Prince Mongo’s Castle, also known as Ashlar Hall, is a mock castle in Memphis. After Robert Brinkley Snowden graduated from Princeton in 1890, he decided to return to his hometown to design and construct his family estate. Snowden, a prominent real estate developer, completed Ashlar Hall in 1896. The 11,000 square foot home has two floors with 8 rooms plus a full basement and a large attic with servants’ quarters. An irregular shaped swimming pool is located outside, southwest of the house. The Snowden property stretched for 3,000 acres, well into Mississippi. The final cost for construction was around $25,000, roughly equivalent to $725,000 today.
Snowden’s great-grandfather, Col. Robert C. Brinkley started the Peabody Hotel several years prior. The Snowden family was considered Memphis royalty by the early 1900s and Brinkley Snowden was considered one of the premier real estate developers. The mansion was named Ashlar Hall due to it being almost entirely constructed of Ashlar Stone which was brought to town on barges. The past few decades have not been kind to this once opulent home.
After Robert Brinkley Snowden’s death in 1942, Ashlar Hall was passed on to his heirs. Upkeep proved to be difficult so the Snowden family filed an application with the city for non-residential use of the building. By the 1950s, the bedrooms were transformed into dining rooms and the mansion was being used as a restaurant. The front lawn was paved to provide additional parking in the 1960s.
Eccentric Memphis millionaire, Robert “Prince Mongo” Hodges, purchased Ashlar Hall in 1990. Prince Mongo is infamous for running for Mayor in every election and losing, as well as claiming to be 333 years old, and hailing from the fictional planet Zambodia. During the 1990s, Prince Mongo turned Ashlar Hall into a local late night hangout called The Castle nightclub.
The advertisements of cheap beer and wet t-shirt contests lured in patrons by the dozen. The nightclub became notorious for serving alcohol to minors. Two teenagers were killed in a drunk driving accident in 1992 after leaving The Castle. Prince Mongo has always claimed he is innocent of any wrongdoing and no charges were ever filed.
Prince Mongo was able to get by many city infractions by putting the business in his employee’s name and just owning the property. Prince Mongo claimed he only collected rent as an absentee landlord.
With pressure from neighboring residents, the Fire Marshal changed the occupancy at The Castle from 451 to 88. The next day the club was shut down due to over occupancy, so Prince Mongo had 800 tons of sand dumped in the parking lot. Prince Mongo moved the party outdoors to get around the Fire Marshal’s order. On occasion Prince Mongo would stand on the roof of The Castle and howl at the moon.
Once The Castle closed, Ashlar Hall sat vacant for years. The property sat in a state of disrepair for several years. Due to mounting city code violations, Prince Mongo gave away Ashlar Hall to a close friend who supposedly operated a nonprofit for veterans. Urban Renaissance Initiative acquired Ashlar Hall through a quitclaim deed from Prince Mongo in 2013.
The new owner hired a contractor who removed restaurant equipment still owned by Prince Mongo. The contractor removed pieces of copper that were apart of the roof and original stonework to sell. The items were never found. The large blue tarp used to cover portions of the roof is now dangling in front of the building leaving the roof exposed to the elements. A warrant was issued for the contractor’s arrest in 2015 however the fate of Prince Mongo’s Castle remains a mystery.