One of Stamford Connecticut’s most beautiful historic luxury homes is Marion Castle built in 1914 by Frank Marion, one of the first early motion picture pioneers. This stunning waterfront Neo-French Renaissance chateau at One Rogers Road, Shippan Point exemplifies the era of Stamford’s emergence in the early 1900’s from a farming community to the year-round residences of wealthy New York families.
Marion Castle was built by one of the first true movie moguls, Frank Marion, whose Kalem Company produced some of the earliest one reelers shown at nickelodeons and silent movie houses across the country. His first big hit was Ben Hur in 1907 that was fifteen minutes in length focusing primarily on the chariot race. The film was shot at the beach with firemen as actors using the horses that usually pulled the fire wagons pulling the chariots.
Ben Hur was one of the most popular novels of its day and the film was an immediate success. Frank Marion proved himself to be not only a good businessman but also having a social conscious when he raised the daily wage of actors to five dollars a day – forcing the rest of the emerging motion picture industry to do the same.
However Marion was on the cutting edge of what at the time was the emerging technology of his day. The publisher and estate of the author of Ben Hur took the company all the way to the US Supreme Court and established the first copyright precedent that although the film only focused on the chariot race that was a very short portion of the book, motion picture producers must first obtain rights to printed work before they can produce a film based upon that work.
Undaunted, Marion’s Kalem Company next made motion picture history by sending a crew to Ireland in 1910 to make what was the first American motion picture to be shot on location outside of the United States. Two years later, he sent a camera crew to Palestine where From the Manger To the Cross was filmed.
These films were very successful, he sold the company after ten years in the motion picture business and built Marion Castle as his retirement home for the enjoyment of his wife, son and four daughters.
Marion Castle was designed in the style of a French Renaissance chateau by the noted New York City based architectural firm of Hunt & Hunt who had made this style very popular on Fifth Ave at the turn of the century. Marion Castle is a composite of several Loire Valley chateaus.
It features a steep slate roof with copper crestings rising high above the main body of the mansion. The front face has large dormer windows with high pediments bordered by finials. A gabled wing that faces the seaward side has a large triple window with mullions and transom bars and steps leading down to the grade.
On the north side of the home, a long half-timbered bay projects from the main wall leading up to a circular turret giving it its distinctive “castle” look. The interior includes a balconied main hall and almost thirty additional rooms of various sizes and uses.
Frank Marion built and occupied Marion Castle until his death at 93 in 1963. The property was then sold to Martha and David Cogan, an inventor and leader in the development of radio and television who helped develop the first color television tube. Martha was widely renown and respected for saving many children from Hitler during World War Two.
In 1978, Jay Kobrin and Gordon Micunis purchased Marion Castle and were very influential in getting it placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 – the only structure in Stamford’s Shippan Point listed in the Register.
Since 1998 Marion Castle has been owned and occupied by Thomas L. Rich, a well known Stamford real estate developer. Mr. Rich has allowed the home to be used extensively for non-profit events such as the Shippan Point Association’s annual community party.
Today, the beautiful waterfront historic luxury home of Frank Marion is one of Stamford CT’s most distinctive landmarks. Having been owned by several innovative civic minded entrepreneurs, Marion Castle continues to be the center point of many of the town’s important community and social events.