I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).
My mother and I decided to vacation in Arkansas in September of 1995. Some of the highlights were seeing Hot Springs National Park and Eureka Springs, among other sites. When we saw the sign about Quigley's Castle, "The Ozark's Strangest Dwelling," we were intrigued and decided to take a look.
I seriously doubt that many collectors of rocks, seashells, fossils, arrowheads, minerals, and more have amassed the vast collection that Elise Quigley put into her home and surrounding acreage. She started her rock collection when she was a child, and it continued to grow until she had a virtual mountain of rocks and other treasures.
A brochure that we had picked up written by Conaly Bedell (Tulsa World Correspondent, 1964) had this title and subtitle: "We're Going to Tear Down the House," followed by Wife "Rocked" Husband Into "Castle." The story is a fascinating one, to be sure! Tearing down a house did take place! Here is some background information about how that came to be.
When Albert Quigley and Elise Fioravanti married, they moved to property owned by Albert's family, consisting of a large 80-acre farm with a lumber mill. The timing of this was during the Great Depression. Albert built a temporary three-room shack where they lived, promising her a grander-styled home as soon as they could afford it. Time passed, and they had five children. They also had a chicken house on the property.
One day Elise took things into her own hands, and with the help of her children, after Albert had gone off to work, they dismantled the house and moved belongings into the chicken shack. Imagine the shock for Albert when he returned home that day! There was little else to do now but to begin construction on that new home he had promised for many years.
The Building Project Begins
Mrs. Quigley had been dreaming about a new house for her family for many years. She loved nature and wished to incorporate it inside her home, plus be surrounded by nature's glory outdoors. She also wanted to use all of the many collections she had gathered over the years. This structure would be no ordinary house!
She made a model of what she envisioned using cardboard, match sticks, and the like. Many large windows were a part of her design. The added light from the windows would enable the planting of trees and other plants inside the dwelling.
Into four feet of earth, those plants are now many decades old. Many of them reach the second-story ceiling, forming a natural curtain of sorts between the outdoor frame of the home and inside the structure.
One problem was that the purchase of glass was almost impossible during the war, so it took three years before securing it for the windows. To keep warm during cold spells, they had to improvise. The layering of cloth and other materials kept out some of the cold.
Most of the lumber came from their land, and their labor was free. According to reports, only $2,000 went for supplies, including the glass.
Once the two-story exterior lumber facade was complete, Elise's work began in cladding the outside with her mountainous collection of rocks, crystals, and other treasures. Her work did not end there! Inside of the Quigley Castle, as well as outside, her work in fashioning eye-catching structures continued.
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Mrs. Quigley's granddaughter who now owns and operates Quigley's Castle was there to host us during our visit. The granddaughter was most engaging and happy to point out the many embellishments inside of the home. She freely admitted to us that her grandmother "marched to the tune of a different drummer." Most artistic people and innovators often march to their own tune.
Also on site was the granddaughter's little pre-school age child, Gabby. Gabby's older sister was in school, and she happily escorted my mother and me through some of the pathways in the garden. She was the tiniest and cutest tour guide we have ever had.
We were amazed to see Elise's collections incorporated into the different designs of items throughout the house and outside. Her concrete embedded items showcasing shells, rocks, marbles, and other elements included hanging planters, a birdcage, mailbox, birdbaths, and more.
Framed collections of arrowheads hung on walls where quilts and other treasures were also on display. Antique furniture was a part of the mixture of home furnishings. Incorporated into the home was also a fishpond!
Elise had fashioned a bird and butterfly collage out of photos plus real butterflies and moths collected from her garden. That collage made a dramatic and eye-catching backdrop for one of the bedrooms upstairs. One could almost imagine those butterflies alighting upon that scene from the nearby plants. To say that her design was eclectic is an understatement!
It took decades of work on Mrs. Quigley's part to complete her project. Word spread about her unique creation and the perennial gardens outside, and people wished to see it. She finally started charging folks, and according to the brochure I picked up, she took in $75 the first year.
By now, countless people have come to view her dream home and have presumably come away with thoughts of using their collections in unique ways. I have a rock garden outside, but it will never compare with what Elise Quigley did with hers. It was fun to see, and if you wish, you can still visit this family-owned home and attraction that since 2003 is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Location and Visitor Information
It is located only a few miles south of Eureka Springs at 274 Quigley Castle Road, Eureka Springs, Arkansas 72632. Quigley's Castle is open every day except Thursday and Sunday, from April 1st to October 31st, 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. Call this number for ticket prices and more details: 479-253-8311.
A man's home is his wife's castle.
— Alexander Chase
- Encyclopedia of Arkansas: Quigley's Castle
- Only in Arkansas: Quigley's Castle
- Ozarks Alive: Quigley's Castle still a tourist draw after decades
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Peggy Woods