The town of Ida Grove in Iowa is pretty much your average Midwestern town. Lots of cornfields, a few historic buildings, a great local farmer’s market, the works. But, as you explore Ida Grove, you can’t help but notice the town’s unusual collection of castle buildings. And the weird architecture is just the beginning of the story. It all goes back to one man: Byron LeRoy Godberson.
Byron was born on an Iowa farm not too far from Ida Grove in 1925 and grew up poor. He married his childhood sweetheart, LaJune, and went on to make millions as the founder and owner of Midwest Industries, a company that makes farm and marine equipment. Byron used his money to invest in lots of businesses throughout Ida Grove, which he loved. He also used his money to build a buttload of castles.
The first castle he built was a gate to his private estate. The estate included a man-made lake (named Lake LaJune, for his wife). It was meant to showcase his company’s marine products… but also contained a half-scale replica of the HMS Bounty from the movie Mutiny on the Bounty. Honestly, this is totally on brand for him. Oh, and the main building on the estate was also a castle.
There was also a Medieval-looking stone tower and a stone suspension bridge over Odebolt Creek, near the golf course. After those came the Grove Country Club’s clubhouse, and his company’s airplane hangar. In the 1980s, he opened a castle-themed commercial development property. He’s also responsible for the famous castle-themed Skate Palace.
And, at some point along the way, he found time to purchase the local shopper paper and turn it into a second newspaper for the town… which was housed in (you guessed it) a castle. Rumor has it the town’s first newspaper had written something bad about him, and he wanted to pit his new paper against the old. His final, and most kitschy, project was a housing development called Lake LaJune Estates. This is where Byron lived towards the end of his life. His home was a castle complete with watch tower, moat, and drawbridge.
Visiting Ida Grove’s castles today
Many of the castles are privately owned, and don’t really offer tours. That’s okay, though, since the outside architecture is the coolest part about them. Here are a few you can check out! Note: Please keep in mind that some of these are business, so appreciate them from the road only!
Other strange towns and tales of castles…