Keene Castle Project History
I was inspired to build a castle because of the time I spent in Germany as a soldier and the time I spent in Pennsylvania which is known for its beautiful old stone farm houses. I felt that if these farmers back 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 Home Depot, just add water, how convenient! So in 1998 I started my adventure when I purchased 20 acres to build my castle inside of the White Mountains National Forest of New Hampshire. While I was driving around looking at properties I passed through Bethlehem, NH.  There I saw the Bethlehem Country Club building (right). It was at that moment that I said "hey, I should build a castle!"           

 

 

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In July of 1998 I purchased the top of a mountain inside of the White Mountain National Forest in Thornton, NH.
This photo was the first day I walked out onto the cliffs.  The view took my breath way.
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This is what the terrain looks like.  The yellow line shows the outline of my 20 acre lot.  This property is one of about 20 that is actually located inside of the national forest.  It was a very rare find. On the right you can see the public road goes up to a loop on one side of my property.  That's where my 1100' driveway starts.
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Having lived in Germany I am fascinated by castles. I also lived in Pennsylvania and was inspired by the old stone farm houses. If a farmer in the 1800's could build his own house and even make his own mortar, surely I could do it with premix mortar from Home Depot.  So I decided to build a castle that I would eventually live in.
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 I started building the castle terraces in 2000. This is the very first rock placed in the project.
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In 2000 I built my Una-bomber cabin then moved it to the cliffs.
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  I used to sleep here when I came up for the weekends from Massachusetts. Now I only live 15 minutes away. This will eventually be moved to a different cliff on the property.
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In 2001 the 1st terrace started to take shape.  Progress was real slow during this period.  I would have to drive 2 hours from Massachusetts to get here and transport all of the material through the woods to the cliff since the road was not yet logged.
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In 2002 I started to extend the 1st terrace.
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At the end of 2004 the 1st terrace was finished.
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The 1st terrace was constructed of stone collected from the site.  After completion there was no more stone to be found anywhere.
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Scene from our annual BBQ.
The View
Dickey and Welch mountains are the two in the center. Off to the right is the Sandwich Mountain Range.

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Welch & Dickey in the winter.
 
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25,000 years ago this entire area was under a mile thick of ice. When it receded, it left huge boulders, called erratics, all over the mountains. We have one bolder that is 80 feet high.  It's made of a material different than the granite of the mountain.  That's because it was pushed down from Canada.
 
IMGP0442 These erratics are right on top of our cliffs. They are a piece of history and tell a great story so I plan to leave them where they are and work them into the terrace system.  This rock is about 5 feet high.
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In 2005 I was completely out of stone so I hired a blasting company to blast me some new granite to work with. I had no idea how big the hole would be.  Then I had a new dilemma: an 80 foot crater in the middle of my driveway!
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All material was moved by hand up until 2008.
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In 2005 I drilled holes for the rebar and started work on the grand terrace.  This terrace was to be built completely with the new granite from the blast.
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In 2006 the terrace really started to come together.  You can see the big drainage pipe that I put into the center.
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All meals are cooked over the fire pit.
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Ah, nothing like a cold beer and some good food cooked over an open fire after a long day of doing stone work.
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I use garbage cans as water tanks and run a garden hose down to the work area. I get pretty good water pressure just due to gravity. Between 2005 and 2008 there was an 80 foot crater in the middle of the drive way so I couldn't deliver water.  It had to be carried out two buckets at a time which took hours.  What a pain!
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I use a generator to run the cement mixer.
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After 10 hours straight of moving rocks every muscle in my body hurts.  But it's a good hurt. It tells me I accomplished something.
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You know, I love this hammock but I never have time for it.
I come here to work.
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There was a lot of good progress in 2007.
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2008 Was a great year.  I got married, moved to the mountains only 15 minutes away from the building site and invested in some equipment.
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In 2008 I purchased a Backhoe on Craigslist. 
It's a piece of junk but man is it powerful.
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I filled in the blast hole with rocks that were too big to use. Now I can once again drive right out to the cliff to deliver water. 
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In 2008 my productivity went up when I traded my wheelbarrow for an ATV & a trailer.  This made a huge difference! I now drive from the rock pile right out onto the cliff.
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View of the site from the floor of the valley.

In 2008 I took this picture of the site from Welch Mountain across the valley. The 1st terrace is in the lower right. The 2nd grand terrace crosses the middle and looks like a big smile. The 3rd terrace will be where the cabin is now. It will only be a couple feet high. The 4th terrace will be in the center of the picture where the florescent green water tank is. The house will be directly behind where the cabin is now.  The cabin will be relocated to another cliff. Solar panels will be placed in the clearing to the right.
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My usual state, covered in dirt and mortar in my hair.
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Armed with my new equipment I made good progress in 2009.
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October 2009 in the White Mountains.  On a clear day we can see all the way up to Franconia Notch. 


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Fall 2009.  In our view we have Lincoln, Lafayette, Liberty and Flume mountains up in Franconia Notch. You can see them slightly left of center.
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Doing stonework on Labor Day 2009. I mixed 30 bags of mortar that weekend. That's 2400 lbs. of mortar which means I moved a total of 32,000 lbs. material or 16 tons by hand when you factor in the stone and the water (each material needs to be moved several times, not just once).
Pretty good for 2 days work!
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My wife Tania and our daughter Lucette in 2009.
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In 2010 I built a fenced in area with play sand for Lucette.
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In 2010 I really picked up the pace and was working on the project nearly every weekend. I started ordering concrete and mortar by the truckload because my productivity was up so much. I was going through 20 to 30 bags in a day.
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May 2010
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May 2010.  There was one day in 2010 when I mixed 45 bags of mortar & concrete in one day. It damn near killed me!
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I found that if I turned the corner real fast the trailer would dump the rocks right where I wanted.
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2010. Staying hydrated in the hot sun is a real challenge.
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Summer 2010.  The wall is getting high now and I have to lift material further.
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Lucette helping her papa with construction in 2010.
She loves rocks (of course).
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Lucette picking blueberries in 2011 out on the cliffs.
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In July 2011 I finally started leveling the wall.  It's so high now I need a ladder just to work on it. It's 15 feet high at its highest point in the middle.
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The grand terrace is now at its maximum height on the right hand side. The rest of the wall will be leveled in the remainder of the 2011 building season.
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In June 2011 we hiked Dickey Mountain to
take this shot of the site. Tania was 5 months pregnant at the time.
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View of the site from Welch Mountain across the valley taken in 2008.  The large rock in the upper right is an erratic that was pushed down from Canada during the last ice age.
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After 6 years of work, on 10/16/2011
I finally finished the grand terrace!
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The terrace now measures 116 ft. long,
4 1/2 ft. thick and is 14 ft. high in the middle.
July 2010 Video
This video was shot in July 2010 after mixing a total of 41 bags of mortar & concrete in one day.
July 2011 Video
This video was shot in July of 2011 as I was preparing to start final leveling of the wall.



In this picture you can see the terraces and house site on the lower left. The current road is too steep so this year the number one goal is to get the road rerouted with switchbacks (red).  I already logged it over the past 2 years.  It's going to take a lot of work by a professional road contractor and perhaps a little blasting.