Friday, May 24, 2019

Jackson's Castle

George Jackson, 73, has never been to England. He’s never been to Europe. But he has lived in a castle, where the walls are hung with swords. The rooms are decorated with coats of armor and Medieval looking tapestries suspended above carved antique furniture. And the castle’s outer stone towers are surrounded by a grass-filled moat. He could pull up the drawbridge whenever he needed to.
“It’s quite defensible,” Jackson said of his home perched above the mountain community of Oak Glen. “It’s a real castle.”
He should know. He built it, brick by brick.
The stone walls are actually split-face irregularly surfaced concrete blocks. The same material was used to construct the wall that curves its way around the castle yard, and the small turrets on either side of each of the three gated entrances, the main one of which sits at the end of a narrow winding road.
“Legend has it, it was started 1187 AD,” Jackson joked, referring to the 12th century style Norman design, with round towers on each corner.
In reality, the foundation was laid in 1987. It took Jackson 15 years of work – evenings and weekends – before it was ready for habitation. After 10 years of being king of his domain, he moved to Florida.
That was in 2012. He’s still trying to sell the castle.
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He put it on the market six years ago, when he was still living here, for $4 million.
“We had an offer at $3.2 million five years ago,” said Jackson’s realtor J.R. Allgower.
But Jackson thought he could do better. So he waited. And waited.
Recently, he dropped the price for the four-story, 4,200-square-foot home and the seven-acre parcel it sits on to a little under $1 million. It’s currently in escrow, but Allgower said he’s not completely confident the sale will go through. It’s not easy to sell a castle, he said. People love to come and look at it. They take pictures, they rent it out for weddings. But to live there? It takes a certain kind of person.
Jackson’s isn’t the only castle in Southern California. There are several others. But his may be the only one that was handbuilt pretty much by one man. When he set out to build his own home, he said he knew he didn’t want a traditional structure.
“I just wanted to do something that was different, you know?” he said. “I figured if I built a castle, nobody could tell me I did it wrong. I took some architectural classes at La Sierra (University). The first (castle) design I drew was like 100,000 square feet. The engineer said, ‘Do you have any idea what that would cost?’”
One can hardly blame Jackson for getting carried away. He’d been inspired by Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World. He said he even met with officials at the Florida resort, who warned him about copyright infringement before connecting him with the firm that designed the castle. The firm offered to provide him with reference material.
“They sent me one set of reproductions of the blueprints of the castle,” he said. “I don’t think they thought I’d probably ever get it built.”
They didn’t know the tenacity Jackson had. He worked evenings when he got home from his job as a lab tech at Kaiser Hospital in Fontana. He gave his weekends over to construction. When he needed help, he’d call on friends. Mostly, he worked alone, he said.
“Twenty to 30 blocks a day,” he said. “That’ll do it.”
Among the features he incorporated is a spiral stair case that curls its way up the southeast tower. The handrail is a heavy chain, held in place by loops that are anchored to the wall. Numerous helmets of armor serve as shades for electric lights. In one alcove sits an antique settle or bench with hand-carved armored figures standing at attention. Jackson said he thinks it came from Scotland. He bought it from Mr. Beasley’s, a Riverside antique store. That’s also where he found a stained glass window that depicts St. Anthony.
“It’s got some very fine detail that I didn’t even notice,” he said of the window. “His rosary has a (memento mori) skull. I don’t know the significance of the Catholic things, but Catholic people really went goo-goo over it. I had several people ask me if they could light a candle in front of it and say a prayer and I said sure. I even gave them the candle.”
He probably didn’t have to go far. There are wrought iron candle holders on the castle walls, and a round table with high-backed carved wooden chairs.
“Practically all the stuff I got came from Mr. Beasley’s,” Jackson said. “I got to know the owner pretty well. He’d call me up and say, ‘I’ve got something here for the castle.’”
Other things, such as the tapestries and swords came from eBay and mail-order sites. If there is any history behind the items, Jackson knows little of it. He seems to have been more interested in their effect in creating an Arthurian feel to the place. He even kept a loaded crossbow.
“I did shoot a bear off the front porch one time,” he said. The bolt he shot from an open window “didn’t hurt him much. It just bounced off and made him mad.”
Jackson was generally more hospitable to human guests. The castle was often filled with large parties, he said. In addition to holding his own gatherings, he regularly rented the place out on weekends for weddings and birthday parties.
“We had wonderful Halloween parties there,” he said. “We had around 350 people at our biggest Halloween party. Christmas parties were kind of nice there. I had a little theater organ in the hall that I played.”
In fact, Jackson said, playing the organ, which still sits in the main hall, is his fondest memory of living in the castle.
“Probably playing the organ in the great hall was as much fun as I had doing anything,” he said.
That may only be because building officials took away maybe the only thing that could have provided more enjoyment: his trap door.
“At the top of the first floor, I had a trap door that would dump you into a dungeon below,” he said. “The building inspector had a fit. He made me take it out.”
It wasn’t the only disappointment Jackson had with the castle. His project, he said, cost him his marriage at the time.
“She wanted to live in an apartment in Redlands,” he said. “I wanted a place out in the woods.”
He has since remarried.
He and his current wife, Carmen, found a place in his hometown of Lake City, Fla., a few years ago. Not having to maintain a castle, George said, is better for his health. But he does miss being king.
“We had a lot of fun,” he said.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Chattanooga area Castle

Looks like DIY castle building is coming back into style.  Here's one being built using ICF.  I don't have a lot of information about it, but the owner/builder has a lot of pics and info about what they're doing on the website.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017


Long time, no write.

I only have the same excuses. Kids, job, life. I can honestly say that I've spent probably a grand total of 10 hours on my computer in the last 6 weeks. My SketchUp skills have fallen by the wayside, but I can toss a 6 year old across the room onto a beanbag and earn some giggles for that. I can also locate lost toys and listen to a 3 year old's dissertation on his breakfast food choices.

But that's not what the blog is about, even though it has everything to do with my inability to spend any time here.

We had our DEC (the folks who keep an eye on wetlands and protected areas) out to survey and mark off the buildable areas. Momentary panic set in as more and more of the property became marked off as protected. Now, before anyone gets up in arms about the guv'mint getting into our business and keeping the common man down, this was not entirely unexpected.  When you buy in a state that has lots of rules, this is what should be expected. If you want to live out in the sticks in the middle of the country you can get away with a lot more. We understand what we are getting in to, we are for protecting land, and we understand that this has a cost in terms of siting and positioning of all construction pertaining to a home. But, that doesn't mean I wasn't worried about our site being completely upended and being forced to build in a completely undesirable location. Luckily, the site we hoped to use happened to be a good spot, away from wetland, just where we wanted it. Whew!  Just keep that environmental stuff in mind before setting your heart on a location!

At any rate, the dream isn't dead, but it's certainly shifted and morphed over the intervening time. A reality check regarding affordability needed to be taken into account. Construction costs aren't cheap, and if I want to get this built in my lifetime I think it would be dishonest to say I'm going to build it all myself. We finally stopped waffling and have decided to stick with Fran Beauregard (Built4ever on DeviantArt), his designs and ability to think outside the design norms of the day is unlikely to be matched anywhere else, or at least not without a raised eyebrow and a premium charge.

The grand, large designs are being supplanted by a more modest design, leaning towards Tudor, and will certainly feature a great hall and some castle affectations. As time passes, I hope we can add outbuildings such as the gatehouse, stable (garage), courtyard and a folly of a ruin on the land. When we get a final elevation, I'll share it. I'll also post pics of any progress on the land we make.

Monday, April 20, 2015

We begin...

We are now the proud owners of a multitude of power equipment and hand tools.  Chain saws, felling wedges and the like. Plus blisters. We've in the process of felling trees to clear a way for a driveway. It's a slow process, some of the trees appear to be things like red oak and black walnut.  Unfortunately I didn't research the flora of the area to know what I was looking at or I would have taken more care to fell the trees in a manner to preserve as much usable timber as I could, some of its very beautiful and could be used for benches, table-, or counter tops. Need to locate someone with one of those portable sawmills, too. At any rate, it's a start. We're also having a try at a professional home designer/architect who has an excellent imagination and doesn't mind designing outside the box a little.  I figure if I haven't been able to put together something doable over the last decade of designing with SketchUp, it's time to quit wasting time and let a pro put it together in a practical and efficient manner. We're looking forward to seeing what he comes up with. 

At any rate, check out the designer's architecture, some of it is very fanciful and very fun, castles and all. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

When you're not looking...

Life happens.  Just noticed today that the writer of Centerstone hadn't added to their blog in a while.  After poking around the site I found the announcement that he'd passed away.  I'm removing it from the sidebar, but this post will stay on the blog.  Stop by and take a look at his creations, they're neat, and you can learn from the construction if you wanted to build a folly or fake stone columns and arches using molds and cast cement techniques.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Winter on the lot

Click to view interactively:
Captured with 360 Panorama

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Yep, it's been a while. Still here!  Still thinking about castles. Since the economy cooled off and mortgages have dried up, gone belly up or simply become unattainable, the owner-built-anything has disappeared too. Our plans to move to the area near the land have been put in hold, we gota house and had some renovation done but the contractor did a terrible job on the tile work that was completely unsatisfactory, and the plumber failed to use the proper fitting for the external gas hookup along with failing to provide a pressure test to the gas company. So, the house is unlivable. No bathroom, no gas to cook with, no heat. Let that be a lesson, NEVER pay the contractor until ALL work has been completed satisfactorily.  They've got our money and we can't get them to come back and fix their screw ups. 

At any rate, it's freezing here in the Northeast, and we just got back from a road trip to check on the house and happened to have an opportunity to have a look at the land in the frozen state. IMO, it's beautiful. You can see all sorts of tracks in the snow; rabbit, birds, mice, deer, even something surprisingly large that I was unable to determine. I couldn't tell if it was a really big dog or a small bear, the footprints had degraded due to the rain after the snowfall. The creeks were frozen solid or had a thick layer of occasionally transparent ice that the water flowed beneath. Where the creeks join up the water had spread out due to ice dams and flies through icy waterfalls. Thought it was great. Hopefully we'll get to see that through a window while enjoying a fireplace indoors. Here's some pics.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Uhuburg Castle

Here's a castle being built by the owner using AAC blocks. It's called Uhuburg Castle. It seems to exist on Facebook only as far as a website goes, but you can see a lot of pictures of the construction process without needing an account. There seem to be quite a few new castles popping up on the web, I'm not sure if it's a desire for publicity or a sign of economic improvement. The vast majority are of the concrete block construction with a flat front and flanking round turrets at the corners. I can't tell if they're owner built, likely not, so I'm not featuring them here. A visit to the DuPont Castle website will have a good listing of them. At any rate, this is the only castle being built with AAC block that I know of.

Monday, May 6, 2013

A 3-view set of renders from another idea I had. This incorporates everything I could wish to have in a relatively normal kind of building style. Even so, this might require some lottery winnings to complete. The house itself is likely doable, as well as the garage. The extra out buildings however, may be a stretch. One is a mother-in-law, the other is a small work studio. Not even shown is the gate house from this castle I designed a while back that I would incorporate into the long driveway from the main public road. All told, easily approaching or possibly exceeding a million dollars. So far out of our ballpark it's not even funny. But you never know. Maybe I'll be able to slowly build some or all of the extras myself, that would slash the price to whatever the materials are and that would cut the price of those projects by more than half. The price in personal time is another story. Anyway, enjoy the Sketchup work and Thea Renders.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

For the bridge across your moat:

I found this interesting video on YouTube covering the building of a stone bridge in 13 days for $13,000 and with a crew of 5.  Now, I must confess that this bridge isn't a "true" stone bridge made with fitted pieces, abutments and keystones and all that, but one can see that adapting an honest facade to the method used in this video could net a fully functional bridge that looked like a proper finely crafted stone bridge rather than the rubble-style used here. Perhaps a similar technique could be used for the walls of your castle?  Who knows, there may be many possibilities!