Not long after I moved here over 35 years ago, I worked out that the calendar is not the same as in the rest of the world. January, January, February, March, May, July, July, August, October, November, December, December is much more accurate. And never assume that this "March" is gonna go out like a lamb, either. We had nearly hot days once or twice, but it was 39F outside as I took Ebony to the Bark Park for her first trip since it reopened last week- and quickly boogied home when it began to pour and then thunder about half an hour later. Still was worth it- saw old friends from back before the cleanup-closing, including a fat low-to-the-ground named Peter and a puppy with him named Piper. (They promised the next rescue would be named "Pickled Pepper.")
That explains the icon. As for the headline, those were fixtures of the past few days around here. All last week, from co-workers to random people in conversation, the talk was All About That Castle. Yes, there really is one in the nearby Village, barely a block from the church I just quit my lifetime membership in. I'd been vaguely aware of it from occasional tales told over the years- including of the owners letting kids onto the grounds at Halloween. But this was a rare opportunity to see it up close and even inside, as for three days the contents were put up at an estate sale and the public was invited in:
An estate sale began at 9 a.m. Thursday in the stone home known alternately as "Cambria Castle" or "Oechsner's Castle." It was built on 1.3 acres of Dream Island beginning in 1917 by a German-born mason named Ignatz Oechsner.
Oechsner was "homesick for his native village Oxenforte in Germany on the Meine River" and "determined to build exactly the medieval castle that was so familiar to him in his early boyhood," according to the 1965 book "A History of the Town of Amherst, New York" by Sue Miller Young.
Fossil rock from the Town of Holland was used to build the castle, towers and moat. But Oechsner died in 1942, having never completed his dream....
The property was then neglected, changed ownership several times and badly damaged by a fire in 1956 leaving only the walls just after it was purchased by H. Reginald Davies and his wife, Winifred. The couple "painstakingly" restored the home's interior in 1958, Miller Young wrote.
Winifred Davies had studied architecture at the University at Buffalo in the 1950s, said Mary Lowther, president of the Village of Williamsville Historical Society.
"She actually drew the drawings for when they restored the building," she said. "It looks exactly the same today."
The castle became a mix of modern and medieval. The exterior features a carrier pigeon tower, gargoyles, animal reliefs, arched cornices and a library room in a turret, Lowther said.
"But being in there you would think you stepped back into the '50s the way it looks – the kitchen, everything," she said. "It's a really unique piece of property."
The current owners are Davies' daughters, Mildred O'Rourke and Onalee Davies, said Lowther, who visited the castle several times at their invitation. O'Rourke died several years ago and Onalee Davies resides in an assisted living facility.
It's got what you would expect: a bridge to enter, turrets, probably a bratty kid up in the tallest tower shooting arrows at passing kinnigits. Also, for those three days, it had ridiculous crowds. I drove by briefly on my way from getting a forgotten office supply late on Friday, and tried again yesterday: cops had barricades up and the lines to get in were blotto. But our friend Ann did make it on, and in: here's her whole album of them, but just for a taste:
There are hundreds more, just as beautiful and strange. So go click that bad boy and look.
No word yet on whether they'll be selling and what will happen once it sells; the house has landmark status, so anything will have to respect what's there. But it's still an amazing view into the past.
Some things, not quite so old, can be demolished much more easily without needing town approval. This, I found out yesterday when I heard some noise outside and Eleanor asked me to come look.
She'd taken a "before" picture- of the brick planter that's been attached to one side of the front of our house since it was built in 1960:
She's hated it for half a forever- the stuff inside it, the potential for ants making it into the house from it, and her very different vision of what to do with that whole strip between house to the right of that angle and her garden outside the shot to the left. Plus, the thing was buckling (see circle
and arrow and a paragraph on the back).
Here's what she accomplished with a surprisingly small number of swings of a sledgehammer:
Practically fell apart under its own weight. Scary, the number of times we've climbed into that planter- many of them on top of an extension ladder- to get to windows or gutters. The big sections of brick are still out there for now, but I made close to a dozen wheelbarrow trips getting the singletons and smaller sectional pieces off the lawn and out onto the back concrete porch. We'll either need to chisel the big ones apart or get burlier help to get rid of them.
Too bad they're red brick; maybe the realtor at the castle could've used them for repairs;)
I'm still pretty sore, given that activity, the first full mow of the back forty the previous two nights and two workouts to end the "marathon" for April. We have two BBC America hours and numerous other films to catch up on, and my five straight mornings of court await.