Kentucky (Tall) Tales: The Versailles Road Castle

20 Sep

Note: We’ve been collecting stories — curiosities really — about Kentucky. The things not found in history books or in visitors’ guides. The things that are rumored, whispered about and told as (sometimes) far-fetching tales by locals. Sometimes they’re totally true. Sometimes they have to be taken with a grain of salt … making them all the more fun.

These (tall) tales are easily some of our favorite things we’ve discovered along the way. We’ll share them with you as we find them so you can enjoy the hidden stories of Kentucky between our trip posts. These are different from our “Kentucky Stories,” which highlight notable people and events in the state’s history.  Here is the first of many tales.

Everything But the Moat

Every time I return to Lexington, I exit Bluegrass Parkway onto Versailles Road and head into town. Without fail, traffic noticeably slows as I top the last hill before I enter Fayette County and the stone turrets come into view. If the Bluegrass region’s rolling green hills don’t already resemble the landscapes of the United Kingdom, the stone walls, turrets and draw bridge of the Versailles Road Castle make you feel like you’ve traveled across the Atlantic — or maybe even back in time.

As far as I can tell, the castle is void of any knights in shining armor and the clusters of people standing outside its gates are awed tourists — not bands of disgruntled villagers with torches and demands for lower taxes (they can be found downtown outside the Mayor’s office). But there have been rumors aplenty that I’ve heard over the years living in Lexington as to the origins of the royal-looking structure. It’s not a modern-day fairy-tale home and the owners didn’t move out because it is haunted.

Here’s the real story: Rex and Caroline Martin got the idea for a castle during a European vacation in 1968. They purchased 53 acres on U.S. 60 outside of Lexington and broke ground in 1969. The Martins’ finished estate was to have seven bedrooms, fifteen baths, four corner towers, a dozen turrets, 12-foot-high walls, a drawbridge, an Italian fountain in the courtyard and tennis courts in back. But before the castle could be completed, the couple divorced leaving the place unfinished an empty.

In 1988, Rex put the castle on the market with a FOR SALE sign posted on the castle’s gates that announced showings were by appointment only and listed a phone number. Many who tried to call the number to inquire about a price claim no one ever answered or returned phone calls. Rex died in 2003 without ever selling the castle. His estate sold it to a Florida couple who began renovations to convert the property into a bed and breakfast. But in 2004 the house caught fire, burning many parts of the main building to the ground. Naturally, rumors circled surrounding the cause of the fire. Lightning, arson, ignited on purpose to gain insurance money because renovation costs were turning out to be pricier than expected. But no charges ever came about.

 

After the fire, the Florida couple rebounded and the destroyed building was rebuilt. The Castle Post opened a few years ago as a luxury hotel and venue. Room rates range from $355 to $455 per night; suites go for between $500 and $800 to stay in the turret suites. The castle host weddings, corporate events and dinners as well. Find photos of the renovated castle here. The Castle Post is located on Versailles Road (U.S. 60) west of Keeneland Race Course near the Woodford County line.

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One Response to “Kentucky (Tall) Tales: The Versailles Road Castle”

  1. Kyle November 11, 2011 at 2:34 AM #

    The cause of the fire was never determined, but it was not lightning. There was no weather at all that night. If I recall correctly, it was ruled an arson, but without a main suspect? Or, perhaps it was an electrical fire, but arson was suspected? I can’t remember, but lightning was not involved.

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