• Sylvia Atencio-Jesperson

THE OLD GUEST IN THE GATEHOUSE

Updated: Oct 6

When people ask us about our restoration work on the castle and what we’ve been proudest to accomplish, we usually end up talking about the gatehouse.


Even though we’ve spent so much time and energy restoring and maintaining so many other parts of the castle — the grounds, walls, ceilings, kitchen, among others — our ability to reunite the gatehouse with the castle, after they had been divided for so many years, feels like the ultimate way that we could express our love and care for the property and the surrounding neighborhood.


It has also meant finding some cool and mysterious connections between the two properties. Because the gatehouse was a barn at one point in its history, it’s clear that it was used to house different bits and pieces of furniture and fixtures that the owners of the castle needed to store. When the gatehouse was sold, those things were sold with it, but the Buchanan family that lived there held on to a lot. Now that we’ve reunited the properties again, it’s been exciting to bring the pieces we find in the gatehouse back together with their fellows in the castle and vice versa.


Some connections we found right away, the brass chandelier in the gatehouse, for instance, matches the sconces in a room in the castle, but some took a little longer to discover. Our favorite took eight years.


130-year-old painting, 1000-yard stare

We first found the large portrait of a young woman sitting with its face against the wall, hidden from view in the backroom of the gatehouse. The canvas was torn and dusty, in really poor condition, and we only took a glance at it before deciding that it was something we’d have to find time to focus on “later” (we had things like replacing the boiler to worry about at the time!). Well, later turned out to be an understatement; it was a full eight years before we decided to take a look at the portrait again. This time, a second glance told us that this wasn’t a painting of an ordinary girl, this was a portrait of Louise, Baron von Richthofen’s beloved wife. She’s very young in the piece, we think it may be dated to right before they got married, but the likeness is unmistakable. She’s got the very same eyes, nose, and lips that she has in images from her later years.


The portrait of who we believe is Baroness Louise von Richtofen, now in its rightful place in the castle

We have no idea why the portrait of Louise was first placed in the gatehouse or how it was able to survive there for at least fifty years. All we knew when we re-discovered her, is that she deserved to be a more visible part of the family. Since then, we had her restored, refurbished, and hung in a place of honor in the grand hallway of the castle. Louise may have lived next door for a while, but she’s finally back at home.

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