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Archive for Monday, November 26, 2001

A king and his castle

Junction City couple’s home sports spirals, turrets and a dungeon

November 26, 2001

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— Popular wisdom holds that a man's home is his castle. For Don Kracht, his home is an extension of a castle he built on an island in a pond.

"I call this the king's chamber," Kracht narrated, during a recent tour of his backyard castle.

Dimly lit by sunlight filtering through stained glass windows, the tiny room features a fireplace, a stone floor, dark wood paneling and a pair of diminutive "parrot cannons," which Kracht fires on special occasions.

Details of how he conceived the idea of a rambling stone and concrete fortress have faded from Kracht's memory. Crystal clear to him are the images of where he wants to go, as he continues to lay stone, nail up lumber, tie reinforcing steel and pour concrete.

"I'm gonna have a wall out there," Kracht said, looking past the existing stone wall around the front of his house.

After several years of working on his island castle, Kracht had a contractor build a matching house based on his tabletop model.

Inside the house, a vaulted ceiling climbs upward to cathedral-style timber trusses. The reflection of oak railing along a catwalk fills a 10-foot tall mirror, mounted above the custom oak mantle of the fireplace. The grand display of light and fire serves as the new centerpiece of both the house and of Kracht's fanciful Junction City estate.

Victorian and old world furnishings capture a mood that recedes into Renaissance artwork. On the walls of Kracht's "Castle Island" home, the framed works become virtual passageways into centuries past.

"You've gotta give my wife credit for decorating this," Kracht said.

A grand plan

Glenda Kracht entered into Don's royal fantasy with all the grandeur of an Elizabethan fairy tale.

"When I met him, I didn't know he had a castle," Glenda Kracht said.

As a retired Junction City High School math teacher, Don has both the time and money to plug away at what has become his life's work. "I put some time in every day, as a rule," he said.

It all started back in 1988. He called a contractor to carve out a pond from a low spot that had in better years provided water for the garden. The back side of the parcel had never been productive gardening soil, probably because it was disturbed when Interstate 70 was built.

With a large island in the middle, and with only a few feet of water between the island and the shore in some places, the pond was more like a moat.

As he continued to landscape the rural garden spot, a bridge appeared. In 1992, he built a stone waterfall. Somewhere along the line, he produced a sketch, depicting a complex stone fortress, with spires, turrets, waterfalls, winding stairways and even a dungeon.

The dungeon houses pumps for a hot tub, which is centered on a deck amid store-bought columns that could blend into architectural schemes from ancient Greek to the antebellum south.

Six faceted glass jewels, mounted in various stained glass works and on other emblems throughout the estate represent their six grown children his four and her two. The emblazonry appears in wrought-iron designs built into his stone fences, and he plans an eventual glass emblem on the floor of the palatial hot-tub room.

A popular place

Kracht admits his original intention was to build a place where he could entertain, but he makes little effort in trying to attract crowds. News of Junction City's only medieval castle attracts enough interest without much promotion.

But Kracht is no hermit. Twice a year, he invites school staff over for a cookout, which fills the grounds with merrymakers. Students like to use the setting for graduation pictures, and couples sometimes pray that King Kracht will let them use his kingdom for wedding ceremonies.

The son of German immigrants, he doesn't remember daydreaming of castles in his youth. When he started planning a castle, he looked at pictures of castles. Once the idea took root, he became a full-time castle hobbyist.

On a trip to Germany with Glenda, they visited ancient castles. The house, intended originally as a retirement home outside of town, became more "castlefied" as he began developing the idea.

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