(Ripley's Believe it or Not)
St. Augustine Florida
1880's Moorish Revival House built by William Warden a Standard Oil partner of Henry Flagler. The
twenty-three room house was completed in 1887. It was in the Warden family until the end of the 1930s.
The last Warden family member to occupy the house was Warden's daughter Elizabeth B. Ketterlinus.
The famed novelist Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (author of The Yearling, Cross Creek, and South Moon
Under) and her husband Norton Baskin owned it and had the penthouse apartment on the top floor. In
1941. Norton Baskin, a career hotelman who had managed the Hotel Marion in Ocala. He remodeled it
into the Castle Warden Hotel, which became a celebrated literary gathering place, not hindered by the
fact that the same year he bought the hotel, Baskin married Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. They had a
penthouse on the top floor. Literary guests at the Castle Warden included Zora Neale Hurston, Mignon
G. Eberhart, Philip Barry, Margaret Widdemer, Hamilton Basso, Wendell Willkie, Sigred Undset.
Two women Ruth Hopkins Pickering and Betty Neville Richeson died in a fire in April 1944 at the Castle
Warden Inn, as it was called during the World War II era.
The hotel was also a favorite for Robert S. Ripley, the newspaper cartoonist, writer and researcher made
famous by his Believe It or Not! cartoons that ran in newspapers around the world. Becoming convinced
that the castle would be an ideal home for a museum displaying his discoveries and
collection of artifacts, Ripley tried unsuccessfully to purchase the structure.
Following his death in 1949, however, his heirs finally managed to secure the estate and in December of
1950 the nation's first Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum opened in St. Augustine.
William Gray Warden (1832-1895)
One of the chief backers of the St. Augustine Improvement Company was William G. warden of Philidelphia, a
partner of John D. Rockefeller and Henry Flagler in Standard Oil. He was the builder of Warden Castle now
Ripley's Believe it or Not. He also helped establish the St. Augustine Gas and Electric Company of which he
was President and Financial Director of the St. Augustine Improvement Company.
Warden was a Pittsburgh crude oil commission merchant in the early 1860s. He joined with Lockhart, Frew &
Company to built large iron storage tanksto hold crude. In 1865 he established a crude oil commission house in
Philadelphia known as Warden Frew and Company They built a refinery in Philadelphia called the Atlantic. In
1874 he combined his business with John D. Rockfeller. In 1875 he was named to the Standard Oil board of
In St. Augustine he also founded Warden Academy school for blacks. Principal was J. B. Sevelli-Capponi who
wrote a book entitled Ham and Dixie: A Just, Simple and Original Discussion of the Southern Problem (St. Aug
1895), The academy was destroyed by fire.
He died on April 9, 1895 at his northern home in Germantown Pennsylvania. His estate was estimated to be
worth over $1,000,000.
|Marjorie Kennin Rawlings
Library of Congress
Photographer - Carl Van Vechten
|St. Augustine's Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum
|Old City Gate, St. Augustine, Fla.
Related Names: Detroit Publishing Co. , publisher
Date Created/Published: [ca. 1900]