Treasures of the Valley

Further Memories of Old La Crescenta – Building A Castle

We continue with the interview of Herbert Bathey, done in the 1950s or ’60s. The Bathey family moved to the valley in 1883. This is a selection of the notes taken during the interview, my comments in brackets.

In this article I relate the interview notes about the building of the Gould Castle in 1892, near the top of today’s Ocean View Boulevard. May Gould was the niece of Benjamin Briggs. She fancied herself an artist. She had done the grand tour of Europe, as was fashionable for wealthy people of that era, and while there was taken with Spanish castles. Once back in the U.S., she married Eugene Gould and planned a huge stone castle on a terrace overlooking the valley, very near her uncle Benjamin Briggs. Herbert Bathey relates:

“Father was the foreman on the castle building. Elliot was the man who cut the granite. He was from New Mexico and had been in the British Navy at one time. [He] was a petty officer and deserted in New York Harbor, hidden by American sailors. He worked his way west, fighting Indians and killing buffalo. He was a miner in New Mexico and was in Colorado for the Gold Rush.

“[Pierre] Escalle laid up the dry walls [not using mortar] around the castle. No names for the masons of the valley. The masons boarded or slept on the ground. There were six Chinese who got sand and gravel from the bottom of Pickens Wash. There was a cable car that ascended the cliff [bringing up the sand and rocks]. The cable was spooled at the top on a ‘wim’ [an old word for a capstan] and hauled the 100 yards of cable in. The site of the cable [car] was a little way above the old barn [around the intersection of Ocean View and Fairhurst] and until recently some of the track was lying at the top. The wim was operated by horsepower [harnessed and walking in a circle around the capstan]. White men mixed the mortar and raised the rocks with a pulley. The rock was split with ‘feathers,’ wedges placed in holes about four inches apart on the surface of likely rocks, done wherever they found the rocks. Many of the rocks were found on the Escalle place on Briggs.

“The castle was completed in 1892. Eugene Gould built the castle for his wife May, who designed it after a Spanish castle. She was a good artist. Footprints of her children are still in the pavement on the west side of the castle.

“It had a lead roof, which stretched in the heat and weighed [too much]. It was replaced with a tin roof, which rusted. The floors rotted out over a period of time as there was no ventilation from underneath. Bathey wanted to put in ventilation, but Mrs. Gould wanted none as it wasn’t like the Spanish castle to have [ventilation] ports.”

Despite the design flaws insisted on by May Gould, it really was a spectacular castle complete with a tower and an open courtyard filled with fountains and statues and interiors of colorful walls, beautiful rugs and cherry wood furniture. A dream come true. But the dream only lasted a few short years. Eugene made bad investments that wiped out the family fortune.

It was foreclosed on and the Gould family was forced out. The castle briefly operated as a hotel, but was then abandoned and the sumptuous furnishings carted away. It sat empty and foreboding for decades.

In 1955 it was demolished, the rock pushed into an adjoining canyon. Today the empty site of the castle is an undeveloped flat spot on the hill above the end of Canalda Drive, an empty lot that once had a castle.

Copies of Mike’s newest book “Weird Crescenta Valley: Historical and Natural Oddities” are now on sale – a perfect Christmas gift. It’s available in local bookstores Once Upon A Time bookstore in Montrose and Flintridge Books in La Cañada. You can also buy it from the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley via its website under the “Shop” tab.

Mike Lawler is the former
president of the Historical
Society of the Crescenta Valley
and loves local history.
Reach him at