HAMBURG — A popular amusement park that can trace its roots to the 1930s, and was designed by the same person that did President Donald Trump's Mar a Lago club, could be reopening within a year.

The Gingerbread Castle has laid dormant for more than a decade, but if the new owner has his way it could welcome guests back by next Halloween. Don Oriolo said he has owned the property for around a year and has been busy trying to rehabilitate it to make it available again in the near future.

"It's a historic landmark in New Jersey and its got a lot of beloved memories fro a lot of people," he said.

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Oriolo said the castle was "falling into a state of disrepair," and had not been well maintained by recent owners, so he was glad to have a chance to bring it back to life. He said by next year he hopes to have the grounds available for Halloween events and summer festivals, and eventually restore the interior parts of the castle as well.

Restoration efforts will not be easy. Oriolo said when it was built, the construction costs alone equaled more than $800,000 in today's money, meaning he has a lot of work to do before the public can return to the grounds. As word of his plans has spread, Oriolo said, he has gotten a lot of positive feedback.

"I'm just so surprised by all of the different people that come by," he said. "They reminisce about how they remember it. It's just very nice. Everyone's got a story that they have, based on what they experienced there when they were younger or later on."

Even before it opens the castle has gotten a lot of attention in recent years. The location has been made the "Princes Castle" in the popular Pokemon Go game, so Oriolo said it is not uncommon for groups of people to show up looking for whatever treasures the game has to offer.

"The older ones who are from the area remember the castle very well," he said of the gaming visitors. "A lot of the younger ones don't have a recollection because it's been closed for so long. It's a good way that going there they get to see ti and figure out 'hey, this is here.'"

Judith Lannin Panagakos
Judith Lannin Panagakos

The Gingerbread Castle is still popular despite being closed for so long. Judy Lannin Panagakos started a Facebook page and a website devoted to the castle. She said her neighbor used to bake the cookies at the castle, and she remembers taking her kids there when they were younger. In an announcement about the planned renovation Oriolo said the plan is to "bring back the world famous oversized gingerbread cookies so many remember and loved."

Lanning's website says the castle was the brainchild of Joseph Urban as a marketing strategy for Frederick H. Bennett. Beyond the castle Bennett created several well known products including Milk Bone dog biscuits and other products.

When he's not restoring castles Oriolo builds customs homes, so the two fields merge well. Oriolo is the son of Don Oriolo who continues to do the Felix the Cat cartoons started by his father before him. The middle Oriolo has also been busy this year helping to rescue a large group of feral cats that overran a property in Wantage earlier this year.

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