I was inspired to build a castle because of the time I spent in Germany while a soldier in the US Army and the time I spent in Pennsylvania which is known for its beautiful stone farm houses. If farmers in the 1800s could make their own mortar and build their own houses I could certainly do the same especially with the help of premixed mortar from Lowes. So in 1998, after going through Tony Robbins' goal setting workshop, I set 3 goals:
1. Move back to New Hampshire where I grew up
2. Marry the woman of my dreams and start a family
3. Build my dream home, a medieval castle
Number 1 & 2 are done, still working on number 3. In 1998 I had the rare opportunity to buy the top 20 acres of a mountain inside the White Mountains National Forest. It's a little oasis of private property surrounded by national forest, my little slice of heaven, yet only 20 minutes away from civilization, schools, restaurants, Plymouth State University, supermarkets, Walmart, and the all important hardware stores!
Keene Castle originally started off as just a dream home to live in with my wife and kids. But along the way it became much more than that. It became a source of inspiration, not just for achieving one's goals in life but also to teach people about green energy and green building. I want to show the world that sustainable building is not only the right thing to do to save the planet but it can be really cool too. And what is cooler than an off-the-grid medieval castle that produces all of its own heating and electricity needs?
Dream no small dreams for these have no power to move the hearts of men.
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Keene Castle was designed by me, Lance Keene, using Home Designer Pro and was modeled after different castles in Europe. Le Château de Vigny in France was my inspiration for the entrance. The rest of the design arose from studying how we as a family want to live & interact with the castle. From the book "The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live" I learned about flow and designing cozy spaces. Ok, I may have strayed from the "Not So Big" part but I tried to make it cozy. The design was also influenced by the contours of the cliff face. Frank Lloyd Wright believed in what he called "organic architecture". He believed that great architecture promotes harmony between design and nature. I will try to achieve that harmony with Keene Castle by using natural materials and landscaping that make the castle appear to be a natural extension of the cliff.
Explore the design here
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WMUR Producer, Sean McDonald, interviewed me for this episode of Chronicle. I gave them 20 year worth of videos and images for the episode. They did a brilliant job of editing and were able to tell a complete story in only 3 minutes.
For 2019 we spent the whole season getting the first floor deck on. We first added ledger boards to the top of the foundation wall. Then we had to build concrete columns to support carrier beams that would support the floor joists. Then we added the subfloor and waterproofed it. As always, it took 3 times as long as I predicted and cost 3 times as much!
Under the kitchen Bill & I built a deck over the granite. This space is huge! My original plan was that it would be for storage but I may make it a guest bedroom.
This room will be my workshop where I keep all of my tools.
This room will be the home theatre. We'll have a projector in the ceiling and will project onto the wall so the whole wall will be our television.
Instead of cutting pockets in the concrete for the carrier beam I just added 2 more concrete columns close to each end.
We started waterproofing the deck. In most construction you try to get the roof on as fast as possible. I don't have that luxury so we have to waterproof everything.
This is the breakfast nook. It will give us great views into Franconia Notch while we are eating breakfast.
Nice to see the deck going on the dining room. The kitchen on the far end is almost done.
Since there are nail guns I had a theory that screw guns existed. I looked on Amazon and sure enough I found one. This thing was a huge time saver. It also saved our backs because you didn't have to bend over.
On this day we got the carrier beam built in the entrance.
I screwed up and didn't leave pockets for the carrier beams in the concrete last year. So I had to buy a concrete cutter with a diamond blade. This is the price one pays for being an amateur builder and not planning ahead. Live and learn. I'll definitely leave pockets for the beams in the top of the first floor walls in the 2020 build season.
Getting the columns poured and the carrier beam built took a lot of time. Nice to see floor joists finally going on.
Finally finished the floor of the home gym.
It took 2 and a half days to get the floor joists on the home gym. This was our first time putting in floor joists so it was a bit of a learning process.
Got the pockets cut, column poured, carrier beam built. Now ready for floor joists.
Here I'm leveling the bearing plate for the carrier beam on top of the concrete column we just poured.
Here I started attaching the ledger boards to the top of the foundation wall. The ledger will support the floor joists.
I had to build up 7 sheets of thin plywood to create a ledger board for the front turrets. That took a lot of glue and a lot of screws.
I leveled all of the ledger boards with my laser transit.
After 18 years of working on the castle, it was incredible to see the foundation finally poured. After clicking on the arrow, click on the YouTube logo to restart in fullscreen.
I started placing the ICF blocks I made over the winter on the footings. It's starting to look like a castle!
I'm currently working on the footings for the castle. Just a little bit more to go and I can move onto the foundation. That will be infinitely easier than the footings because I can use BuildBlock ICFs (Insulated Concrete Forms).
The 2017 build season started off with a bang! I was working a bit too close to the cliff, the excavator slid and went over with me in it. Almost killed me. I was stopped by a 6" tree right before going over a 200 ft. cliff. But I'm not deterred, I will persevere. Everything happens for a reason. This was my wakeup call, a reminder that I can't be doing stupid stuff up here on the cliffs that gets me injured or killed because I have a wife and kids. Now I pay a lot more attention to safety.
I contracted Rusty's Towing to pull my excavator back up on the cliff. They did a great job!
This is what I accomplished in the 2016 building season:
Finished filling the two terraces
Brought in more fill in front of the castle
Castle design mostly done
Septic design done
All brush & dirt removed from the ledge where footings are going
Footing lines marked on the ledge
Blasting on the cliff for staircase
Footings finished for round entrance turrets & staircase turret
More brush removed from the parking area to prepare for blasting
Click on pictures to enlarge: