Kentucky’s $30 Million Castle
Castle Post is a beautiful medieval-style stone castle completely enclosed by a stone wall with turrets on a 50-acre estate in Versailles. Versailles, Kentucky, that is, near Lexington. Begun as a labor of love, it’s now a bed and breakfast, and a lovely place to hold a wedding. But for decades it was a mysterious sight on the side of the road with no one at home.
In the 1960s, Rex Martin and his wife Caroline Bogaert Martin traveled to Europe and were impressed by the many medieval castles they saw. How nice it would be to have one of their own! They bought 53 acres in Kentucky’s horse farm country and started construction in 1969. The building went slowly because the plans kept getting bigger, and the castle was still unfinished when the Martins divorced in 1975. Neither wanted to talk about the castle or the divorce, but the divorce papers mentioned “castle acreage” as part of their troubles. Much later, Caroline Martin reportedly said that she only wanted a house surrounded by stone walls, and originally they were looking for a small lot of just a couple of acres. But the project ballooned over time. “It just got larger and larger,” she said.
After the divorce, Rex Martin looked into turning the castle into a commercial property, such as a museum or an art gallery, but kept running into zoning ordinance problems. The residents in the area did not want to open their neighborhood up to commercial businesses, fearing high-rise construction and traffic congestion. Ultimately, he put a For Sale sign in front of the property and moved to Georgia. For decades, people called the number on the sign to inquire about the property with the still-unfinished castle, but Martin was not interested in returning calls.
Meanwhile, Martin Castle (sometimes called Castle Farm) became a landmark in Kentucky. People driving along Versailles Road (or Lexington Road, depending on which direction you went) were surprised by the sight of a stone castle with extensive walls and turrets along the side of the highway. But no one knew much about it. No one lived there, and no one answered the phone if you called the number on the sign. Martin Castle sat empty for more than 30 years.
Martin Castle before the 2004 fire.
Rex Martin never returned to the castle, and died in 2003. Miami lawyer and real estate investor Tom Post, who grew up in Lexington, saw the For Sale sign in 2000, and spent months tracking down the owners. He bought the property for $1.8 million from Martin’s heirs in 2003. He began renovations immediately, but an electrical fire in May 2004 destroyed much of the improvements and Post had to start over. He gave up his original plans to use the castle as a vacation home decided to make it a luxury bed and breakfast. By 2008, he had finished building a 50-room castle inside the walls.
The hotel is now named Castle Post, which offers 10 luxury rooms and suites, and is available for weddings and special occasions. Rooms were as high as $3000 a night when Castle Post first opened, but business picked up considerably when rates were lowered to less than half the amount. Weekday rates are as low as $195 a night. There are four rooms on the second floor of the castle wall’s turrets, for extra privacy.
Castle Post was listed for sale in 2010 for $30 million, but there were no buyers. The castle was put up for sale again in May 2014 but was removed in September of that year. However, enough publicity was generated so that anyone with $30 million who wants a castle in Kentucky will be steered in the right direction.