Mac-O-Chee Castle Gets New Owners

Brittany Moseley

“Stay tuned: Piatt Castle Mac-O-Chee is not going anywhere.” 

The crowds starts clapping as soon as auctioneer Tim Lile says this. After almost three months of uncertainty, the future of Mac-O-Chee became a little brighter last Saturday.

Located in West Liberty, about an hour drive northwest of Columbus, the Piatt castles—Mac-O-Chee and its older sibling, Mac-O-Cheek—were built by brothers Donn and Abram Piatt. Mac-O-Cheek was completed in 1871 by Abram, a wealthy farmer, newspaper publisher and Union general. In 1879, Mac-O-Chee was completed by Donn, a journalist, Union soldier and an American diplomat in France. (Donn was also a bit of a political rabble-rouser, according to writer Peter Bridges. In his book, “Gadfly of the Gilded Age,” Bridges writes that Donn, a lifelong abolitionist, was said to have angered President Lincoln with his outspoken manner.)

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Although both castles were open to the public and welcomed crowds of visitors throughout the years, Mac-O-Chee always looked a bit worn compared to its older sibling down the road. After Donn died in 1891, his widow sold Mac-O-Chee. The Piatt family repurchased the castle in 1957, but according to a July article from The Columbus Dispatch, they were never able to restore the castle to its former glory due to financial constraints. In July, Margaret Piatt, the great-great granddaughter of Abram Piatt, announced the family would sell the castle at auction. The Piatts will retain Mac-O-Cheek and plan to use most of the funds from the sale of Mac-O-Chee to restore the other castle. 

On Saturday, more than 300 people filled a white tent on the grounds of Mac-O-Chee. Many walked through the castle for one last look, peeking into rooms and closets they never saw during the official tour. Plenty of people were there to buy, if not the castle and its accompanying farmhouse and 8 acres, then some of the many antiques and tchotchkes that were strewn under and around the tent.

With so many items to get through, several auctioneers took turns at the podium. The most memorable of them was Mick Lile (brother of Tim). Sporting a cowboy hat and an impressive handlebar mustache, Mick kept the crowd entertained with his running commentary. In between bouts of quick-fire auctioneering (they really do talk that fast), Mick offered his comments on the items at hand.

“Is that nice or what?” he asks, holding up an item for the crowd to see. “Whatever it is, it’s nice.”

After displaying a pair of wooden bookends, he quips, “Little rough on top, but I tell you, if you were that old, you’d be a little rough too.”

Items moved fast, and the sheer number of them was astounding. The auction began at 10:30 a.m., and it took five hours to get through everything. (There was a short break at 12:30 p.m. to lay out the rules for the sale of property and to take bids.)

Bidder 169 paid $2 for a candy dish and two rulers, the promotional kind banks hand out. An ornate pewter pitcher went for $50. A box of sterling silverware was sold for $140 to bidder 103. Also on the auction block: lots of chairs in varying states of repair, an unidentified animal fur, stacks of photos, dilapidated steamer trunks, beautiful Oriental rugs, boxes of dishes, antique wood furniture, paintings and old newspapers. (“Japan officially offers surrender” reads one headline from Aug. 10, 1945.)

Of course, everyone wanted to know who would get the castle. There were three options for purchasing the property: the castle and four acres; the farmhouse and four acres; or both. In the end, everything went to brothers Ryan and Jason Cole of West Liberty. Brothers seem to be a theme in the history of the Piatt Castles.

They bid $510,000 and paid $561,000 which included closing costs. In a follow-up email, Tim Lile says the Coles spent an additional $30,000 purchasing the bulk of the antique furnishings and collectibles sold in the live and online auctions. The Coles outbid bidders from California, Kansas, Virginia and Ohio. Although there’s no word yet on what the Coles plan to do with Mac-O-Chee, they did tell Lile they don’t plan to use it as a private residence and want to keep the castle available to the public in some capacity.

“That is how the next chapter of this Donn Piatt story that began over 130 years ago begins,” Lile says.

For Margaret Piatt, who is in the midst of moving out of the Mac-O-Chee farmhouse before the Coles take ownership at the end of November, she just has one reminder for people.

“My family and I would add that we wish the Coles well and to remind all that we intend to continue to offer tours, workshops, programs and events at Mac-A-Cheek Castle in 2020,” Piatt says via email.

Oh, and one more thing.

“My only other detail to add is that Donn Piatt's name has a second ‘n’. Of course, there is a good story why,” she writes. “It is an easy detail to miss, but we do always try to include it as it is such a strong identifier for him.”

To learn more about the Piatt Castles,