Over the years, Arlington County has seen many residences and buildings rise and fall, but few can claim to have such an unusual story as that of Jacobs Castle.
While on vacation in Europe in the 1930s, obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. J. Bay Jacobs and his wife, Eva Harris Jacobs, saw a castle in Bavaria that they both greatly admired. Upon returning, the couple decided to build a similar one for their residence in Arlington.
The property chosen was a section of the former Thomas B. Dawson Estate, located near Rosslyn on a bluff of the Palisades overlooking the Potomac River. Construction started in 1938, with ongoing additions and improvements taking place into the 1950s.
Among the many features of the property was a fish pond, a striking wrought iron spiral staircase housed in the turret, and the oak flooring of the first floor living room, which had an unusual motif of carved butterflies in the shape of a man’s bowtie.
Following the deaths of the Jacobs (Mrs. Jacobs in 1979, Dr. Jacobs in 1988), the ornate antique furnishings were sold at auction, and, the castle was then deeded to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists by Dr. Jacobs’ son John Bay Jacobs II. Later, the property was sold to developer Conrad Cafritz, who envisioned developing some of the land while turning the castle itself into a community center. These plans came to naught when Cafritz went bankrupt and the property was foreclosed upon and later destroyed in November 1994.
A somewhat macabre coda to Jacobs Castle occurred when demolition workers unearthed the body of a baby, found inside a crate behind a small, boarded passageway. Dr. Jacobs’ son said his father preserved the bodies of stillborn infants for use in his teaching.
What About You?
Do you have any memories of Jacobs Castle? Let us know what you remember!