On a hill overlooking the small Oklahoma city of Tahlequah sits an unusual structure. It’s a Gothic castle in a town that serves as a capital for two Cherokee tribes.
Now, the historic Franklin Castle—and its burgeoning events business—is on the market for $750,000. Completed in 1931, the fortress has undergone a huge renovation since Mike Shelton bought it in 2015 for $180,000.
“It had gone into really bad disrepair, and it was to the point that it was going to be condemned and possibly torn down,” says Shelton. “A lot of the roof structure was leaking really bad, and [water] pretty much destroyed a lot of the wood structures inside of the castle.”
So Shelton, who owns a masonry company, decided to rescue the three-level stone castle. At the time, the home had few windows and ivy-covered walls on the outside and inside.
“I fell in love with it basically because of the masonry on it. It needed a lot of repair,” he says of the distinctive design, which had been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
He began with repairs to the roof and exterior masonry. He then salvaged wood from the main floor and used it to repair the second floor. Nowadays, the main floor and lower levels feature flagstone underfoot.
Shelton also removed some of the walls to open up the main level and made a number of other changes.
“The castle was just falling down, so he bought it as a hobby. He basically put [it] back together and modernized it some, while still trying to leave the true character of what it was,” says listing agent Sherri Sanders, with McGraw Realtors. “It’s just a beautiful setting and has lots of unique features.”
Marion E. Franklin built the castle for his family in 1929, at the beginning of the Great Depression.
“He was an industrial arts teacher at the university [Northeastern State University] right next to where the castle is, and it was actually constructed by him and his students,” Shelton explains.
The castle measures about 3,000 square feet and has four bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms. Highlights include an updated kitchen and plenty of living space.
“Every bedroom in the castle has that little round turret in it,” Shelton says. There are also fireplaces and arches throughout. What was old and out of use has been repurposed into modern amenities.
“It used to have a coal storage room in the basement where they would store coal to shovel into the heater and furnace. That room has been converted into a wine room. That might be my favorite room in the whole place,” says Shelton.
As Shelton was updating the main house, he noticed the surrounding structures were also shabby.
“The chapel was originally a garage apartment that belonged to a different family,” he says. “Every time I would look at the castle looking so pretty, but right next door was this real dilapidated garage-apartment thing.”
He eventually bought the land, razed the three old houses to add gardens and parking space for his property, and built the chapel. Its stone style echoes the facade of the castle.
With its open patios and a gazebo, the chapel is now a popular events venue. The property is zoned for commercial and residential use.
“If I lived in that town, I would live in the house,” says Shelton, who adds that he lives an hour and a half away. “I think the perfect buyer is probably someone that either wants to live in the castle and rent the chapel out for events. Or just keep the whole property for events and let the brides use the castle to get ready and use the chapel as a wedding facility. It’s really pretty versatile.”