Ohio couple builds family-friendly ’retirement castle’
Everyone knows the old saw “A man’s home is his castle.”
For Jay Maners, the adage will soon be true, quite literally.
Maners, 53, and his wife Angel, 50, are building their “retirement castle” next door to their current home in an older residential neighborhood on the western edge of Mount Vernon.
“Because I can,” Maners said, while recently showing off his project.
Maners owns Ohio Rental, a tool and heavy equipment rental company in Mount Vernon, and he and his wife are experienced homebuilders.
“This is the fourth house we’ve built for ourselves,” Angel Maners said.
The couple had recently begun to make plans to give house No. 3 to their son, Bryce, and build themselves another.
“So I said, ‘Just build your castle already,’” Angel said. “He said, ‘Are you serious?’ I was.”
As serious as the project might be, the interior design might best be described as whimsical, with plans for hidden rooms, secret passageways and even a slide from the second floor down to a guest room.
Although the outer shell of the castle is mostly done, the interior is a work in progress with plans evolving nearly every day, Jay said.
Current plans call for a special room for the grandchildren (they currently have two) that includes a wardrobe with a hidden entry to a play area that may or may not be Narnia.
A second-floor library will open onto the Great Hall, a huge gathering place with 20-foot ceilings and a massive limestone fireplace.
The master bath will include a two-story rain shower with waterfall.
And custom-designed stained-glass accents will depict the story of “Beauty and the Beast.” (You can guess who is who.)
Roy Daubenspeck, a craftsman who is doing masonry and other work on the project, suggested the couple “just start building the thing and let it talk to you.”
Daubenspeck said he isn’t surprised that his friend Jay is finally building a castle.
“He’s had the idea in his head for a long time, probably since he was in high school,” Daubenspeck said.
Earlier than that, actually.
Jay said he has wanted his own castle ever since, as a kid, he visited Cedar Point amusement park and saw the recreation of Fort Sandusky in the park’s Frontier Town. (The castle’s stone-faced turrets do resemble a more medieval version of the British 18th-century frontier fort.)
Although the look might be old-fashioned, the underlying structure is completely up to date.
“My goal is to produce a home that’s secure, low maintenance and very efficient,” Jay said. “A castle is designed to protect you from hostile forces, but why not from hostile elements?”
All utilities in the castle are routed through floor conduits for easy access and repair. The first-floor walls are 12 inches thick and have a concrete core. The furnace, backup generator and other mechanicals get their own secure room off the large entry courtyard, which is guarded by its own castle-appropriate gate.
Even the “basement” storage area is actually a huge elevated room on the second floor.
“I rent equipment all day, and I hear too many stories from people who wanted to spend their golden years relaxing but end up trying to deal with major sewer line problems, or flooded basements, or a roof that’s been leaking for 15 years causing structural damage,” Jay said.
“I wanted to do it right the first time and make it last as long as possible.”
The ground-floor living space also will be fully accessible, with wide doorways, no steps and smooth floors with integrated heating elements, to allow the couple to age in place.
The site of the castle was chosen because the Maners already have sort of a kingdom in the neighborhood. Their son, daughter, Angel’s parents and an aunt and uncle and their families all live in houses within walking distance.
“Some people travel, some have expensive hobbies,” Angel said. “For us, we’ve chosen to make our family our priority.”
Jay and Angel host the entire family, some 20 people or more, for dinner every Tuesday evening.
“It’s like Thanksgiving every week,” Angel said.
The castle’s Great Hall was designed as the ideal location for future weekly gatherings, she said.
Jay is acting as his own general contractor and is doing much of the work, including excavation and finish carpentry, on the 2,400 square-foot castle. He hopes, perhaps, to finish the project this year.
Although Jay declined to estimate what the project eventually will cost, he said it will be less than what a friend paid for a new 2,400-square-foot ranch house in a nearby subdivision.
There is, however, one common castle feature that seems to be missing.
“Everyone who sees I’m working at the castle asks, ‘Is there going to be a moat?’” Daubenspeck said.
Alas, the answer, at least for now, is “no.”
But given the Maners’ imagination and ingenuity — and still evolving plans — it might be wise not to bet against one eventually showing up.