The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

July 22, 2013

Castle tours set

Samantha Pidde Herald Staff Writer
The Clinton Herald

---- — SAVANNA, Ill. — Alan St. George sees his late wife, Adrianne, in every room of their home, both figuratively and literally.

A person walking through Havencrest Castle sees the couple’s face and form peering at him or her from statues, paintings and even fine china. St. George has drawn and sculpted his love for Adrianne into every corner of his home. Now members of the public will have a chance to witness it.

This month, St. George has opened the castle, located in Savanna, to tours for an admission of $20. The tour lasts 2 and 1/2 hours and winds through many of the 63 rooms in the estate.

“It was kind of just our creative outlet, I guess you could say. We never had children and the house was kind of like our baby,” said St. George about all of the work and additions the couple made to the mansion. “We really poured it from ourselves”

Francis and Margaret Greenleaf built the home between 1899 and 1901. The St. George’s purchased it in in 1976 and decided to expand on its 22 rooms.

“We kind of made it our mission statement that we wanted to recreate not only the house, but the lifestyle of the American aristocracy. So we were looking back to the gilded age; the fantasy gold age” St. George said.

The additions focused on public bedrooms, with very few bedrooms in the house. St. George said his wife loved to host and entertain people.

“So we were creating a house where that was possible. Lots of public rooms to entertain,” St. George said.

The couple designed and created every detail of the many themed rooms in both the original and new sections of the home. Visitors to the castle can see the Chinese Tea Room, the Ivory Tower Chapel, a conservatory, a Fragonard music room, an 80-foot-long Medieval hall and many others. The words “Semper Nos,” meaning “always us” — the couple’s motto — adorn paintings, statues and doorways.

“There were always hammers going our whole time here. In fact, it hasn’t stopped, because we working on the ballroom now,” St. George said.

Most of the rooms, including the tower, were constructed in what he calls the “Grand Project” in late 1993. As a wet summer continued to delay the work, the designs for the addition grew.

The ballroom’s floor was poured in early 1994. The project has spanned almost 20 years, with some details still remaining before its completion. It is the largest room in house.

“Adrianne used to say we made our ballroom smaller than the one at the white house because we didn’t want to be ostentatious,” St. George said.

Much of the work at Havencrest halted after Adrianne’s death on June 1, 2006. St. George started traveling for the first time, rarely staying at his home for more than 30 days at a time. Holidays, birthdays and anniversaries were celebrated out of town, sometimes even out of the country.

“I couldn’t stay here,” St. George said. “It made me sad to be here, cause it’s just filled with all these memories of just doing it all together.”

Some of the projects continued.

However, St. George said he was operating on automatic pilot.

“My heart wasn’t in it, but I was just kind of doing the details, finishing things,” St. George said.

His creativity slowly returned to him approximately two years ago, when he began sculpting again. Eventually he started working on the house.

The idea to offer tours came to St. George when a friend and local high school teacher brought some of her students to the castle. St. George enjoyed showing them around and explaining all of the rooms.

“It was inspiring them, but they were inspiring me,” St. George said. He had forgotten what it was like to entertain.

He began guided tours in July, with the idea it would only last a month. Tours have been booked into August, with more people wanting to come.

Havencrest Curator Michael S. Dunavant said everyone is awed at how elaborate and beautiful the castle is, not expecting to find such a place in the small town. He added that one person could not believe people could accomplish so much in one lifetime.

Those interested in tours should call Dunavant at (225) 603-3654. The castle is not handicap accessible.