|Kansas City, Kan.,
residents Kel and Anne Bayless are building a castle at their
weekend home near the Lake of the Ozarks. Old Cross Castle’s
3,200-square- foot courtyard is large enough that most Missourians
could fit their home in it.
Boaters near the Niangua arm of Lake of the Ozarks have gawked at
an unusual construction site for nearly 15 years. Sitting high on the
hill, hidden among lush oaks, stands a structure created mostly of
cinder blocks called “Old Cross Castle.”
fortress, you might think you’ve stepped into the Middle
Ages as you come upon a dragon wading in a moat. You rub your eyes in disbelief
as the immense archway above a wooden drawbridge welcomes you into a courtyard.
Thirty-foot towers and curtain walls surround you as a knight in shining armor
stands on the lookout. Not until owners Kel and Anne Bayless greet you in shorts
and T-shirts do you realize this isn’t a dream.
an arched window in preparation for welding. The couple is performing
most of the construction work themselves.
“It’s not a
fantasyland,” says Kel. “It’s reality.”
Making a weekend
home seven miles outside of Greenview, the Kansas City, Kan., residents have
been building their lakeside castle one cinder block at a time every weekend
“I just thought it would be fun to build something
that really you just couldn’t get done,” says Kel. “The
fun is in the adventure of doing it. I don’t even look forward to the
day when I can stand back and say, ‘Aw, it’s done.’ I’m
enjoying the trip.”
Savoring the process is important to the couple.
They want to do everything right to ensure the longevity of the castle.
Plus, they feel hurried enough at work with Kel being a crane broker
and Anne keeping busy as an accountant.
Anne laughs as she remembers
how the castle came to be.“He was supposed to build me a vacation
log cabin,” she says. Plans quickly changed when Kel realized
there was a security problem with a log cabin in the woods.
are no servants in this castle. Kel and Anne do all of the
“I thought if we build a log cabin
it could be like Ha Ha Tonka, burn down and nobody would be there to
put it out,” explains Kel, a Southwest Electric
Cooperative member. “We needed some kind of security. So, I figured
a 15-foot stone wall, a drawbridge and a moat would take care of the fire
and security problems. Plus, the other side drops down to the lake so you
can always pour hot oil on intruders,” Kel says with a laugh.
prepared for intruders and using the castle as a protective palace is
what makes Kel’s creation unique. Contrary to popular belief,
a Medieval stone building, with towers is not what makes a castle authentic.
The dictionary defines a castle as a large fortified building that
provides safety against invasion or a massive, imposing house. With
the castle’s enormous
size and 14-foot curtain walls this structure is sure to keep the bad
castles around Missouri
owners share a love of old buildings . . . READ MORE . .
windows adorn the Old Cross Castle.
The inspiration for the castle came on a business trip to
Ireland. After standing beneath a 1,200 year-old archway, Kel became
fascinated with enduring architecture.
“A castle hopefully is
built to last,” he says. “So it will
last long past anybody who has any clue who I am.”
As Kel and Anne
look out over the lake, they reflect on how far they’ve
“When we first started construction we used to stay in
a camper with no electricity and take jug showers,” says Kel. “Now
with the structure up and indoor plumbing, we’re thrilled.”
pushes open a heavy wooden door to reveal the interior of one of the
four hexagon-shaped towers. Instead of golden goblets and fine china
on the dining room table, paper plates and plastic cups sit on a picnic
table. Exposed insulation and unlaid carpet squares make you realize
this palace is a work in progress.
|Kel and Anne relax after a day working on their castle. The interior
of the home is, so far, anything but palacial.
Working on the castle is a slow process
with only two people. The only hired help they had was from Chris Kuse
who did all of the intricate masonry work. Everything else is done
by Kel and Anne, who have never built anything before.
think there’s anything I can’t do,” says
With no plans for the castle, he has the freedom to have fun with
the architecture and create whatever he wants. The castle’s medieval
style includes crenelations (the teeth-like pattern along tower tops),
a working drawbridge and spear-rod iron gates that display Kel’s
Perhaps Kel’s freedom of expression is best
represented in the windows that give the fortress its name. Each cross-shaped
window is welded by Kel and placed in the castle as a subtle symbol
of the couple’s spirituality.
feeds goldfish in the castle moat. The dragon sculptures add
to the medievel effect.
The Christian couple enjoys working
together and doesn’t see the castle
as a home but as a dream. They want to show kids that anything is possibe
if they try.
“I’ve watched kids come in and you can just
see it,” says Kel. “Instantly
they’ll start thinking, ‘Here’s a dragon in a moat
and a drawbridge. This is a real castle.’ Then they walk away
saying, ‘Yeah, you can
do it. It can be done. Look there, they’re doing it.’”
high school sweethearts don’t think of themselves as exceptional
and believe anybody can do what they’re doing. Despite rumors,
they are not rich. They pay for the castle as they go and use donated
labor, materials and furniture.
|Anne and Kel
Bayless hang out at their favorite spot watching boaters go by.
Teeth-shaped crenelations atop walls are a defining feature of
Every Fourth of July, family, friends
and strangers show up for Kel’s semi-professional
fireworks display with his cannons by the lakeshore.
“One of the
most significant reasons for creating this- place is so family and
friends can come and enjoy themselves for not a lot of money,” he
they have to do is pay for food and gas to get down here.”
humble couple doesn’t plan on going from rags to riches anytime
soon. They still have to install a roof, windows and doors, stucco
the outside walls, add a fountain to the courtyard and complete all
of the interior design and landscaping.
a barbecue dinner, Kel Bayless and his daughter, Linda Skeen,
cuddle by the campfire in the castle’s courtyard.
When the couple retires in
six years, they hope to open the castle to the public as a bed and
breakfast. They are even considering hosting Renaissance festivals.
the castle is not officially open for business or tours, Kel and Anne
welcome people to stop by on the weekends and see the castle or lend
Kel believes the experience of building something permanent
for his family will inspire future generations to do something others
“A certain kind of personality has an interest
in life and wants to live beyond what the average Joe would do,” Kel
says. “Climb a little
higher. Run a little faster. Do something different than everybody
To contact Kel and Anne Bayless write to 9735 Aberdeen, Overland
Park, Kan., 66206. Jennifer Kettler, the author and photographer of this
story, was a summer intern at Rural Missouri in 2005.