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W.Va. stonemason’s daughter tours his castle

Dominion Post photo by Ron Rittenhouse Mary Anne Pietro Morris stands on the balcony of Pietro castle, on Tyrone Road. It was built by her grandfather, stonemason Thoney Pietro.
Dominion Post photo by Ron Rittenhouse
Mary Anne Pietro Morris stands on the balcony of Pietro castle, on Tyrone Road. It was built by her grandfather, stonemason Thoney Pietro.

MORGANTOWN — If you’re one of those whose birth was marked by such grand, dramatic particulars, you may as well hear it now: No matter the circumstances of your birth, Mary Anne Pietro Morris may have you beat.

Morris, a spirited 78-year-old who now lives in suburban Houston, was back in her hometown of Morgantown on a recent, sun-splashed Friday afternoon to talk about it.

“You see that window on the one turret?” she asked, pointing. “That’s the room I was born in. The first bedroom as you came up the spiral staircase in the castle.

“Yeah,” she said with a laugh. “Born in a castle. I guess that makes me royalty, huh?”

She likes to joke about that “royalty” business, but she is the granddaughter of the king of stonemasons: Thoney Pietro, who built the striking, 23-room structure that stands at the top of Tyrone Road, near Morgantown.

Thoney modeled his castle after one that existed only in his imagination, and it was his place to live. A reward for all that hard work that made his name and his fortune in his new homeland.

That cross in the middle of the roof gave the dwelling a churchly look, which was a testament to Thoney’s devout Catholic faith.

Later in life, he would give his creation to the Franciscan brothers of the Catholic Church, who turned it into a monastery. It was also open to religious retreats through the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, the state’s Catholic diocese.

A lot of people in the area still know it in that incarnation as the Good Counsel Friary, even though it sat shuttered for a few years after the death in 2007 of the Rev. Jude Mili, the priest who oversaw its operation and lived there for nearly 40 years.

Today, the castle Thoney built with a divine cast is getting back into the faith business.

Calvary Chapel Morgantown, a non-denominational church, bought the castle and the other buildings put up by the Franciscans about two years ago.

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