A curious castle sprouts on Viking Way

Home builder James Hauf (left) and helper Rod Wilker are constructing a 4,000-square-foot castle outside of Poulsbo. - Brad Camp/Staff photo
Home builder James Hauf (left) and helper Rod Wilker are constructing a 4,000-square-foot castle outside of Poulsbo.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff photo

ONCE UPON A TIME, IN A KINGDOM ON VIKING WAY — There lived two yurt dwellers who, amidst a mortgage crisis and housing industry bust, dared to seek bank funding to build the home of their dreams: a castle. But like any embarking on a worthwhile journey, they were scoffed at by lenders, who swatted their plan to the wayside.

“You walk into the bank and say ‘we’re owner/builders and we want to build a castle,’ and they pretty much throw you out,” said Gloria Breed, who lives with longtime fiancé Jim Hauf on property near Poulsbo. It’s a property Viking Way rubberneckers may be familiar with; over the past months a residential fortress of sorts has taken shape, reigning over the roadway through a cathedral of trees. Needless to say, they found backing.

But there’s one thing Breed, 59, and Hauf, 61, are quick to say they aren’t, and that’s nobility. Though they’ve named their future home the Chimaera Castle, in part for its allusion to a fire-breathing monster and in part for its secondary interpretation as an impossible or foolish fancy (which Breed joked is much more fitting in their case), the two don’t plan to take on any titles.

“We’re not royalty,” they say.

But they are persistent. The process of building is one Breed said has been full of learning and challenges, including a surprise aquifer popping up beneath their original rock walls and wet weather that makes work all the more tricky. Permitting alone took two years, and garnering loans and insurance on a project of this magnitude is no easy task.

In other words, there’s been no fairy-tale transformation. The idea first germinated in their minds a quarter of a century ago, and it’s been 13 years since they’ve moved onto the property. For years before starting construction they researched the idea. Building began a year and a half ago, and they’re looking to finish at the start of spring 2009.

“A little more progress gets made every day,” Breed said. Much of it comes with the help of pal Rodney Wilker, who along with Hauf is a retired welder. He lends his skills on the home four days a week.

Hauf, who built his first home, a 40-foot by 24-foot “cracker box house,” with his father in 1971, said the basic rectangular shape of modern residential architecture simply didn’t have the right draw.

“I thought it would be cool to have something different. Why not design something that’s unique so you can truly have your ‘man’s castle’?” he said.

The land has been in his family for decades; they moved to Poulsbo from South Dakota in the 1950s. His mother still lives in a house nearby, and the place is one he grew up enjoying, playing in the woods and watching Third of July fireworks sparkle over the waters of Liberty Bay. The view, to be sure, is magical.

“The property is so beautiful we didn’t want to put just anything on here. The land deserves a castle,” said Breed, also a Kitsap native. Giving the tour, she described its interior as one that will be industrial-medieval. Not all details are certain, but they have decided two rooms will become libraries, each named for their respective mothers, Virginia and Janice. Breed said she’s also looking forward to finally having room for a pool table.

“This’ll be my dining room,” she said, stepping through a rounded archway and into a turret’s interior, sweeping her hand upward, where eventually a chandelier will hang. “I’m so looking forward to that.” Another turret — the two bookend the structure — will hold a three-story, 40-foot spiral staircase that leads from the daylight basement to the main floor and up to a set of high windows. Breed plans on using the space as an art gallery.

Hauf and Breed designed the home themselves. Breed laughingly admitted at first it looked to be about the size of the Jefferson County Courthouse.

“We downsized it several times from that,” she said.

Thursday afternoon Hauf and Wilker began installing radiant heating equipment — metallic pieces that look like pint-sized medieval chest plates. The castle is being built with insulated concrete forms, and Hauf expects to have the roof, windows and doors installed by the holiday season.

“It never occurred to us when we started this that it’s going to be a curiosity,” Breed said. But lo and behold, plenty of peeping Toms have made their way onto the private parcel to check out the structure. The two aren’t adverse to sharing about their project, but not only is it their home, it’s currently a dangerous construction site. They ask any inquisitive passersby to put their curiosity on hold for just a few more months; once it’s near completion they’ll open it up to those who’d like to take a look inside. Then, Breed said, they’ll install a gate on the driveway. Because unlike other castles, theirs has no moat, drawbridge or dragon - although they do have a pet feline.

It does, however, have the foundation for an elevator shaft, since it’s where the two plan on growing old. Even, perchance, living happily ever after.

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