Building An American Castle

Do you remember building sandcastles as a child? Sitting just past the line where the last reaches of the waves are drawn back into the ocean, where the sand is wet and hard and perfect for building. A running narrative of your alternate life being lived inside the tower. Yourself as a prince or princess, running around its halls, playing with swords, and gazing out seashell windows. Yourself as a king or queen, commanding an army as they hurriedly channel water from the sea to a moat around your American castle, a rapidly approaching battalion screeching to a halt on the bank just as seawater rushes in.

Most of us leave our sandcastles at the beach. We go home and wash the salt from our hair and forget that we just wore a crown and commanded an army. We put the castle and the crown in a room in our mind with toy trains and stuffed animals and eventually we close the door.

Most of us.

An American Castle - Our Global Adventures

Smith Treuer brought the sandcastle home with him, and he kept wearing his crown.

He went to school and learned about medieval life and his castle turned to stone and grew a guard tower and inside people danced and drank mead in a great hall. He traveled around the world, five times, and in each country his castle grew and evolved, taking inspiration from architecture in Germany, Scotland, Tibet, and Nepal. He studied gemstones and oriental carpets and textiles and his castle became more elaborate and more intricate.

American Castle Rogues Manor Architect Smith Treuer - Eureka Springs Arkansas
Castle Rogues Manor Architect Smith Treuer

Smith flirted with the corporate world, before spending 25 years as a craftsman creating clothes and accessories from exotic leathers. He made a snakeskin coat for Jesse Ventura. He had a falling out with a partner, who called him “a rogue”, a title he has since embraced with pride. He moved from Minnesota to Oregon, and redeveloped an old motel and salmon fishing lodge. In 1993 he moved to Eureka Springs in Arkansas, and opened Rogue’s Manor at Sweet Spring, which he still runs today and which is one of the city’s top restaurants.

Throughout his career, Smith kept the castle in his mind alive. It wasn’t a specific castle with a plan or a blueprint, it was a fantasy, and it wasn’t something that he ever intended to actually build. Until.

Until he found a piece of land that, in his words, “screamed for a castle”. A strategic site situated high on a bluff bordered by two rivers that provided a natural moat. He bought the land, and started building. Still not with a blueprint, but with an idea, the same way he would have built a sandcastle years ago.

a massive medieval fireplace, complete with a stone mantle large enough for musicians to perform, and a sculpture of bronze dragons who breathe actual hot air from the fire

The castle complex evolved as it was built. The Gatekeeper’s Cottage, which was originally intended to be a small structure, became a six-storied building that took seven years to complete and features towers, gables, and a flagpole. The Great Hall, which took another seven years, features a massive medieval fireplace, complete with a stone mantle large enough for musicians to perform, and a sculpture of bronze dragons, by sculptor Mel Shipley, who breathe actual hot air from the fire.

Over the past twenty years, hundreds of artists and craftsmen from the local community have been involved in building, furnishing, and decorating the American castle. Smith used locally sourced black walnut and red cedar, as well as salvaged redwood, to create what he calls a “wonderland of architectural fantasy”.

Today, the castle complex also includes two guard towers and seven octagonal towers. The Great Hall can be hired for weddings, receptions, galas, reunions, charity events and celebrations. Guided tours of the castle complex are also available by appointment, and cost $20.00 per adult and $10.00 per child. More information on the castle and tours is available on the Castle Rogue’s Manor website.

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