Tennessee Castle Abandoned By An Eccentric Millionaire

From a grand family estate to a lively nightclub, the story of this abandoned mansion is full of surprises. Photographer Leland Kent from Abandoned Southeast has documented its fascinating history. Click or scroll through to explore this intriguing mock castle.

After graduating from Princeton, Robert Brinkley Snowden returned to Memphis, Tennessee, to build his family estate. A well-known real estate developer, he finished constructing Ashlar Hall in 1896, named for its Ashlar stone design. The impressive home cost $25,000 to build, which is about $768,000 today.

When Snowden passed away in 1942, Ashlar Hall was inherited by his family. However, the maintenance costs were too high, so they applied to the city for permission to use the building for non-residential purposes. By the 1950s, it had become a restaurant.

In the 1990s, the mansion was bought by Robert Hodges, an eccentric Memphis millionaire also known as Prince Mongo. He is famous for his unconventional lifestyle and claims to be a 333-year-old refugee from a planet called Zambodia.

Prince Mongo, who has run in almost every Memphis mayoral election since the late 70s, made headlines in 2009 for campaigning without his usual outlandish costume. Despite his many attempts, he has yet to win an election.

Prince Mongo transformed Ashlar Hall into a popular late-night spot called The Castle. However, these 2017 photos reveal a very different scene: peeling wallpaper, graffitied walls, and an abandoned piano in the entryway.

Back in its heyday, The Castle drew crowds with promises of cheap beer and wet T-shirt contests. An old sign, now left to decay, shows the opening times: the pool had to be emptied by eight in the evening, but the nightclub stayed open until the early hours.

The once-luxurious mansion boasts 11,000 square feet over two floors, featuring eight rooms, a basement, a large attic, and even servants’ quarters. The property also includes 3,000 acres of land with a uniquely shaped swimming pool.

The double-height entryway used to welcome revelers with grandeur. Now, the Ashlar stone is grimy, the walls are covered in graffiti, and the ceiling is peeling due to exposure to the elements.

Upstairs, the carpet is strewn with debris and the décor is worn. The main hallway, which once buzzed with late-night parties, now branches off to rooms filled with the remnants of its past.

In the late 1990s, under pressure from the neighborhood, The Castle was shut down. However, local legend says that Prince Mongo wasn’t ready to quit. He reportedly dumped 800 tons of sand in the parking lot and kept the party going outside.

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Once closed, the castle remained vacant for years and fell into disrepair. Trash piled up in the corners, and grime accumulated over time, turning it into a true riches-to-ruins story.

Years of abandonment left the once vibrant hub of Memphis life in a dilapidated state, with nature encroaching and peeling wall murals from its glory days. The mock castle now desperately needs a thorough cleaning before any restoration can begin.

Many of Mongo’s possessions were left behind after the final wild party, including an old reel-to-reel tape recorder that must have seen plenty of use.

The intricate stained-glass panes hint at the hall’s former beauty, but now the historic building is covered in dust and dirt. The bay window, once a perfect spot to enjoy a drink, now merely frames an empty shell.

In 2013, a nonprofit organization acquired Ashlar Hall from Prince Mongo through a quitclaim deed. Their goal was to secure funding to transform the building into a rehabilitation center for veterans.

However, the property was in dire need of a complete overhaul, with crumbling staircases, faded entrance halls, and graffiti-covered walls making it almost unrecognizable from its regal past. One can only imagine what the developers thought when they first stepped inside.

Things didn’t go as planned. According to the then-owner’s account to the Memphis Daily News, a contractor he hired stole pieces of copper from the roof, along with original stonework and beams, none of which were ever recovered.

Blue tarpaulin that once covered parts of the roof now dangles in front of the building, leaving it exposed to the elements. The gates are securely shut, but the windows are left ajar, as if someone left in a hurry.

The vast concrete area behind the property, once teeming with revelers, is now an abandoned space slowly being overtaken by weeds. However, there is hope for this once-grand home. In 2016, real estate contractor and investor Juan Montoya purchased the derelict property, and renovations began.

In another twist, the Daily Memphian reported that a ‘Stop Work’ order was issued in February 2020 due to a failure to obtain a building permit for the repairs. With renovations now halted, permits have been applied for and are awaiting approval. Only time will tell if this abandoned mansion can be revived.

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