BISBEE, Ariz. – The castle that once served as the meeting place for a secret society is in the process of getting a makeover. Bisbee’s Pythian Castle, once home to the Order of Knights of Pythias, is undergoing a transformation, which, when completed, will see the historic building restored to its former glory.
The castle, which stands at 29 Ok Street, was built in 1904 by Joseph Muheim, who also built and originally owned the Stock Exchange building due west. Among the most impressive features of the castle, which, according to an article in a February 7, 1904 edition of the Bisbee Daily Review, cost over $30,000 to construct, was a tower that featured a three-faceted clock by E. Howard & Co. that chimed on the half hour and hour.
Interestingly, though built specifically for the fraternal organization, the building was only occupied by the Knights of Pythias for about ten years, during which time they let a room on the second floor to a local miner’s union. After encountering problems with the union members, the Knights began meeting at another location, and the union essentially took over the entire second floor. By the 1940s, the union, suffering dwindling membership, abandoned the castle. It stayed largely vacant until the 1980s when it was converted into eight separate apartments as a result of a government effort to stabilize historic structures.
In 2015, pavement contractor and owner of the group Pythian Castle LLC, Alfred X. Strati, began taking steps to renovate the castle based on the original floor plans. Once completed, the building will house a three-bedroom apartment on the second floor, with the front room— the original lodge room known as the “Great Hall of the Pythian”— reserved for use by the apartment’s occupants. Meanwhile, as for the street level, each storefront will be converted to large studio space, which will be able to accommodate residential or commercial tenants.
During its time spent in disrepair, the original Howard & Co. clock was stolen from atop the castle. However, as part of the undertaking of the recent renovations, Strati replaced the missing timepiece with a new electronic clock made by Electric Time of Massachusetts. From 9 am to 8 pm, the Westminster Quarters can be heard chiming from the clock on the hour.
Renovations on the Pythian Castle are well underway and the group estimates that the restoration will be complete by the end of 2016, “at which time all the spaces in the Castle will be available for either short or long term rental.”
To stay up to date on the castle’s progress, visit the group’s Facebook page.