The Castle at 501 Prospect: Historic Venue Offers a Unique Setting

This newcomer on Beloit’s arts scene is drawing plenty of attention, as much for its historical features as for its unique blend of arts programming.

The Castle at 501 Prospect, in Beloit, brings many aspects of visual and performing arts to a historically significant, thoroughly refurbished former church in the heart of this Wisconsin city.

The definition of a castle is “a large, fortified place,” one that strikes a dominant stronghold in its community.

No truer words can define The Castle at 501 Prospect, the newest entertainment, banquet and performing arts venue in Beloit. With its creative and historical components, this new venue is truly a unique, tantalizing and all-around amazing place.

The Castle, a former church building, has been transformed and brought to life by the Wittnebel family through their shared passion for this structure, which has a 1906 National Landmark status. Located in Beloit’s near east-side historic district, the building has been thoughtfully and painstakingly repurposed by the Wittnebels since they purchased it in 2012.

“We’re a music venue and host a music school, which is run by The Youth Unite, our nonprofit organization,” says Johnny Wittnebel, The Castle’s music director and son of owners Jody and John Wittnebel. “The Youth Unite’s focus is to enhance youth through music as we provide music therapy classes and instrument lessons for all ages. It also provides a bully prevention program that teaches character education and validates struggling youth.”

The Castle is a family affair. The Wittnebels have been totally immersed in the project, rolling up their sleeves for its refurbishment and daily management. Jody owns Hourglass Media, a photography and videography marketing agency that’s headquartered at The Castle. Her husband, John, is a pilot for American Airlines. Both have personally done much of The Castle’s refurbishing work. Their daughter, Brittnay, handles The Castle’s marketing duties. Two other sons have worked on refurbishing The Castle, too.

To lock in a music force, the Wittnebels recruited Greg Gerard, a Grammy-Nominated Beloit musician and director of operations for the Beloit International Film Festival, to help manage programming.

Recently, The Castle launched its unique community youth choir, which Johnny Wittnebel co-directs with Carol Hendrix, minister of music at Emmanuel Baptist Church, in Beloit. Their goal is to gather kids age 8 and older and give them the opportunity to advance and enhance their talents.

The Castle encompasses many facets of the arts. Various local and touring artists perform in the building’s acoustically stunning amphitheater, in the shadow of a towering pipe organ. The King’s Court Players are the resident theater troupe and provide live entertainment during interactive dinner theater performances. Guests can browse through original artwork or enjoy a cocktail in the Bell Tower Lounge, overlooking the thoroughly preserved theater.

Guests can enjoy performances of the esteemed Beloit Janesville Symphony Orchestra here, too. The BJSO performs “Las Obras Maestras Latinas” with guest guitar performer Thomas Aquino on March 27.

With its Gothic architecture and stunning stained glass, The Castle is the perfect backdrop for a wedding, banquet or corporate event, especially since it can hold up to 400 guests.

While music is at the heart of The Castle, guests can take part in many other entertainment offerings, including movies on the big screen during “dinner and movie” events; sing-alongs with performers; live comedians; after-school programs for kids; and wedding planning expertise.

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