Lucky for Lawrence that a local church was unable to make good on its plans for the castle-like residence on the southwest corner of 13th and Massachusetts streets.
The historical limestone structure built by Gen. John N. Roberts had been repossessed during the Great Depression and used for various purposes when the Assembly of God Church bought it in 1943 with the intent of dismantling the building and using the stone to build a new church. The plan never came to fruition, and four years later, in 1947, the house was purchased by Libby Kriz who started a restaurant there and set about preserving the structure for posterity.
Kriz, a Chicago native and a dietitian at Kansas University, later married Dr. Louis Fiorito. For decades, Kriz-Fiorito served dinners and welcomed wedding receptions and other special events to the Castle Tea Room. During that time, she preserved and nurtured the house, which went largely unchanged.
That was just the way Kriz-Fiorito wanted to keep the Castle, and before she died in 2004, she established and funded a foundation to preserve the building and keep it open to the public. The structure at 1301 Mass. had been her home and her career for more than 50 years. It was only fitting that it also be her lasting legacy in the community.
It's Lawrence's good fortune that this historical building fell into the right hands in 1947 and now will be preserved for the enjoyment of Lawrence residents and visitors for many years to come.