Montreal

A castle fit for a Brownie: Historic home in Granby goes up for sale

Built by illustrator and poet Palmer Cox around 1904, Brownie Castle features 17 rooms, which have been split up into a triplex. For $425,000 you could be the castle's next owner.

Brownie Castle was built by illustrator, poet Palmer Cox in the early 1900s

Palmer Cox included a four-story octagonal tower with battlements, a Brownie-themed stained glass window and a home studio that he would work out of called “Brownieland” in the designs of the home. (Claude Rivest/CBC)

In the market for a castle? Look no further than Granby, Que., and you'll find Brownie Castle, a sprawling historic home on Elgin Street that's now listed for $425,000.

Built by illustrator and poet Palmer Cox around 1904, the castle featured 17 rooms.

It has now been divided into a triplex, and comes complete with a few mischievous spirits.

Books sold a million copies

Cox, who was born in Granby, was the creator of The Brownies series of books and poems.

Brownies are mythological creatures from Scottish folklore and Cox's stories were wildly successful at the time, selling around a million copies.

Cox said the "brownies, like fairies and goblins, are imaginary little spirits, who are supposed to delight in harmless pranks and helpful deeds. They work and sport while weary households sleep, and never allow themselves to be seen by mortal eyes."

Cox has since been called the "Walt Disney of the Victorian era." His headstone in the Notre-Dame-de-Granby cemetery in Granby depicts a Brownie and reads "In creating The Brownies, he bestowed a priceless heritage on childhood."

A Brownie illustrated by Cox. (Claude Rivest/CBC)

Politically incorrect, but profitable

Each Brownie had a distinct appearance, and Cox has been criticised in more recent years for those depictions. One Brownie is shown as a Chinese peasant and speaks with a stereotypical accent, another shows a Brownie carrying a tomahawk and feather headdress.

According to historian Cecilia Capocchi, who studied the work of Palmer Cox and is part of the Haute-Yamaska Historical Society, The Brownies, even with the stereotypical illustration of minorities, portray a sort of utopian society.

"Despite their cultural or national differences, there were no problems with living together. They lived in total harmony," she said.

Cox was one of the first artists to embrace merchandising and lent the Brownie name and image to toys, cigars, carpets, dishes and, most prominently, Kodak's Brownie Camera.

One of the Brownies depicted in a stained glass window at the castle. (Claude Rivest/CBC)

Seeking recognition 

With the profits from his books and merchandise, Cox was able to build Brownie Castle to his exact vision, including a four-story octagonal tower with battlements, a Brownie-themed stained glass window and a home studio that he would work out of called "Brownieland."

Capocchi said the home became a bit of a local attraction.

"Many kids visited him here at Brownie Castle, and he welcomed all of them. Everyone knew about the Brownie Man."

Cox died in the home on July 24, 1924.

Caoicchi and the historical society launched a petition last November asking that the provincial government recognize Palmer Cox as a person of historical significance.

So far they've collected just under 200 signatures.

Historian Cecilia Capocchi says few people today know about Palmer Cox, despite the fame he enjoyed during his lifetime. (Claude Rivest/CBC)

With files from Claude Rivest

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