If you have ever fantasized about living in a European castle, your dream might just be about to come true.
Minus the moving to Europe part.
Ron Denning is selling his Kapowsin Highlands castle near Graham.
Forget the cliché, this man’s home really is a castle. Bonus: It comes with heating and indoor plumbing.
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Denning, 71 and a former Tacoma firefighter, has had a lifelong love of all things medieval.
As a kid, he played with toy knights and watched “The Adventures of Robin Hood” on TV.
“I just had an interest in that era,” Denning recalled.
The beginnings of Denning’s castle can be seen on the napkin drawing he gave to an architect in 1992.
Denning had purchased 20 acres of land in 1990 when he was newly divorced from his first wife. His inspiration for the castle he would build on it came in two parts. In 1991 he took a tour of castles in Europe. Then, “I came home and found this in the bottom of a Jack Daniels bottle,” he joked.
The castle is loosely based on a real one, Neuschwanstein in Bavaria, Germany, built in 1869 by Ludwig, the “mad king of Bavaria,” who was fascinated with medieval history. Neuschwanstein was also one of the inspirations of Cinderella’s castle at Disneyland.
Denning’s version started rising in October 1993. Like any quixotic quest, the castle construction took longer than expected and had many setbacks.
“Tremendous cost overruns,” Denning said. “I’ve never built a castle before.”
It took eight years to complete. By the time he finished, he was married to his third wife, Olivia.
Today, the castle is five stories high. The highest two stories are towers that rise to70 feet. Not including the basement, the house has 1,700 square feet of living space with three bedrooms and 2.5 baths.
The 18-inch thick foundation took 82 cubic yards of concrete, Denning said. Its stone face is made of cobblestones salvaged during street construction in Tacoma.
Inside are secret doors, chambers and stairways hidden throughout.
Hundreds of swords, axes, spears, arrows and medieval era metal objects line the walls. The vast majority are reproductions.
“There’s nothing wrong with surrounding yourself with things that you love,” Denning said.
A chain mail vest hangs in a closet. Several coats of arms sit over the kitchen sink and in the corner stands a suit of armor, one of five in the house.
Stuffed animal heads and art befitting European palaces round out the collection he’s been amassing for over 30 years. Some of it had furnished his former Gig Harbor home.
“It looked out of place in that house,” he said.
On the castle’s third floor are bedrooms, baths and an office. From there, a 52-foot-high circular staircase takes visitors to the top of the main tower.
The structure is the castle’s keep. On the walls are three crossbows and a good supply of arrows.
“They would keep the food and water and weapons in the keep,” Denning said. “If they got sieged they would stay there until they got rescued or died.”
A door opens to a deck that surrounds the keep. The castle seems lost in a fairytale forest. No neighbors or signs of human habitation can be seen in any direction.
To meet the unique building requirements of the project, Denning had to improvise over the years.
“That finial up there is sitting on top of a pressure cooker lid I bought from the Goodwill,” he said pointing to the top of the keep.
Five stories below is the dungeon.
The back end of the dungeon is a wine cellar with 600 bottles. “Well, 572. We drank a few,” he said.
Back outside, a pond contains a concrete boulder with a statue of the Lady of the Lake holding Excalibur, King Arthur’s legendary sword.
Two stone gate towers mark the entrance to the property. A small “village” of buildings replicate the towns that sprung up around European castles. One houses a blacksmith shop.
Much of the land surrounding the castle are wetlands which dry up in the summer.
“I call it my moat when it’s full,” he said.
TIME TO MOVE ON
“The house is too much for me now,” Denning said.
On Friday, Keller Williams real estate agent Wes Jones put the house on the market for $725,000. Jones calls the house “unique as it comes.”
“For someone else this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Jones said.
The reasons Denning are selling are many.
Denning lived a fairy tale life with wife Olivia until she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
“I’ve done nothing out here for two years except taking her to clinics and the hospital,” he said, his voice breaking.
Olivia died in his arms in January 2015. Soon after, his mother died, then several other family members.
“I got pretty messed up, started drinking,” he said.
Earlier this year, Denning slipped on some icy cobblestones and injured his back. Now, walking and climbing stairs is painful.
He knows it’s time to pass the castle – and his collection – on to someone else. Even the contents of the wine cellar will stay, minus a few choice bottles.
“I want to give it to somebody that can appreciate it as much as I do,” he said.
“It’s not a home, it’s a castle,” Denning said. “But I made a home out of it.”