Monday, February 10, 2003


Castles stir imagination of Idaho home builders
Medieval manors in Sandpoint lack only royalty to live in them

Susan Drumheller
Staff writer

Jesse Tinsley - The Spokesman-Review
Roger DeClements has been working on Castle Kataryna on Schweitzer Mountain for years.

SANDPOINT _ When the log lodges have collapsed and disintegrated into forest duff, Castle Kataryna may still reign supreme.

And if the nation ever dissolves into feuding fiefdoms, who will be safer -- castle dwellers with defensive walls or log home lovers with two-story picture windows?

The advantages of castle construction are clear, but you still don't come across too many these days.

Roger DeClements is bringing them back. He's been building Castle Kataryna on Schweitzer Mountain for four years.

Named for his youngest daughter, who was born within its stone walls, the castle serves two purposes for DeClements -- a home and an artistic expression.

DeClements designed the castle, laid the stones and mortar, welded Gothic stained glass windows, built his own doors and installed the wood and rock floors. He's built two other castles in Western Washington.

His signature is the glass tile starburst and cross inserts along the b
ase of the battlement walkway -- a trademark idea he borrowed from steeple-builders of yesteryear.

His goal is to have the 3,600-square-foot home completed this spring, sell it for $1.1million and move on to the next project by summer.

While DeClements couldn't be pinned down to discuss his modern-medieval creation, his wife obliged.

"What Roger really wants to do is build a village, a castle with a village, and make it self-sufficient and have artists and craftsmen living there," explained his wife, Cindy Taylor. "We want to make it a place where people can live and work."

They hope to fulfill that dream somewhere near Sandpoint, which would give Bonner County quite a cluster of castles.

About all that's lacking is the royalty to go in them.

Competing this spring for the attention of castle shoppers could be the unfinished Eagen Mountain castle built over the last seven years by California inventor Robert Kane.

Kane died last year in a motorcycle accident in California, never to see his dream project completed. His son inherited the castle, which overlooks Lake Pend Oreille near Trestle Creek.

The son has debated what to do with the property, but likely will put the 6,000-square-foot castle up for sale this spring, said family friend Inez Wates, who helped design the castle.

In the early 1990s, Kane had only a trailer on the Eagen Mountain lot.

"Then his imagination just got away with him," Wates said. When Wates and Kane went boating on the lake, Kane would look up on the mountainside and say, "That's a great place for a castle."

So he started building one, paying for it as he went with profits from his business, International Research and Development. Wates estimates that he spent at least $700,000 on the structure, which has two large towers and a third that contained the maiden's room -- a hidden room.

Initially, the castle was just a garage for his boat, because he couldn't get a septic permit. Later, he bought neighboring property that allowed him to install a septic system.

That's when he and Wates redesigned the interior for living. The exterior is mostly stucco, with some rock facade. The rambling structure gets its strength from steel beam supports.

The interior is mostly unfinished, while the exterior needs patios, landscaping and some stucco work. The castle has radiant floor heat, three stairways, a fountain room, an elevator shaft and a view of Lake Pend Oreille from each of its ample windows. The third floor of the largest tower was meant to be the theater room.

"We would have finished three years ago if he'd quit buying Bentleys and things like that," Wates said a tad wistfully. "He couldn't resist buying cars."

While Kane's castle is the work of whimsy, for DeClements, it's a trade that grew from a passion for the authentic art of castle-building.

While the battlements on Kane's castle are strictly for show, one could actually shoot flaming arrows from atop DeClement's castle.

Perhaps it's just coincidence that both castle-builders have college degrees in physics.

DeClements found he was more interested in building castles than teaching physics or chemistry, which were careers he had considered.

Still, the physics background comes in handy.

"It's difficult to pick the next stone," said Taylor, who is a former bridge inspector and has helped her husband with masonry. "They have to fit together and fit together structurally. You have to make sure there aren't going to be any sheer planes, places where something could fracture."

One of the most common notions about castles is that they are cold and damp. While Castle Kataryna is based on 13th and 14th century castles, it benefits from modern technology and building techniques.

It's warm and dry and quiet. DeClements laid double rock walls, altogether weighing 137 tons, that sandwich a reinforced concrete core lined with insulation. Like Kane's castle, it has radiant floor heat.

"It's toasty. I'm usually in the house in a tanktop," Taylor said.

A circular staircase winds up one of the towers from a swimming pool at the bottom. The third-floor west entrance is reached by a drawbridge.

The battlements feature basalt spikes from the Columbia River basin that ring pleasing tones when struck.

And no, there's no dungeon.

How quickly it sells depends on whether DeClements can find someone who shares his appreciation for Old World aesthetics, and has the money to live in it.

Schweitzer real estate agent Jennifer Fortune said $1.1 million is a little steep for most buyers. The priciest property in the Schweitzer village was a large log home that sold for $665,000.

But the castle may not seem so expensive when you consider the four years of painstaking labor and the long-term investment potential.

"What he really likes to do is make something that's artistic and that lasts. It's given us a lot more appreciation for all those ancient masons who built cathedrals and castles," said Taylor. "It'll still be here when all the lodges have wasted away."

•Susan Drumheller can be reached at (208) 263-6558 or by e-mail at

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