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Camdenton, Missouri

Ha Ha Tonka Castle Ruins

European castle ruins in an American state park are actually the product of death and grief. 

Sitting on a bluff in the oddly-named Ha Ha Tonka State Park (supposedly translating to “laughing waters”), the ruins of a businessman’s mansion appear to belong to a bygone fairytale kingdom, but are really the remains of a dead man’s dream.

Wealthy Kansas City businessman Robert Snyder had a dream to construct a European-styled castle right in his beloved Missouri. To this end Snyder purchased 5,000 acres of land, including his very own lake, and began work on the evocative mansion in 1905. The businessman even imported stone masons from Europe to achieve the correct style, but unfortunately Snyder would not live to see his dream house to completion. Construction on the house had begun in earnest, but in 1906, Snyder was killed in one of Missouri’s first car accidents. However Snyder’s dream castle would not die with him.

After his death, Snyder’s sons continued work on the building and were able to complete the castle by 1920. After completing construction, one of Snyder’s sons took up residence in the huge castle until the family’s money ran out due to land rights lawsuits surrounding the castle’s property. After Snyder the younger’s depression and poverty drove him from the house the building was opened as a hotel and lodge until 1942 when the entire building was utterly destroyed by a fire.

The state purchased the property in the 1970’s and has worked to preserve the crumbled walls of Snyder’s dream home as a feature in their state park. Visitors can now explore the bones of the  “castle” that brought down the Snyder kingdom.       

Know Before You Go

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