Posted by: Kath Usitalo | June 4, 2012

Get Festive At Curwood Castle June 7-10

Curwood Castle, built by Owosso writer James Oliver Curwood

It’s not clear to me what a volleyball tournament has to do with James Oliver Curwood, a best-selling adventure writer in the early 20th century, but it’s taking place along with a wine and cheese party, carnival rides, Ultimate Air Dogs Competition and dozens of other events during the annual Curwood Festival, June 7-10 in the mid-Michigan town of Owosso.

Curwood’s typewriter in his turret writing studio

Central to the celebration is Curwood Castle, the Norman-style chateau the writer built on the banks of the Shiawassee River in 1922-23.

More oversized playhouse than palace, the fieldstone-studded yellow stucco structure functioned as Curwood’s office, entertainment space and studio; his home was a few blocks away and is now on the campus of Baker College.

Curwood was born in Owosso in 1878. Although he was kicked out of high school in 10th grade he managed to get accepted to the University of Michigan. He quit college after two years to work at the Detroit News-Tribune, where he was fired after six months on the job.

The pride of Owosso found his writing success by crafting stories about what he loved—the outdoors and the wilderness. Curwood turned out 33 novels, and many of them were made into movies including The Trail Beyond, a 1934 flick starring John Wayne.

Mementos are displayed in Curwood’s writing studio

Most recent was the 1988 film The Bear, based on his 1916 novel The Grizzly King. It was inspired by a life-changing encounter he had with a bear that convinced Curwood to all but give up hunting. He became a staunch conservationist and worked on environmental causes in Michigan.

Curwood’s books were read in Finland and around the world

A savvy marketer of his work, Curwood earned more money per word than any of his contemporaries. His books have been translated into multiple languages and fans from around the world find their way to Owosso and the Castle museum. A docent told me that the writer may be better known in other countries than in the U.S.

When I climbed the winding steps of the turret  to Curwood’s writing studio I was surprised to see copies of his book titles in, among other languages,  Finnish, along with movie posters, personal photographs and artifacts including his typewriter.

The Castle is open to visitors every day except Monday; a nominal admission fee is charged.

Curwood planned to live until 100 by exercising and abstaining from caffeine and liquor. He made it about halfway to his goal; while fishing in Florida he was bitten by a spider and died of blood poisoning at home in Owosso in August 13, 1927 at just 49.

Books by Curwood for sale at Treasures in Owosso

Although I haven’t read any of Curwood’s stories it was interesting to tour his castle and learn about his work.

And the Curwood Festival sounds like fun. I’m always up for a good Polka Jam Session and wine tasting. Since his original longevity plan was for naught, I’ll bet if he had to do it over again Curwood would partake, too.

Curwood Trivia: The writer had a cabin in the Huron Mountains of the Upper Peninsula, where Mount Curwood is named for him. At an elevation of 1,978 feet Mount Curwood was declared Michigan’s highest peak until nearby Mount Arvon was re-measured in 1982 and came in a foot taller at 1,979 feet.

Visitor Info Clicks:

Curwood Castle

Curwood Festival

Owosso/Shiawassee County

Pure Michigan

Curwood entertained publishers and movie producers at his castle

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Responses

  1. […] Get Festive At Curwood Castle June 7-10 […]

  2. Nice to receive your posts again. Thank you! Welcome back!

    • Thanks, Vicky! It was a good break.

  3. Interesting; We visited his little (Huron Mtn.) cabin at “Curwood Park” in L’Anse, MI.
    Ellen & Dana

    • Cool!


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