:

      I would love to go here. I live in St Louis. If anyone would like to go reply back and maybe we can set something up.

  10. Anne-Marie says:

    I tracked it down, since I do not live far. I took my son with me. It’s privately owned, as Mike said. Yes, the moat still exists. I’m not sure how deep it is, but it’s SO infested with mosquitoes back in there that it’s just UNreal. It’s incredibly marshy too. We couldn’t find an area to cross the moat, and since we were both getting eaten alive… plus the fact that I was trespassing with my son, it was time to go.

    I think we were incredibly lucky that we didn’t get caught, either by police or by the farmer whose field we cut through, in order to get back into this little hidden away place. You have the farmer to contend with, the county, local police and then there’s railroad property that runs along it as well. HOWEVER, there IS a place to park your vehicle… out of the way, if you want to take a little walk down the tracks, you can get there without having to walk through the farmer’s field and all the marshy crap that my son and I treked through. But, good luck, because if you get caught I can guarantee you that’s a court appearance and not just a ticket that you can pay through the mail.

  11. I live in wood river, my girlfriend and I go to lakeveiw. Easy to find, email me

  12. Someone told me Al Capone use to hang out there when it was a speak easy. Any truth in that rumor? I live in South Roxana in a bldg where the rumors fly that he use to hang out here. Since I am not from the area, I am not sure what to believe, most of his hideouts are listed online. I know I am off topic, but but this is kinda about the castle in a way lol

  13. Sad to say, but the place burned down in a fire. It’s too bad because I never saw the place.

  14. jerome minks says:

    I have visited a few sites on the internet, and even looked over the incredible number of photos of the building, the grounds and even the airial photo taken in the mid 50s which shows the original private road that came in off of the canal road to the east.. I have been told of the ownership belonging to a local doctor and if he reads this he needs to contact me please.. I want to do a video documentary on the site using photos and real footage as well as a nitevision paranormal investigation of the site with my own gear and portable on-site rolling heaquarters which is a full sized ford van with everything mounted in and on the unit for this purpose.. anyone who can aquire legal acess for this project will be of assistance to this and can help with research and documentation so we can produce a quality and entertaining work for the owner. this can also be used in conjunction with the haunted tours of the area just as a reminder that it was here. the library has some info on the site but most of what I have seen is on sites like this one. It would be fantastic to find any older photos of this location which show the facility in its former glory other that those which show up on the websites that are very few in number.. anyone interested in this project needs to contact me as well.. I am a videographer and documentarian, and been active in the field for nearly 12 years. what I know is the original owner was a frenchman named benjamin bissant who had the house built for his newlywed bride,from europe. since ben was a traveler, he would leave his bride at home to oversee the grounds which were in the center of the moated area for her protection/safekeeping.. the drawbridge was raised to keep her on the “island” and while away on business, it was discovered that she died while he was away.. aparently from sickness or possibly from a mental breakdown causing her to take her own life. the moat was dug by a farmer neighbor using a horse-drawn plow and the dirt was piled to the inside of the area where the actual house was constructed. the one tower was positioned so the lady-in-waitng could see down the road when her husband was due home. the island was adorned with flowering trees and lush gardens and had several gazebos in the area west of the house. there was a big barn or outbuilding just near the entrance aparently for the horses, and to the north was an extensive orchard with rows of fruit trees. this place was used as a resort, a summer camp for youth, browns colledge had it for a bit, there was a orphanage there for a bit, a private couple had bought it and were living there and discovered that the local youths were trespassing in the nearby woods so they opened it up as a camping area with cottages for a bit, then they died off andf things went south from there.. the place was burned to the ground by vandals in 1971 and its been rarely visited since then other than by curious onlookers and thrill seekers looking to get a good scare.. its been said that the lady still roams her gardens and the gazebo areas as she did in life.. it was for her, a form of escape .. the entire area comprises almost 30 acres and as of now, may only be used by hunters each year… there is a comercial land owner near there who is interested in the property for developement into warehouse space, and if he gets this ground, all our efforts will be futile so we need to move on this project soon.. jerome minks 4-27-2013

    • I wish I could buy the land.. I often dreamed of cutting all the trees down and restoring it a little… maybe to a park or something.. Id hate to see it lost to time.. or even worse another dam warehouse!

  15. I explored that area about 26 years ago when I was a teenager. I took the railroad tracks by the stream and travel south. You have to cross the stream over the tracks (about 60 yards). The area is visible on the left. If I remember correctly it shouldn’t be more than 2 mile south from the stream. What you see is way over-rated. It’s nothing but decaying concrete from long ago. It’s so old you can hardly tell what any of it was for. IMO it’s not worth getting arrested for or even looking at. Also, where you park your car would draw attention to any of the local farmers.

    • apparently you haven’t seen everything then… there are 3 fully intact gazebos a few small bridges for walking over, two areas where draw bridges used to be one of which is really cool, there is an old fountain structure, several lion statutes, a well, the foundation where the tower was, even a few remaining standing walls and concrete walk ways… that’s just to name a few things….

      Second you don’t park your car in the spot your talking about.. if you park it near the highway you draw the attention of everyone driving by. Best to park a few miles away and walk in on foot.

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