A Mysterious Morgantown Landmark Opens to the Public


A somewhat mysterious Morgantown landmark was opened up to the public recently. The Calvary Chapel Church is renovating Pietro’s Castle, and more than three hundred people got to see the results for themselves.  


Italian immigrant and stonemason ThoneyPietro earned his slice of the American Dream by building infrastructure across the region, from Mingo County to Pittsburgh. When he retired in 1928, he built a home for his family that reflected his strong Catholic faith, complete with a large cross sitting between two soaring parapets.


“It was always one of those places that you kinda used as a landmark,” said Drew Rubenstein, who grew up and went to middle school near the property on Tyrone Road. 


“Driving to school, it would always be just one of the things that you would always look [at] outside the window just because it stands out so much in the Cheat Lake area.”


Pietro’s Castle by the Numbers  

Some facts about the home that Thoney Pietro built.

  • It took Pietro 5 years to build the Castle. He started in 1928 and finished in 1933.
  • It cost him about $200,000 back then, or about $3 million in today’s dollars.
  • The castle includes about 3,700 square feet of space in 23 rooms on three levels.
  • Pietro pulled the riverstone for project from nearby Deckers Creek.
  • He gave the castle and 32 acres of land to the Franciscan brothers of the Catholic Church in 1949 and it became the Good Councel Friary.
  • The Franciscans ran it for 58 years, with much of that time under the direction of the Rev. Jude Mili.
  • Calvary Chapel bought the property, including a dormitory and church the Franciscans built, for $1.5 million in 2012. 

Calvary Chapel

Pastor Shawn Frasher was looking for a new place for his quickly expanding flock, and saw a lot of potential in the Friary.


“So we have been actively renovating this structure for the last year and a half, all the plumbing, all the electrical — restoring it to usefulness.”


Realizing that the surrounding community was curious about what was going on at the Castle, Frasher decided to hold an open house this past weekend.


“This house has really been shrouded in a lot of secrecy. I mean, there’s people that have lived across the way and have never been inside. And so we wanted to open up and just show what we’ve done, stewardship that we’ve shared, but also want people to see the beauty of it and what God is doing here.”


Community Reaction

Claudia Harmon and her husband, Don, are from Preston County. They were among the hundreds of people who toured the Castle on Saturday.


“I wasn’t disappointed, no, it was really nice. The craftsmanship was pretty amazing.”


Morgantown resident Shawn Bocan visited the Castle when Father Jude was in charge. He says he likes that another church has taken ownership of the unique space.


“It’s good to see a reuse and still, from what I believe, in Mr. Pietro’s vision of being a ministry to the community.”


Credit Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
A dining room light fixture.


Making the Most of It

Rubenstein and his wife, Britany, joined the Calvary congregation about four years ago. He says members of the church are excited to be part of the Castle’s continuing religious legacy.


Frasher says the Castle will be used as a parsonage, where he and his family will live. It also will be used to hold prayer meetings and Bible study.