I’m Building a Castle

You can call me Ishmael, and I’m building a castle.

I’m a bit of a nerd, and I’ve had a lifelong dream to build a castle, something you’d see in Europe, on a mountain, overlooking a river, but in the mountains of Tennessee. Luckily I met a woman who was fine with that dream as well, liking mountains herself.

Luckily as well I have been successful enough that this is going to become a reality, and I still get giddy when I think about it.

We live in Michigan now, and are moving to Tennessee in 2015. We’ve purchased land there, the point of a ridge, at 1640 feet it is the highest point around with views of nearby mountains, the nearby city, and river. Also, being a point, we really should have 360 degree views when things are all said and done. It should be breathtaking.

Right now we just have to imagine the view. I found the land using Google Maps, looking for privately owned land with height that doesn’t have any buildings on it yet, and that wasn’t part of a homeowners association, which would have blocked the construction.  I found this lot that wasn’t for sale in an area that most locals did not know had any private land (they thought it was all state owned). I contacted the owner though and was able to come to a deal for it.

One of the nice features of the land is that it is heavily wooded with old growth hardwoods. The largest oak has a 40 inch diameter, and it is mostly oak and hickory. These trees are beautiful and majestic, the kind you’ll only find in a hardwood forest where lack of light has naturally limbed them up. We’re saving the oldest and the biggest and once they’re thinned it will look like a park that has been there hundreds of years. However, we can’t see the view from the building site because of all the trees. So I used Google Earth to hover over the point and turn a full circle to see the view from all angles, and from the highest towers it should be tremendous. Since we’re building on the high point we’ll be able to leave the trees at lower elevations and still get the views. The site is simply perfect.

Our castle will be gothic-norman in style, and be highly energy efficient. I hope to have very small utility bills. More on those topics later.

This blog will chronicle the journey going forward. We’re having plans done by an architect, will start clearing the land this winter (hopefully at a profit with the value of the lumber) and we aim to start construction in 2014, for a summer 2015 completion date.


  1. Hello, I am very interested in the same thing and currently live in Ohio and have been scoping property in Kentucky/Tennessee. I am very curious about your process. Also I am curious about your estimated costs of the land and structure if I may ask. I would love to speak with you more in depth if you have the opportunity and I look forward to hearing from you.


  2. Land is a variable cost. I had a lot offered to me at 2 million, I saw others for less than $100k.

    One important consideration is the difficulty of construction on a lot, especially if you’re talking about mountain lots. I took a tour of a house described to me as a $3 million dollar house on a $1 million dollar lot. Not that the lot cost $1 million to buy, but that is the money it took to transform it. They took the top of a little outcropping off to level it and make a building site, the amount of earth moving was immense, and the cost for all that was around $1m.

    So when evaluating your land make sure you think about what it’ll cost to put it into a buildable condition, retaining walls, excavation, stone removal, and long driveways all cost money. If you find a lot that doesn’t need much of that stuff you can build a bigger house.

    Construction costs, I don’t have a budget from builder or architect yet. What I’d like to spend though is $200 per square foot. We plan to put a lot into the first floor, a medium amount into the second floor, but when you get up to the third floor and higher we plan it to be fairly normal painted drywall/carpet/etc. Hoping that costs balance out. Also, by essentially building a tall square it is the cheapest size structure to build. Sprawling rambling large houses have larger foundations, larger more complicated roofs, and more exterior wall surface.

Speak Your Mind