Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Castles in the air

Palatial new suburban houses in upscale subdivisions have been nicknamed "McMansions." Some suburbanites do even better, and build McCastles.

An Aug. 20, 2005, article in the Montgomery Advertiser focuses on the 7,000-square-foot castle built by Richard and Anna Moxley in Autauga County, near Montgomery. It's loaded with faux-medieval trappings: fleurs-de-lis, suits of armor, turrets, stone archways, stuffed boar's heads, banquet tables. The Moxleys plan to add a moat and threaten to stock it with bass and bream. (Thanks to Julie Arrington for telling me about this.)

Near Fort Payne is Excalibur Castle, a four-turret edifice originally built by Jeff Cook of the country-music group Alabama.

Not all Alabama castles are private homes, though. Open to the public is Castle San Miguel in Hanceville, built by Catholic TV host Mother Angelica, founder of the Eternal Word Television Network. This castle houses the gift shop of the Our Lady of the Angels Monastery.

On land 15 miles southeast of Talladega, a group of investors hopes to build Tirion Castle, named for an Elvish city in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion. The plan -- in the works for more than 10 years -- is to run a bed-and-breakfast at the castle, plus rent it out to Renaissance fairs, weddings, Society for Creative Anachronism events, etc.

The oldest and best-known castle in Alabama, which I included in the book Alabama Curiosities, is Quinlan Castle in Birmingham, a 1920s apartment house that has been, alas, vacant and neglected for years.


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