Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Werk Castle - Gone But Not Forgotten

I have been curious about this home for some time now and so had one of my Facebook followers. He asked if I knew of any interior photos of the home. So I went off, "digging" for information.

The home above, known as Werk Manor, Werk Place, and Werk Castle, was built in 1897 by Eugenie M. Werk, spinster daughter of Michael Werk. Mr. Werk was born in Alsace-Lorraine and emigrated to the United States and 1832, began a soap and candle company in Cincinnati. This business was quite successful and Mr. Werk was also well-known for his wine and champagne. Eugenie's sister, Adele Werk Oskamp, lived at Willadel, featured earlier on this blog.

Below is an article, describing the decorating of the home, from the Cincinnati Enquirer, August 22, 1897:
LAVISH.: The Interior Decorations Are Nearing Completion in Miss Werk’s Palatial Home
pg. 32
The interior decorations of Miss Werk’s beautiful new home, nearing completion, on Harrison avenue, Westwood, will, as a whole, surpass anything before attempted in this vicinity. Only decorators whose names stand at the head of their various specialties, and well known in the decorative world, are engaged upon the work. It is safe to say that in point of adhering to the style of Louis XVI., and from an artistic point of view, the music room and the drawing room will surpass any decoration in any home west of New York City. Mr. W. F. Behrens, a celebrated decorator from New York City, has been brought to this city for the express purpose of supervising the decorations and furnishings.
The Louis XVI color scheme in purple and gold, ivory and cream is being carried out to perfection in the music room. Here the gas fixtures, the furniture and decorations will be in perfect taste throughout. The ceiling will be a work of art, with an oval figure panel in the center. This is now being executed by Virgil Tojetti, of New York City. At either end of the ellipse will be medallions of Verdi and Wagner, supported by Cupids embodied in the decoration. Mr. Clemens Barnhorn, of this city, is modeling the Cupids in relief. He is doing the work with great skill. His designs terminated in the scrolls of the Louis XVI style. This beautiful center panel will be surrounded by electric lights recessed in the ceiling. The corner pieces in this room will be emblematic of music. In the center of the bow window will be a handsome marble statue which Miss Werk ordered to be made when she was in Tunis. The statue has arrived and is at present in the Art Museum. The walls of this room will be reserved for rare works of art. An important feature will be the organ, which is being built in the wall, with a handsome Gothic front.
The reception room, adjoining the music room, will be in the Marie Antoinette style. The color scheme will be carried out in delicate blues, greens, cream and ivory. The ornamentation of the ceiling will be in blue gray. An elaborate design will be painted from the palette. This effect will be mother-of-pearl, with exquisite La France roses strewn in rich profusion, petals gracefully failing. The wall will be covered with silk damask, which is being especially manufactured in France. The tasselated floor of this artistic apartment will have a handsome Aubuson rug, which is being made to order. The fireplace will be Alta onyx; the gas fixtures of Ormolu gold.
The sitting room will be in the Empire style, with all the woodwork in mahogany. The general color scheme of this room will be green and gold, in the wonderful Rookwood coloring. In this room the facing for the mantel is being made by A. R. Valentien, of Rookwood. A beautiful head, by A. Van Briggie, will occupy a conspicuous place. The greens on the walls will be translucent, corresponding with the Rookwood ware.
The breakfast room, which is almost completed, is very dainty. Colonial in design, with dome ceiling. The color scheme is green and ivory, the ornamentation in ivory, blending into soft greens. The domed ceiling will be ornamented with morning glories and sweet peas. The furniture will be white mahogany.
The dining room is being executed in the Henri II of France style. The frontispiece of the fireplace will be an exquisite bronze panel, by Clodion of Paris, surrounded by Alta onyx. All fixtures will be en suite; woodwork and furniture of mahogany.
The library had been made in the Gothic style. The color scheme is in vert antique bronze and tobacco browns. The woodwork will be of Flemish oak. The fire place and mantel will be made of ceramic mosaics, with intricate Gothic design. This mantel and fireplace are now being made in England. The gas fixtures, andirons, &c., in the library of vert antique bronze. Here there will be an inlaid floor with fur rugs.
The spacious hall will be in the Francis I style. The color scheme will be green with woodwork in oak and fixtures in Bower-Barf. There will be an oak floor with antique Persian rugs throughout.
The billiard room is in red and oak.
Miss Werk’s room is in tallow and red, with dainty floral decorations. The woodwork in this apartment is of cherry.
The room being prepared for her niece, Miss Eugenie B. Werk, is a perfect example of the Empire style. The color scheme is a delicate rose and cream with delicate tracery of vine depending from the frieze. The woodwork and furniture will be of bird’s eye maple.
The room being prepared for her nephew, Mr. Louis M. Werk, is also in the Empire style, green being the prevailing shade. The woodwork is of curly birch. All the chambers on the second floor will be in the Empire style, with furniture to harmonize, the most pleasing of the guest chambers being in sky blue. This palatial residence will represent all that cultured taste and art can produce.
After Miss Werk's death in 1925, her nephew, Louis Werk continued to live in the home until approximately 1935, when he moved out and closed up the house. The house was demolished in 1939 to make way for a new subdivision.

Cincinnati Post, August 30, 1939; pg. 8
Familiar Landmark Will Be Torn Down to Make Way for New Subdivision; Hitching Post to Stand
By Paul Cunningham 
Soon the ring of the workmen’s tools will fill the air and the $250,000 residence of the late Eugenie M. Werk will crumble to dust like the ancient manors of medieval days.
The familiar Cincinnati landmark standing like a barons castle at 2701 Harrison avenue, is to be torn down to make way for a new subdivision. Only the hitching post in the driveway which has wintered 90 years will remain for sentimental reasons.
The 26-room mansion constructed in 1896 under the direction of the late Miss Werk, daughter of Michael Werk, the champagne maker, and Mrs. Pauline Werk, was purchased recently by the Globe Wrecking Co. After the valuable pieces of furniture and ornaments are sold, the building will be wrecked.
The mansion was practically imported from Italy and Germany. Miss Werk, an extensive European traveler, selected entire rooms of European castles and had her architect draw them on the spot.
She then had identical materials imported, along with foreign workmen to construct them.
The dining room, an imposing structure in itself, cost $20,000, it is said. A large room, it has a fireplace made of bronze and finished in hand-carved mahogany. The beams are solid hand-carved mahogany and the ceiling is raised, hand-painted ornamental plaster.
All bedrooms are finished in a different manner, with chandeliers of different design in each. The stairways are solid oak with Miss Werk’s initials E.M.W., hand-carved in 6-inch letters.
Pictures from many foreign countries line the walls of the second-floor library. The walls are of hand-carved oak. The oak fireplace is finished in hand-worked mosaic. A winding stairway to the observation tower, reported in highest point in Cincinnati, leads from the library.
Brief historical notes of the Werk family are contained in a solid leather archway on the second floor directly opposite a colored glass window in which the old homestead is pictured.
An old barn stands to the rear of the home. Underneath is a wine cellar 50 feet deep and 300 feet long. Only a few charred barrels in the two-story cellar link the present with the glorious past.
The following interior pictures were included with the above article. So far these are the only interior pictures I have found. I have tried to contact descendants of the Werk family, in hopes that more may be discovered.


  1. i dont understand why they couldn't have kept this building as the cornerstone of the new subdivision and build aroud it. i guess that's just par for the course when building a new subdivision. i hope you get dome more interior pics from their descendants.

  2. I thoroughly enjoy your research and web postings. Thank you so much. My grandmother and both sides of her family are from Cincinnati. She is related by marriage to the Werk family. Her aunt married a Bruce from Cheviot. His older half-sister, Kate married Michael Werk's son, Emile (Emil?) and they lived in Kansas City before, sadly, she died of TB-related disease (her mother had died of "consumption"), but she left three children. I find on the 1930 census that her only daughter, Eugenie Bruce Werk (married to Andrew E. Cook) is living at 2701 Harrison, which I assume to be Werk Castle from your above transcribed article. She is living there with her husband, 2 children and her brother Louis Werk. Eugenie Bruce Werk died shortly after the census in 1930. The census record shows quite a few servants, with separate residences for the gardener and family and chauffeur and spouse. It is too bad that this fabulous house was lost to a subdivision, but that seems to have happened a lot in Cincinnati (and everywhere in America!). Thank you again for all you do to educate and preserve the knowledge about Cincinnati history.

  3. The site of Werk Castle was LITERALLY in my boyhood backyard on Eugenie Lane! My fellow Eugenie buddy and I used to dig a network of tunnels over what we believed to be the demolished remnants and we frequently came across broken pieces of wine bottles and such!

    "why they couldn't have kept this building as the cornerstone of the new subdivision and build aroud it." is a very good question.

  4. Hi, My grandmother was a Werk. Her father, Thomas Werk spent time at the castle as a child. Eugenie was, from what he always said, his Aunt. I was in touch with one of the descendants of Michael in Cincinnati (a lawyer - can't recall his name right now) about 4-5 years ago trying to pin down who my great-grandfather's father was, because all he remembered was that his father died in a fire. I believe his father could have been Louis Werk, Eugenie's nephew. I did a lot of research on this in the hopes of solving this before my grandmother was gone. Unfortunately, she died two years ago. She would have been so happy to see your blog. Feel free to contact me.

  5. The so called subdivision is just a bunch of apartment buildings 😑

  6. I am fascinated!!! My birth name in Kimberly Suzzanne Werk, my biological father and grandfather were both named Louis. So....I do believe these are my ancestors!!! Louis was never in my life, and passed away 2 yrs ago. His son, my half brother, is Doug Werk of Okeechobee, Fla.

  7. My Grandpa was named Louis Werk. He has passed but he used to tell us about the Werk castles up north

  8. My Grandpa was named Louis Werk. He has passed but he used to tell us about the Werk castles up north

  9. Is there anyone still on this? I'm trying to find any information to link what I have.


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