|City/Town: • Independence|
|Location Class: • Residential|
|Year Built: • 1874 | Year Abandoned: • Late 1990's|
|Status: • Under Renovation|
|Photojournalist: • Emily Cowan|
Norris Bennett Bristol
Known as the Independence Castle, it was originally depicted as a plain two-story square brick mansion with construction starting in 1870 and finishing in 1874. It was to become the family home of Norris Bennett Bristol who traveled from his hometown of Fulton, New York. Originally set out for El Dorado to settle with his son-in-law Benjamin Marple Armstrong, when they came into the town of Independence Bristol had no interest in staying. The sheriff convinced the three able bodied men, Bristol, Armstrong, and their driver to stay in a nearby log hotel and that if any trouble persisted during the night their help would be needed. The night passed with no trouble and Norris and Benjamin explored Independence the next day. Loving what they saw they decided to ditch their plans of heading to El Dorado and settling here.
Albert Perry McBride
In 1902 Albert P. McBride who was an oil millionaire, bought the Bristol mansion and renovated the striking residence at a cost of $80,000. He more than doubled the size of the home while giving it Romanesque features such as the eye-catching tower, and as of today the house has undergone many more renovations and add-ons. It has been described as “the handsomest and most luxurious and surrounded by beautiful grounds.” Money was not spared to refurbish the mansion paying close attention to woodworking detail. The house holds eight fireplaces stain glass windows in almost all rooms that have since been removed. The basement featured marble walls and mosaic tile flooring on the front porch that is still there today.
In 1949 the mansion was chopped into 8 apartments and a five car garage was added during the war to house the nearby Independence Army Airfield workers during World War II. They stayed apartments throughout the 70’s being used by college students going to the nearby Independence Community College. According to locals, the apartments were a popular party spot throughout the 80’s and 90’s until the owner Bonnie Bolden known as ‘Ole Lady Blair’ passed the property down to her family who started the process of turning it back into a house but did not finish.
The Castle Now
In 1999, the Janzen’s bought the mansion for $23,000 and continued the renovation project. Since taking over the tower has been reinforced and made structurally sound as well as taking out the temporary walls from when it was apartments. Electrical work has started but will be a longer process. The restoration process has been slow going due to personal reasons for the couple but they have high hopes to get it back to its former glory. It is one of the oldest and last historic homes still standing in Independence.
Article by AKS Photojournalist Emily Cowan.
Brown, Ken D. A Guide to Historic Homes in Independence, Kansas. K.D. Brown, 1993.
“Biography of Albert P. McBride.” Access Genealogy, accessgenealogy.com/kansas/biography-of-albert-p-mcbride.htm.