History: The Curious Castle of Greenwood

One of the most curious structures to be built in Greenwood was what appeared to be a medieval castle. Although the castle has since been demolished, it still lives on in the memories of many. This is the story of “Castle Clare.”

Rising on an eminence near the eastern border of Greenwood, "Castle Clare" was the work of man named Clarence Bradshaw Hoag.  Hoag, who had been born Clarence Hogg in Lockeport, Nova Scotia in 1878, moved to Boston, where he worked hard and established the Hoag Press.  He sought a home outside of the city. 

At the time, Greenwood was an up-and-coming area.  After the streetcar line from Boston was established in 1892, many of those who worked in Boston decided that the Greenwood section would provide a healthy home for their families, only a convenient streetcar ride away from the city.  Clarence Hoag was one of those commuters. He bought a home on Acorn Avenue, but he wanted more.  He wanted a castle.  In 1922, he began clearing the top of a hill near his home, and making plans for his future.  Construction began in earnest after the Crash of ’29.  The 1930 federal census shows the 53-year old Clarence Hoag and his wife Maude, along with three sons and four daughters, living in the house on Acorn Avenue.  As the Great Depression began, the Hoag family began to build. 

Finally, in 1949, after 27 years of planning and building, it was complete.  Clarence Hoag had been the architect and builder of the structure, assisted by his sons and his relatives.  He named it “Castle Clare” after himself, after the custom of giving family names to castles in days gone by.

It was a small castle, but it appeared to be much larger because of its placement and the taper of its walls.  After its long period of construction was complete, it was an amazing sight.   The exterior were made of exterior plywood coated in gray asbestos shingles which looked remarkably like stone from a distance.  The main feature of the interior was a baronial hall, with a balcony for an orchestra, and other balconies.   The interior was adorned with paintings of the Hoag ancestors, along with suits of armor, tapestry banners and other medieval-esque embellishments entirely in keeping with the character of a castle.  The living quarters comprised 18 rooms, arranged on both sides of the hall.  More than 100 windows dotted the façade, and the structure held many staircases.   It was an instant landmark.   

Clarence Hoag had hoped that his castle would be a retreat for his family for many years but sadly, after his death in 1966, the structure was divided into apartments.  Curiously, it was totally empty when it caught fire on October 5, 1974.  According to Fire Department records, the cause of the fire was vandalism.

 The castle still lives on in the memories of many and the Historical Commission often receives requests for information or photographs of the curious castle in Greenwood.

Andrew McRae April 06, 2011 at 09:54 AM
Nancy, thanks for posting the interior pictures too...what a find! I remember the day the Castle burned, we took a ride up there the next day and it was so sad to see the smoldering ruins.
vjklander April 23, 2012 at 11:42 AM
The adults in my family always maintained the Hoag Castle was burned because the heirs wanted to subdivide it and there was a move afoot to have it put on the National Register of Historical Places, which would have precluded the subdividing.
Cheryl Gyles October 12, 2012 at 09:11 AM
My mother was a Hogg (Hoag) by marriage, related to Clarence Hoag. As a child I used to explore the woods behind our house on Kendrick Road in Greenwood. There was a site the locals called "Rattlesnake Rock", and you could see Castle Clare from atop of the rock. My mother told me that the castle was mostly built from scrap materials (ie. shipping crates, pallets, plywood) that Clarence would bring home from Boston. After the castle had been abandoned in the early 1970's, it had become a "party" hangout for teens, and eventually vagrants made use of the structure. It was a sad day when we were told of the fire in 1974.Thank you for this article and accompanying pictures, as I had not been able to find much information on the Castle in quite some time.
Richard Peterson October 20, 2012 at 04:48 PM
I knew Clarance Hoag. I used to do a lot of part time summer work for him and his second wife who was an artist. Cheryl Gyles in the post above is correct on all counts. He did use all kinds of salvaged material to build the castle and before that his original house which was 12 Acorn Ave. That I would know as I used to live there. When I was young Clarence was always working outside on all kinds of projects. Amazing energy for an already older man! He and his wife liked my parents very much and would often invite them and their friends up for a tour. Sadly as I grew into a young adult Clarence had a stroke and lost his ability to speak. I never had the chance to have a real adult conversation with him. Whenever I would go up the hill when Mrs Hoag would call to ask me to do something he would just smile and nod to me.
Louise Crouse October 10, 2013 at 08:53 AM
About 25 years ago we built a house on Acorn Ave. where the remains of the castle was. It was so peaceful there. They had knocked the rest of it down and built a sub-division. It is a shame the family didn't keep it.


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