High Tea, Teddy Roosevelt, Stephen King and a Castle

Author: Jerri Brooker
Published on: September 11, 2001

Seldom are Stephen King, High Tea, Teddy Roosevelt and a Washington State castle mentioned in the same breath, but at a beautiful castle in Lakewood on American Lake, the four have something in common.
Let me explain.

Thornewood Castle

Thornewood Castle is one of Washington State's hidden surprises. The 27,000 square-foot castle built in 1908-1911 by Chester A. Thorne is the only English Gothic-Tudor-style castle on the West coast. Thirty-five minutes from Sea-Tac airport, the magnificent structure borders American Lake and sits on 4-1/2 acres, including a half-acre sunken English garden. The only way one would even know about it is a gate on Thorne Lane; it's not viewable by passersby.

It's a 54-room brick mansion complete with 28 bedrooms and 22 baths, eight of which are Suites. Anna's Bridal Suite has cherry furniture with a jacuzzi, while the Presidential Suite is where President Teddy Roosevelt spent two weeks. It features a lake view and is very decadent. If I were to reserve a Suite, however, I think it would be the Grand View Suite with a tiled portico and hot tub with a view of the lake. The 16th-century stained-glass windows add to the charm.

The castle is a beautiful brick-exterior beauty with ten-inch-thick concrete floors covered with hardwood and 18-inch walls built on a three-foot thick concrete foundation. Many of the materials from a castle in England, like the medieval stained glass windows, were transported around Cape Horn. Be sure to visit the castle link to view all the glass.

Okay, you know it's a castle and you know about the Presidential Suite, but what do Teddy Roosevelt and Stephen King have to do with it?

President Theodore Roosevelt

President Teddy Roosevelt stayed at the castle for two weeks on a visit to our state. The Presidential Suite is where he stayed. So did President Taft. It features a four-post British Empire King bed today. As with all the Suites, pure luxury awaits in this historical room.

Stephen King

Stephen King? How does he figure?

Stephen King's Rose Red six-part mini-series became a part of Thornewood Castle, one of many places researched in 30 states and Canada, when his scouting crew found it was the perfect place to film his newest work since his tragic accident. The castle is actually the “star" of the show.

Prior to shooting, the crew came in and restored the first floor back to the original grandeur of 1911, which helped cinch the decision to allow King's masterpiece filming at the castle for owners Wayne and Deanna Robinson. The movie crew even constructed a “Rose Red" tower, a fountain and a solarium for the property. The film props have since been sold.

The mini-series is due to be televised in early 2002. Stephen King's first work since his tragic accident came alive at Thornewood during filming, including an exploding car in the drive, falling boulders, ghostly characters, spiderwebs, fog and unexplained real-life happenings. If you're a Stephen King aficionado, then this is probably right up your alley.

There are some unsettling things that happened while filming the unusual theme. Real-life actor David Dukes died of a heart-attack the night before he was to play his movie death scene. A producer had his lips bitten off a week before shooting by a crew member's dog! Enough of that scary stuff.

Thornewood was the site for two other past movies: “Juliette - the Last Warning" and “Precious Cargo." There's a lot of room to film, as the 27,000 square-foot castle is akin to 15 typical homes.

Bed and Breakfast/High Tea

Besides all the above, the castle is a wonderful bed and breakfast. The owners of this historical treat offer tours of the castle in the form of an English four-course high tea including pasties, sweets, sandwiches, tea and pudding, or if you prefer, lunch and a tour. There's also a castle mystery series.

The tea menu is not to be outdone by the Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Check out the link to read the menu. Since the castle was built at the end of Queen Victoria's reign, high tea seems quite appropriate; she insisted on afternoon tea.

The link has all kinds of castle views, from rooms to the exterior, plus interesting movie restoration tales. I found it educational to see how the restoration crew duplicated the castle ceiling moldings in the movie renovation. The restoration budget was $500,000. Workers did most of the renovation and restoration on site, but other movie parts were built at the Sand Point Naval Air Station on Lake Washington in Seattle. Some of the film was filmed on a Seattle street.

If you're into tours and castles and suspense with some excellent food and luxury thrown in, or just a quiet back-in-time escape from the world, this is the place. You won't find phones in the rooms. There's a phone in the common room and faxes are available. But there are televisions/VCR's, robes, chocolates, Seattle's Best coffee and a radio/CD player in each room. Some rooms have in-room refrigerators and microwaves. There's also a private dock and beach.

Tacoma has some excellent eateries, too, if you choose to eat out. I'm sure management will be able to help you with that.

So when are you booking your trip?


The reservation phone number is (253) 584-4393. Deanna Robinson or Leann Davis will be happy to help you with your needs from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. Or you may converse by email at thornewood@mindspring.com.

The site with all the information on the castle is at http://www.thornewoodcastle.com - expect to spend a lot of time there. It's an alluring bit of Washington State.

Copyright 2001 Jerri Brooker Photo Copyright 2001 Thornewood Castle