• Sylvia Atencio-Jesperson

A LABOR OF LOVE HAS FUNNY REWARDS

Updated: Oct 6

Like any good, old, mysterious house, the castle is full of surprises. Some of them are funny — like the very tall fireman’s pole that runs through the floors of the historic gatehouse. Some of them are less funny — like when we found out that the commercial boiler needed to be replaced and it would take more than two very cold months of waiting before we could have one large enough installed.


This bust of Frederick Barbarossa on the Northwest corner of the castle wasn't a surprise, but it's still fun!!

Most of the time, the surprises are fascinating. Small, mysterious reminders of how many people, animals (and occasionally, plants!) have spent their lives within its walls. Here’s just a brief rundown of some of the weirder things we’ve found while cleaning up and restoring the Richthofen Castle.


A Newspaper from 1938

When we moved into the castle, the original tower on the property had been converted into a bathroom and 3 (three!) ceilings had been installed at different points in the home’s history. Knowing that they weren’t original to the structure, we began to peel back the ceilings one by one to see if we could find out what Baron von Richthofen’s original use for the tower might have been. When the ceilings were gone, we ended up finding some hidden stairs that we think suggests the Baron used the tower for observational purposes (so cool!). But along the way, we also found an artifact that helped us date at least one of the tower renovations: a newspaper tucked in between ceilings and dated from 1938.


A Tobacco Tin from 1910


We might say that our entire kitchen fireplace was a castle surprise. We didn’t know that it was there for months, until one day, pulling out the stove, We noticed a pipe that looked like it might belong to an old chimney. We had it surveyed and sure enough, it was a fireplace that belonged to the original building. Initially, we had no idea when it might have been covered up — it’s hard to tell when something’s been covered over when a house has been remodeled so many times. But then, when peeling away the plaster, one of the members of our construction crew found an old tobacco tin that had been plastered right into the wall. The best part? It had an expiration year stamped on it: 1910. The chimney had been covered during the very first renovation of the castle more than 100 years ago!


A Hand-Built Well


One of the loveliest parts of the garden is a hand-built well that we discovered behind the gatehouse after we purchased the property. We believe that the well dates back to at least 1885 (the year the castle was built) and may be even older. Baron von Richthofen often stayed in the gatehouse when he oversaw construction on the castle; we believe he may have dug the well to use for his animals to use in those early days.


An Entire Underground Room


Among its many historic attributes, the castle has old-fashioned water pumps that occasionally burst. Early in our years here, one of the pumps broke open, spilling water everywhere, and we ran everywhere looking for a water shut off valve while we waited for the plumber.


What we ended up finding? A manhole cover the size of a human in one of the closet floors in the gatehouse. When we opened it up, we discovered an entire secret room built underneath the gatehouse. Sure, a shut off valve would have been convenient, but this was even cooler.


Mushrooms


It’s not just traces of human activity that we find all over the castle. One time, we found historic plant matter, too. We were giving a house tour to some extended family when they helpfully pointed out that there were mushrooms growing out the floorboards of the hallway of what was once the castle’s Maid’s Quarters. Talk about a magic mushroom moment; we have no idea how they got there (and we haven’t seen any since) but we’ve never felt more like we’d stumbled into a fairytale.

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