Kansas City, MO

The 1920 castle ruins in Ha Ha Tonka State Park near Camdenton, Missouri represent a dream of a Kansas City businessman

CJ Coombs

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American Castle Panoramic Ha Ha Tonka State Park, Missouri.ThePhotoRun, Jason Runyon, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Ha Ha Tonka State Park and castle ruins

Ha Ha Tonka State Park is nestled on 3,700 acres in the Ozark region not far from Camdenton, Missouri.

The park is a geologic wonderland featuring sinkholes, caves, a huge natural bridge, sheer bluffs and Missouri’s 12th largest spring. The ruins of a turn-of-the-century stone castle overlook these wonders and offer impressive views of the Lake of the Ozarks and Ha Ha Tonka Spring. (Source.)

One of the highlights of this state park is the ruins of a stone mansion modeled after 16th-century European castles. The mansion was constructed in the early 1900s and looks like it popped out of a princess fairytale book.

It was used as a summer and weekend retreat by the Snyder family. In the 1930s, it was used as a hotel, but in 1942, the castle was destroyed by a fire, and the ruins remain as one of the main attractions at the Ha Ha Tonka State Park. The mansion ruins are actually what's left of a wealthy businessman's dream. It makes for an interesting story.

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Looking up towards the Ha Ha Tonka ruins.Photo by Semipaw (2005), CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Robert McClure Snyder

Robert Snyder came to Kansas City, Missouri in 1880 to work in the wholesale grocery business like his family before him. A real estate speculator, he was a millionaire within 25 years of his move to Kansas City. He dreamed of constructing a European-styled castle in Missouri that would have 60 rooms and serve as a retreat from the city. He began fulfilling his dream by purchasing 5,000 acres of land which included a lake. Believe it or not, this work began in 1905.

Stone masons were brought over from Europe to ensure the style was right. While the work had begun, tragically, Snyder was killed in 1906 in a car accident in Kansas City. His son, Robert Snyder, Jr., and half-brothers picked up the work and completed their father's dream in 1920. When the castle was completed, one of Snyder's sons lived in it.

Snyder, Jr. was also a prominent businessman in Kansas City. When he died in 1937, William Volker purchased his private collection and donated it to the University of Missouri at Kansas City. The collection, which includes rare books and manuscript material, is now housed in LaBudde Special Collections.

Snyder also had a hand in the banking business by organizing Mechanics Bank which later became City National Bank. He also organized what became the Kansas City Life Insurance Company. He also participated in the utility industry in the Kansas City area. He'll be remembered, however, for his dream estate in Missouri called Ha Ha Tonka, which is now a state park.

In 1904, he purchased Ha Ha Tonka Lake and Spring in Camden County and immediately began constructing roads and making extensive improvements. He once said: 'Here I will spend my leisure, secure from the worries of business and the excitement of city life. I will fish and loaf and explore the caves of these hills, with no fear of intrusion.' (Source.)

In 1978, the state purchased the property and worked to preserve Snyder’s dream home featured in the state park. The ruins can be seen from an observation point that's located across from the park office.

The below video provides a view of the ruins and the park. The castle was built on a bluff and is remarkable as it stands and was probably stunning in the 1920s against its wonderful background views.

Thank you for reading.

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Multi-genre writer and indie author; 30 years of legal secretarial experience; BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. Thinker, giver, and lover of life. Born into Air Force service life, life has taken me to Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, art, truth, non-fiction, reading, history, and travel.

Kansas City, MO
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