Dayton church turned castle has new name, new owners and new life

For years, Daytonians have referred to it as “that abandoned church on Wagner Ford Road.” But now, it has a very official name.

Jess Hess and Brandon Meadows moved into the infamous Dayton "castle" in November 2018 and have spent every month since falling in love with all of its quirks and beauty. They chose to name their dream home Castle Morningstar to keep some of the building's historic roots in tact.


The couple say they are blessed to have escaped the Memorial Day tornadoes with minimal damage. Here’s the story behind their “castle.”

Last year, we introduced you to Sharon Middelchylde, the previous owner of the former church located at 3680 Wagner Ford Road. She loved Halloween, her dogs and living in her very own castle. Putting her one-of-a-kind home on the market, Middelchylde said she would not sell to just anyone. Maybe no one at all.

>> PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Meet the woman who transformed this former Dayton church into an artist's dream home

“It needs to be something for somebody,” Middelchylde said.

Hess and Meadows, an engaged couple living in Hillsboro last fall, work as creatives in every sense of the word. Living in a beautiful former church was like a pipe dream realized almost instantly when they found the property listed for sale online.

“I think she noticed that when we realized we were going to get it, that it meant the same to us that it meant to her,” Hess said. “That the cracks and the creases, that we were obsessed with it. … She could tell it was a fit and she said that to us. And I actually read the ( article where she said she wouldn’t sell it to just anyone and (almost) cried. We wanted her to like us, and thankfully she did.”

Castle Morningstar’s property is surrounded by a cemetery. “The Formers,” as Meadows and Hess call them, actually built the church in the 1860s and can be found buried in the cemetery with marked headstones. The history beneath Castle Morningstar goes deeper than the graves, and Hess said she loves that her family gets to live among it all.

Credit: Jess Hess

Credit: Jess Hess

“The second time we came, my son was with us and he was just running through and his face lit up and he was running around with Sharon's dogs. He loves spooky stuff too ... I think our son won us this church,” Hess said.

In just six months of living at Castle Morningstar with their dog, five cats, three rats, five tarantulas, one fiddler crab and one very cool 10-year-old son Jaden, the couple has already made the home an iconic new destination for photographers, videographers and artists.

Wurmwood Photography is Hess's photography business that she now is able to run right from her home. The home's stained glass, towering ceilings and overall aesthetic make the property a perfect set for events, photo shoots and even music videos. Eventually, the couple plans to host their wedding in the castle.

“We hope to have live music events here,” Hess said. “We’ve had a band practice in here, and it sounded so spooky outside. It was the tightest. I was walking around and feeling the windows to make sure they weren’t going to break because I was terrified. That big window in the front I’m assuming is worth more than the whole property.”

The stained glass in the main area of the home is massive. It scatters colorful beams of light during all times of the day, changing with the direction of the sun.

“I along with probably 100% of the population have depression. I get sad sometimes, and so I just put down everything I’m doing and I walk around and I go and I look at that stained glass window, and I’m not sad anymore,” Hess said.

Meadows added: “It feels nice, we’re happy. Genuinely happy. We made our 10-year plan happen in two months.”

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