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Zoethe

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What is authentic? [Sep. 25th, 2005|09:43 am]
Zoethe
[Current Mood |contemplativecontemplative]

Bombing around on the 'net last night, I came across this site. These people are building themselves a castle, right here in the USofA, and they are doing it themselves. Right now they are working on the keep, and hope to move into it this year. It's a simple, impressive structure. But what got to me were the pictures of the interior work in progress. Outside, the building is stone and crenellations. Inside, it's wooden studs and sheetrock.

Sheetrock? In a castle? WTF, dude? The interiors of castles are stone, hung with tapestries!

And yet, why not? People building castles built with the best materials available, and so are the owners of Dupont Castle. If sheetrock and insulation had been invented in the Middle Ages, you can bet that castle builders would have used it. I would never expect these modern castle-builders to forego electricity or central heat or glass in their windows, after all.

Still, sheetrock hides the nature of the structure far more than the addition of those other modern luxuries, so it looks odd. I feel the same way about log homes with sheetrocked interiors - why did you go to the trouble and then make it look like every other modern house? It's a mental adjustment.

Building a castle is anachronistic. It's certainly not anything they need - they have about 75 acres, but no serfs, and it's unlikely that they will come under siege from the next-door neighbors. That being the case, they are clearly only doing it for their own pleasure, to preserve something from the past in the same way that the SCA preserves heraldry and costuming. But if that is the case, then it seems like modernization for the sake of personal convenience would be less optimal - why bother preserving the past if you aren't really bothering to do so? Why create the facade if it's as authentic as a Hollywood set?

Then again, one can build, using modern houseplans and modern materials, a gothic or Victorian house as baroque as the Addams Family mansion from the outside, with efficient modern floorplans on the inside. So why not a castle?
LinkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: mizdandylynn
2005-09-25 02:14 pm (UTC)
If it was authentic... it wouldn't have bathroom inside either.... I know what you are saying.. but I think times have to change...
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-09-25 02:16 pm (UTC)
Oh, I agree. It's just this strange dichotomy of nostalgia and convenience. You see it at RenFaires, too - from chemical toilets to refrigeration.
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[User Picture]From: wilfulcait
2005-09-25 02:21 pm (UTC)
I don't think the insides of castles were stone hung with tapestries, at least not in the primary living spaces. We think that way because all we've ever seen is ruins. In reality there were tiled floors with carpets, coffered wooden walls and so on. If you go to Sterling Castle, where they are recreating the original interiors, it's a bit of a shock to the system. You're expecting bare stone with tapestries, and what you see is wood, plaster, and so on.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-09-25 02:22 pm (UTC)
Wow, cool. I had no idea.
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[User Picture]From: fionnbharro
2005-09-25 02:25 pm (UTC)

Eff-ing Hilarious

I like the way they think it'll cost $350K to build the whole thing.

One can't buy a 'starter home' around here for that!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-09-25 02:29 pm (UTC)

Re: Eff-ing Hilarious

They are doing most of the construction themselves, that cost does not include the cost of the land, and it is in West Virginia. They are probably underestimating by some, but it'sa totally different market than you're experiencing.
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[User Picture]From: sacramentalist
2005-09-25 02:26 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the modern interior is off-putting. Even the bathtub installation is completely normal. What? Not even a resin clawfoot tub?

I wonder what they do to afford so much land and time to dedicate to the project.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-09-25 02:30 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I was surprised by the mundanity of some of their choices, but that may be budget restrictions. I wish I could spend my time building castles!
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[User Picture]From: fujerica
2005-09-25 03:04 pm (UTC)
I was watching one of those "do your own repairs" kinds of shows on TLC several yers back, and they were building a log cabin. And they hung sheetrock in it. And for some reason, my "wtf"-sense was activated. I mean, I know it's nice to have a good flat wall for hanging stuff and everything... I just always thought the point of having a log cabin was for the semi-rustic appeal.

oh and..
http://www.dupontcastle.com/castles/martin.htm
this link show a castle that is not far from my home. There is a lot of info on that page, but it's somewhat outdated. It has been purchased and is being rebuilt after a disasterous fire last year. The new owner hopes to rebuild the living quarters to their original specs.
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[User Picture]From: ls56
2005-09-25 05:33 pm (UTC)
My grandparents live in Lexington, and I was always curious about that castle.

fascinating read. I am glad that they're doing something with it.
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[User Picture]From: sneakingyoda
2005-09-25 03:06 pm (UTC)
People live in homes shaped like triangles.

People live in homes shaped like 20 sided dice. (Have you ever been in one of the geodomes? they are pretty neat.)

But this castle thing? I think would of made different astethic changes. I'm not fond of carpet- for one. But hey, I would be one of the first putting bathrooms inside.

Gotta have the bathrooms. And Electricity. And even though I found myself wishing they had made the illusion complete- when they end up living in a modern castle and I do not- I do find myself green with envy.

Those people rule and I hope they rock the castle!

Thanks for the linkies :)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-09-25 06:36 pm (UTC)
Have seen a number of geodomes. They make a ton of sense, but don't retain their resale value. It's sad.
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[User Picture]From: mishamish
2005-09-25 03:32 pm (UTC)
Well, beyond just the "nice, flat walls for hanging stuff," there is also the fact of "it is a PAIN in the ARSE to try to run electrical wire and plumbing pipes inside a stone wall.

For my $0.11 (damn inflation!), I would point out that they're builing this thing out of half cinder blocks, not natural stone. And, dude, com' on! There's not much pretty about cinder blocks. AT ALL. Even cinderblocks with Tapestries on them.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-09-25 06:40 pm (UTC)
There are ways to get around that - run them between the ceiling and floor, for example - but you definitely have a point about the cinderblocks!
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[User Picture]From: elfwench
2005-09-25 03:42 pm (UTC)

My uncle built a castle house

That was years ago, and it even made the papers in Surrey, BC. I tried to find information on it, and I came up with this page, which has but a tiny picture:
http://www.fortunecity.com/victorian/vangogh/243/indexdads.htm

I tried to contact him via the email address on this follow-up page:
http://victorian.fortunecity.com/vangogh/243/dadpg2.html

But it got bounced that that email address is no longer any good. :(

Now I'm stuck. I want to get in contact with him, but can't find any more traces of him. He had a definite impact on my life, even though I only met him twice.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-09-25 06:42 pm (UTC)

Re: My uncle built a castle house

Cool. Too bad you can't trace him.
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[User Picture]From: morgi
2005-09-25 03:45 pm (UTC)

The evils of sheet rock

My Welsh uncle told me once about people over in the UK somewhere doing a similar thing, which he referred to as "playing at silly buggers."

I'm not a fan of sheet rock at all. But after tearing down the plaster walls in one room of our 1895 home, and discovering no insulation behind, and needing to run more electrics, we're going with sheet rock just to save our own sanity. All the research I've done indicates that trying to do plaster the authentic way is horribly difficult. It'll still look pretty when we're done... it just won't be as authentic.

And I was surprised, reading a Victorian housebuilder's manual, how sophisticated things like plumbing were in the Victorian era.
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[User Picture]From: kibbles
2005-09-25 05:49 pm (UTC)

Re: The evils of sheet rock

My husband had some of his apprentice classes last year at a different school (he's a stone derrickman/rigger, a kind of ironworker) and it was the school that the 'rodbusters' went to. They are the ones that put the bars in concrete, and happen to do plaster walls. (Because of the metal lathing in them.) He said he saw some of the students doing some amazing work, ornate plaster work. It's not something they had first year students do, that's for sure. (I think he could take a class in it for continuing ed, if he wanted. Which would be nice.)

And then people wonder why skilled tradesmen cost so much...
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[User Picture]From: jenmcd
2005-09-25 03:57 pm (UTC)
Sheetrock or no, I want a castle!
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[User Picture]From: ladymeshel
2005-09-25 04:00 pm (UTC)
What bothers me even more than the sheetrock is how BORING it is inside...that bathroom looks like your average hotel bathroom. But it's their house and I guess they want dull...you just wouldn't expect that from the outside.
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[User Picture]From: ruka_
2005-09-25 04:09 pm (UTC)
The outsides pretty drab as well... Kinda boring with nothing strucurally pretty at all.

I mean.. I wanna live in a castle.. but I wanna live in pretty castle!!
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[User Picture]From: themindseye
2005-09-25 05:29 pm (UTC)
My husband and I have been wanting to build a castle ever since we saw an ad for a place that can build one for you in our Renaissance Magazine. http://www.castlemagic.com/

From what I remember about their castles is that they put a space between the inside and outside rock. In there you put all your plumbing, electric work, insulation, etc. That way it is all hidden. The do drawbridges, moats and everything.

Me wantsies!
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[User Picture]From: kibbles
2005-09-25 06:00 pm (UTC)
My husband wanted to work for them, once. They do beautiful work! (HE may still want to work for them for all I know.)
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[User Picture]From: kibbles
2005-09-25 06:02 pm (UTC)
This really makes me appreciate the work I've seen Dan and his coworkers do...now I really do feel that not everyone can put stone and the like all together and look beautiful. It is an art.

God I sound smug. Too bad. :P
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-09-25 07:06 pm (UTC)
It's definitely an art. Looking at the CastleMagic page is such a difference.
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[User Picture]From: tygher
2005-09-25 06:03 pm (UTC)
I can get behind the sheetrock and stuff. I mean .. they still have to adhere to building codes and stuff.

But that's just .. really strange.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-09-25 07:06 pm (UTC)
An odd juxtaposition. It was food for thought.
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[User Picture]From: bookfanatic
2005-09-25 11:40 pm (UTC)
One of my personal favorite castles is Castle Gwynn in Triune, Tennessee. The owners have built it themselves over the past twenty-odd years, and it still isn't completed. When the owners got tired of random strangers coming to look at their home, they started hosting the Tennessee Renaissance Festival every May. It's a relatively small festival, but it's the closest one to where I live, and I try to make it evey year.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-09-26 12:45 am (UTC)
What a great place for a festival, too!
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[User Picture]From: spreadsothin
2005-09-26 12:37 am (UTC)
I remember in high school, a friend's dad bought the ruins of an old "castle". It was a big stone mansion with the foundation intact. He was in all the papers, moved the family into a little trailer and started building.
Before they even finished the downstairs exterior, there was a divorce.

It's local lore/common sense. Don't build castles without talking to your wife.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-09-26 12:47 am (UTC)
House projects are very taxing. More than a few "dream homes" have been finished so that they could be sold and the proceeds split in the divorce.
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[User Picture]From: ser_kai
2005-09-26 01:22 am (UTC)
i would have made it more self-sufficient.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-09-26 01:27 am (UTC)
If I were building a place in the country, I would incline toward self-sufficient rather than castle-like. But at least they are living their dreams!
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[User Picture]From: justbeast
2005-09-26 09:28 pm (UTC)
Absolutely fascinating...

I wonder what kind of castle structure one could do with (reinforced or framed) straw bale. And if it'd make more sense, cost-wise, than cinderblock.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-09-27 01:58 am (UTC)
Huh. Dunno how high you can build with straw bales. Interesting thought, though.
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[User Picture]From: koibito007
2005-09-27 04:20 pm (UTC)
Nifty! Woo for freetime!
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[User Picture]From: katranna
2005-09-28 07:07 am (UTC)
Wow, West Virginia is going to be castle state!

I don't know if you know this, but there is already a mock castle there. It was on sale a few years. That one was build by some 19th century eccentric who was into medievalism--about the same as these people, I suppose.

I have to agree with other commenters, though: I understand modernizing, but why's the inside so blah? It should be possible to build a modern, electricity-running bathroom that nevertheless looks "old-time." I mean... beige tiles?

The other west Virginian castle is rather more impressive-looking inside:

http://www.castles-for-sale.com/sale/Berkeley_W_Virginia/
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-09-28 10:18 am (UTC)
Yeah, that castle is much nicer. I think part of it is cost - sheetrock and standard appliances are a lot cheaper than paneling and custom fixtures.

Of course, when the end result looks like you've stuck a mobile home inside a castle....
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