A 22,377-square-foot castle that could be described as Disneyesque if not for its overall creepiness, the fact that it sits on a gravel-covered artificial island, and a skeezy and dark history that includes the death of a rescue camel, has been listed for sale in Woodstock, Connecticut, for a ludicrous king's ransom of $45M. Built by Christopher W. Mark, the great-grandson of Chicago industrialist Clayton Mark Sr., the castle started off as merely an oddity in what a 2013 article in Connecticut Magazine calls "an otherwise normal neighborhood of moderate-sized homes," with primary construction completed in 2009 at a reported cost of $4.1M. Not too much is known about Mark, although the fact that he would build such a fortress places him squarely among the impulsive, eccentric, and somewhat aimless businessmen behind most of American's sad suburban castles. He describes himself as an importer-exporter who deals in antiques, while one of his employees once characterized him as "colorful."
This 51-year-old jack of all trades had tried to make a few career changes centered around the home that he and his now ex-wife, Mary Galt, had built. According to a 2008 article in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, a long-since taken down website called www.castle-models.com once advertised the home as an international modeling agency, with pictures of young women, listing their "ethnic look," with measurements including tattoo and piercing counts, along with truly horrifying copy which read, "Just one look at the shapely form of beautiful women brings about physiological changes that our senses will not allow our minds to deceive, nor pretend does not exist. And with the laws of attraction in hand, comes desire, intrigue, and lust, which man has learned to exploit and sell as if it were a commodity." The site listed a rate of $125 per hour to have one of these models do a photo shoot, with a minimum requirement of two hours.
Doing their due diligence to keep that kind of thing out of Woodstock, townspeople notified planning officials, who told Mark he didn't have a permit to conduct business in the castle, and later denied his request to be exempted from the town's height maximum of 35 feet for businesses. After touring the residence, former First Selectman Margaret A. Wholean described the place as "just weird," noting that there were massage rooms and a large shower room built to accommodate multiple people.
The next time Mark and his castle made headlines was when his and Galt's nasty divorce proceedings came to light. In a sworn affidavit in 2010, Galt said she was "greatly concerned for the emotional health and safety" of the children, and Mark countered with child abuse allegations, after which he was granted temporary full custody. Where things get truly surreal is when both alleged that the other's neglect led to the death-by-starvation of a camel, in 2010, part of an exotic animal refuge that Mark ran on the property called Wilderness Kingdom, Inc, which once also included an emu and a zebra. After Gate left, Mark's girlfriend Marina Isakova lived with him in the castle for a time, until he put Isakova and the child they had together out on the street and refused to pay more than the "basic" monthly minimum of $1,000 in child support, for which he was excoriated in a 2011 New York Post article.
Given that his turreted castle is associate with all of this, it's no surprise that the listing text is mum on the details, describing it simply as a "single family home with 8 bedrooms and 8.5 bathrooms." What it fails to mention is the 126 acre lot that accompanies the castle—part of a larger 354-acre gated parcel that Mark owned at one time—or the fact that it is accessed by bridge, and surrounded, like the stateliest castles of Old Europe, by an unmanicured expanse of gravel. Inside, there are medallioned floors, ceilings painted with cotton-candy tufts of cloud, and a coat of arms set in the wood floors. Again, the asking price for this stigmatized, egregious blend of McMansion styling and yearningly castle-like features is $45M.
· 450 Brickyard RD [Estately]
· Woodstock Castle Makes for Unusual Tale [Connecticut Mag]
· Entrepreneur rankles some local residents, Woodstock officials [Worcester Telegram & Gazette]