Robert McClure Snyder, a prominent Kansas City businessman at the turn of the century, was so inspired at seeing the Ha Ha Tonka area that he began purchasing vast quantities of land. Ultimately he ended up with about 2500 acres.
Robert Snyder's dream was to create a private retreat to rival the European castles of ages past. He hired masons from Scotland and a European supervisor, all to ensure that authentic construction techniques were used throughout. The master architect, Adrian Van Brunt from Kansas City, designed the three-and-a-half story masterpiece.
A central hallway rose to the height of the building. An enormous 80-foot-tall water tower, a stone stable, and nine greenhouses were ultimately constructed on the estate. The stone and timber originated locally. The actual construction began in 1905.
If not for Snyder, Ha Ha Tonka would have been nothing more than a dream. Unfortunately, he was slain in an automobile accident in 1906, and Snyder's sons, Bill , Jr., Leroy, and Kenneth had to complete the project.
Later, the Snyder family had difficulty attempting to keep Ha Ha Tonka in the family. Financial problems forced them to sell off their natural gas supply business to eastern business interests. Legal difficulties with Union Electric ensued over some of the waterfront property. The family eventually leased the mansion to a woman who operated it as a hotel.
In 1942 disaster struck - sparks from a fireplace ignited the roof and within hours the huge castle was completely gutted. The fire spread also to the stable, which was likewise burnt. The remains of the estate now stand stark and lonely at the edge of the cliff, a blackened remnant of one man's great dream.
The State of Missouri purchased the estate in 1978 and opened it to the public as a State Park. Ha Ha Tonka is about five miles southwest of Camdenton and comprises nearly 2400 acres on the Nangua Arm of the Lake of the Ozarks.
Visited by thousands of visitors each year, exploring Ha Ha Tonka is most often considered a personal and memorable experience. You can learn more about this intriguing historical area in Les Blair's book, Ha Ha Tonka - Land of Laughing Water available in his bookstore.
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