An authentic French castle is not a common sight in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. On Arkansas State Route 14, near the town of Lead Hill, Arkansas, a visitor can tour a castle.
This is not an ordinary home, but an actual 13th century castle being erected by a Frenchman, Michel Guyot, who currently lives in a castle near Paris, France. His Paris castle is called Guedelon, which is patterned after a 13th century structure. He is experienced in restoring and building castles, as proven by his home, Guedelon.
The castle in Arkansas became a reality for Guyot, when Jean Marc and Solange Mirat moved to Lead Hill, Arkansas, and purchased a home and 800 acres in the community. They offered to sell their fellow Frenchman 50 acres for his castle project, because the topography fit perfectly with the erection of such a structure.
The construction of the castle is an ongoing operation. Visitors to the site can see the primitive construction methods being used. The plans for the project, completed by a local architect, Steve Hurd, are also on display at the site.
The boards for the castle are cut from oak and cedar trees located around the property. A blacksmith is on site to make the nails needed for the project. The stone quarry, located a short distance from the site, is the source of the stones used for the castle. A large Belgian draft horse serves as the conveyance for the stones to the castle building site.
An interesting facet of the castle is the “squirrel cage,” made of cedar and oak that requires a person to walk inside to turn the wheel which hoists the heavy stones. Visitors can see this strange contraption in operation.
According to the Project Manager, Johnny Burleson, the structure will have a drawbridge and six main towers. A visitor can see the progress of this phase of the construction.
The artisans work daily on the castle. Visitors can see the various roughly constructed huts that artisans have set up around the perimeter of the site. They can see rope makers, basket weavers, stonemasons, carpenters and blacksmiths completing their tasks. They are “visitor friendly” and even offer classes for children and adults interested in learning their craft. A unique opportunity is afforded visitors who might want to learn a skill used in the castle build. These artisans offer a week long class to those who might want to stay and be taught one of the crafts used in the construction of the castle.
On the grounds there is a wooded fortress, similar to those used to defend the castle workers from attacks of invaders. Visitors can walk through the fort and see the primitive protection devices that are built into the fortress..
Children will be entertained by three “would be” knights. Bryan Douglas, Eric Crow and Eli Evans entertain visitors with their portrayal of knights. They don the armor and wield the sword and shield while presenting the history of knighthood to a captive audience.
There is no electricity at the castle site so the hours of operation are adjusted to the daylight hours. The Ozark Medieval Fortress is open seven days a week till November 30. The hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission for adults is $12, for children ages 6 to 16 $8, and under 6 are admitted free. Group rates are available. For more information about this Fortress, contact www.ozarkmedievalfortress.com.
References: David Holsted, Harrison Daily Times
Julie Stewart, Arkansas Democrat Gazette
Becky Harris, Log Cabin Democrat , Conway Arkansas