Building the Pythian Home of Missouri, alias ‘Pythian Castle’, in Springfield, Missouri, in 1913 for the Knights of Pythias, and later becoming the property of the United States military, was a significant achievement. During World War II, German & Italian prisoners of war were assigned to this location for medical care and to work as laborers. Some of the inmates were housed in the castle’s attached powerhouse and wash facility, which was located behind the castle. The laundry room is still under the control of the United States Army. In October 2009, the structure was added to the National Register of Historic Places in the United States. Located on private property, it is made publicly available for tours by appointment only.
The main structure was built to have the impression of a castle, which corresponded to the motif of the Knights of Pythias, and was constructed of stone and brick. The building’s base and exterior are made of “Carthage Stone,” a particularly hard form of limestone that is widely found in the Ozarks and used for construction. Construction of the inside consists of a steel framework with flat slab floors, stairways, ceilings on top of it. Several layers of plaster were applied to the inner walls, which are made up of stacked hollow-core “Pyrobar Blocks” that have a wire mesh covering on top of them.
Main level amenities include a grand entrance, conference room, dining hall, ballroom, and sitting parlors on the original main floor. The second level, which may be accessed through parallel stairs on either side of the building, was meant to provide dormitory-style quarters for youngsters as well as adult bedrooms. There is also a theater on the second story, complete with an original ticket counter, seats, an upper projection room, and a lighting room, as well as dressing rooms backstage. A full basement is also included in the price of the building. The power house, which sat directly behind the main structure, held the boiler and the laundry facilities for the institution.
A fraternal organization, the Knights of Pythias, built the fortress and detached power plant in the early 1900s as a retirement home for poor members of the order, as well as for their widows or children. The Pythian Home of Missouri was the name of the building. Among seven communities bidding for the building of the Pythian mansion, Springfield was the only one to sell 53 acres of land to the Knights of Pythian for one dollar in 1909. Until 1942, it was used as a gathering place for the order.