Visitors and locals make their way to the Ha Ha Tonka castle each year. It is the perfect spot to bring friends, enjoy a nice day and for a photo opp. But for most visiting the castle, what they see now is all they have ever known. The thought of what the castle once was is just a fantasy.

That is not the case for two residents at Windsor Estates in Camdenton.

Visitors and locals make their way to the Ha Ha Tonka castle each year. It is the perfect spot to bring friends, enjoy a nice day and for a photo opp. But for most visiting the castle, what they see now is all they have ever known. The thought of what the castle once was is just a fantasy.

That is not the case for two residents at Windsor Estates in Camdenton.

For 93-year-old Maxine Williams, the castle was her home for about three years. Immediately following high school, Williams went to work at the castle. By then, it had been turned into a hotel.

"I did everything. I cleaned rooms and took people on tours," Williams recalls.

This Camden County native received $1 a day and room and board for her work. When she thinks of the castle, she does not think of it as the stone remains that many see today. Instead, she recalls the masterpiece that it once was.

"It was beautiful," Williams said.

A grand ballroom took over the main floor. The dining room was off to the far right of the ballroom. Upstair rooms looked down on the ballroom.

When not cleaning, Williams took visitors on tours of the castle and told them about the Sniders, the home's original inhabitants.

When the castle burned, Williams was stationed in Australia with Women's Army Corps and found out when her mother wrote her a letter.

While Williams was miles away, a then eighth grade student, Betty Majors, watched the castle burn from an upstairs window in a red brick school house.

Majors, 85, was born in old Linn Creek. Her family had to move when the lake was being built. Her father and other old Linn Creek residents found some land and founded Camdenton.

When she was young, she remembers visiting the castle often.

"We used to go out there after church on Sundays," Majors recalls.

She remembers the ballroom on the ground floor.

"As a child, it looked enormous to me," Majors said of the ballroom. "I thought it looked like the movies — the ballroom and stairway."

The castle, as it was fondly called, was the place to host any social gathering when it was in its prime.

"Any big occasion like a senior prom, any gathering of people, would be held at the castle," Majors said.

Majors remembers right where she was when she saw the flames overtake the beautiful building she used to frequent. Other school children crowded around the window as they watched the fire in awe.

A group of 23 residents from Windsor Estates recently visited Ha Ha Tonka State Park. They walked the Spring Trail, fished and enjoyed a picnic by the lake.

Students from Lake Career and Technical Center joined the residents for the day. A total of 18 students that are in the Health Occupation Two class visited with residents and helped the Windsor Estates staff.

"It was really fun. We got to interact with them really well," 17-year-old Camdenton High Senior Madison Whaley said. "It was cool seeing some of them that got to go inside before it burned."