Just outside the gates to the Castle, on the brow of the hill, sits a modest white clapboard house called "Hillside." This was the first homestead built on Greenleaf Hill and is now our Visitors Center. It was built in 1872 by Simon Greenleaf and wife Frances Jane. In 1875 Simon established the Savanna Times, a weekly newspaper. In 1885, Simon Greenleaf and son, Francis, established the Savanna Journal. By the end of the year, Francis S. Greenleaf became the full owner and editor of the weekly still published today, and known as the Savanna Times Journal.
The Greenleaf family owned the entire hill along with a large apron of land down on the 'flat' that surrounded it. An Episcopalean of ardent faith, Simon donated a portion of the land to St. Paul's Episcopal church, where he was a founding member. A stained glass window in the structure commemorates him.
In 1886 Margaret Kenney married Simon's son, Francis S. Greenleaf, and they lived with his parents in the unassuming "Hillside," dreaming of the day when they would have a home of their own. They chose the prime bit of land, that great lot on the crest of the hill, lot number one, as the setting for their new Queen Anne mansion.
It is a boom time in the Midwestern town that boasts both the railroad and the Mississippi River as conduits of commerce. Local affluent men are also proposing erections of "commodious and substantial" dwellings. Started in 1899 and finished in 1901, "Hillcrest" (later to become "Havencrest") was one of four extravagant homes built at that time as the result of a wager between prominent businessmen, to determine which home would be the most opulent in Savanna. All will build in the Queen Anne vernacular, and all will use the only architect in town, Lester Bowen.
"Hillcrest," built of local brick and limestone brought by rail from Indiana, boasted two water closets (bathrooms), in a time and place where indoor plumbing was a rarity. In addition, Margaret had installed
a marble sink with hot and cold running water in her bedroom, where commonly a large pitcher of tepid water in a bowl were the standard fixtures. Luxury woods of Birdseye Maple and quarter-sawn oak were used throughout the first floor public rooms. Going beyond the "modern convenience of electricity throughout" the dining room boasted a Tiffany chandelier, and little lights between the oaken beams of the coffered ceiling.
Mr. Greenleaf died in 1944, and a few months later his wife, Margaret, followed him. Their four children were now scattered across the country, so the furnishings and then the house were sold. (in 1945 the dining room's Tiffany chandelier sold for only $5) However, the three fireplaces, the beveled and stained glass windows, formal sliding
doors, ornate brass hardware, and fine woods remained to capture the hearts of another newlywed couple some 31 years later.
The St. Georges
It was 1976 and seven owners later when Mr. and Mrs. Alan St. George purchased the Greenleaf mansion on the hill, and began their lifelong mission of expanding and decorating the home in the manner of the 'American Aristocracy.' The newlyweds transformed the former Greenleaf home into what is now called "Havencrest Castle,"
fulfilling a credo that they lived by: "Reality is for those who lack Imagination."
The St. George's were a couple deeply in love with each other since their early teens. Their devotion manifested itself in a passionately creative outpouring of work and lifestyle that at times seemed to blur fantasy and reality. Over their 30 years in the home together, Alan and Adrianne expanded the original 22 rooms to 63. They
planned and executed every major and minor detail of the many themed rooms without the aid of an architect or designer. "Havencrest" is filled with original art and sculptures, created by Alan, inspired by Adrianne. As rooms were completed they were used to hold extravagant galas, costume balls and charity events. Adrianne Blue Wakefield-St. George was the original founding director of the Humane Society of Carroll County, and not only did many of the charity events benefit her organization, but the castle was also home to six of the couple's own dogs. She passed away on June 1, 2006. Alan used to say, "When Adrianne entered a room, the lights and music went on, and when she left, the lights and music went out." After a five year period of mourning and healing, Alan's creative inspiration returned. He completed the last of the 24 life-sized figures for the ballroom, and then made a 180˚ turn to contemporary art, producing 21 tabletop bronze and aluminum sculptures.
At the age of 19, after studying at The Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, (the same school Walt Disney attended as a youth) Alan St. George founded Facemakers, Inc., an international mascot company. Begun in 1972, the company operated exclusively from studios in "Havencrest" from 1976 until 1989 when much of the production and shipping operations were moved to the newly acquired 800 Chicago Avenue, not far from "Havencrest Castle." The company designs and manufactures the world's largest selection of mascots for clients that include Disney, The White House, and thousands of high schools and universities. They have designed world famous mascots from Smokey Bear, to the Keebler Elf and Tony the Tiger. "Havencrest Castle" remains the corporate and business heart of the company, as well as the location of Alan's personal studios and office. As such, the business and the castle are undeniably linked by their simultaneous expansion and their embrace of the fantastic.
The Castle Today
During the October weekends of 2018, with help from a 3rd generation of family staff members, Alan St. George opened the castle to visitors. In just 8 days 2,773 enthusiastic guests ascended Greenleaf Hill, and passed through the massive iron gates to take the self-guided tour of the castle.
Seeing those happy faces for himself, Alan declared his determination to work out a way for his home to be open to visitors in October and May every year.
after 30 years of expansion