Monday, January 6, 2014

The Vercler Castle

Our Christmas was spent in Spokane, WA, visiting my family; it was all very low key and relaxing. In other words exactly what we needed. The one thing my parents insisted we absolutely had to do was drive by “that house.” I asked what exactly made it “that house” and all my mother would say was “you’ve never seen anything like it.” I asked “good or bad?” and she replied “I just hope you have your camera.” Well of course!

With a build up like that I didn’t know what to expect, then we turned the corner…

Did you notice the guy up at the top of the column on the right (in the green jacket, above)? That’s Jeff and this is his home and creation, seventeen years of work. When we first pulled up I was dismayed that he was up there working, after all how was I going to take pictures when I was being watched? Thankfully he was okay with me taking photos and even offered to give us a quick tour. Score!

Jeff is a welder and has done all of this work himself, I could have spent hours photographing the details and asking him questions. As it was I did manage to inquire about his inspiration and I was told he spent a lot of time reading books and magazines and looking around the internet. Andrew asked what he called it and Jeff said “The Vercler Castle,” Vercler being the name of the street.

Later we did some online research and discovered the house was included in the book “Washington Curiosities, 3rd: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff” I found an excerpt from the interview: “Jensen is a welder by trade and says the idea to start adding brick turret like structures and generous amounts of ironwork to the outside of his home didn't come to him in a middle-of-the-night dream or from a struck-on-the-head vision. "I was out in the yard one day and needed a trellis for my ivy and gourds and other vines to grow on. So I built one. And then I built more." Eventually came multiple brick and metal turrets, giant planters shaped like medieval cauldrons, a guard house and other castle like features. "Inside it looks like a regular house," says Jensen. "But outside, yeah, I guess you could say I'm the man who turned his house into a castle."

We're now at the back of the lot, and new construction is obvious. There was a covered walkway leading out to a framework yet to be finished.

That's frozen water under the stairs, and the cannon-like pipes on the left spray water in the warmer months.


Looking back toward the house...

I didn’t manage to get a great photo of those gourds Jeff referenced, many of which were still hanging on dried vines (you might have noticed them in a few photos). All the golden foliage told me this would be a very different place to see in the spring, or early summer. Perhaps I’ll have to visit again the next time I’m up that way (here are some greener photos I found online, although these are from back in 2011 and a lot seems to have changed since then).

Those fiberglass planters were huge, easily 2.5-3ft across, Jeff said that's Virginia Creeper growing in them.

The metal sided building you can see within the brick and metal fence is the actual house.

This is a view of the top of the house.

How many turrets (or more properly "turret-like structures") do you count? I see 9 in this photo alone...

The quality of the construction and repeated details say this isn't just some crazy project gone astray but a man with talent and vision who's realizing his idea of how things could be.

Even more turrets...

Look at those crazy planters on the left...

This was such an amazing gift to see and tour with its creator, a place I will not soon forget.

Oh and remember the shot I started the post with - Jeff at the top of the unfinished turret on the right? Will actually it was finished but he's been ordered to take everything down to 3ft at the front of the property, so he was up there knocking down what he worked so hard to create. Building code ya know...

All material © 2009-2014 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.

41 comments:

  1. Fun tour of a fanciful, amazing place. The metal work is especially nice mixed with the brick. Great imagination.

    Love the last photo showing the overall view. As I read I did wonder about building permits and other mundane details like engineering so wasn't surprised he has to take it down a bit along the walk. Maybe he'll reuse the materials for more fanciful structures.

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    1. Yes I'm sure those materials won't go to waste, there was plenty of space in the back yard for more structures. Glad you enjoyed the tour!

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  2. Whoa! I had only two thoughts while looking at this- how does he get around city building codes doing this, and does Spokane get earthquakes! Sue

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    1. Haha, I can't speak to the building code enforcement (although obviously someone had issues since parts are coming down) but earthquake-wise yes they do get small ones (a 4.0 that I was there for in 2001 did a little bit of property damage). And a new fault line has recently been discovered downtown.

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  3. What an amazing place! I'm always fascinated by people who have a vision and just go for it. It's a bummer about having to knock some of it down, though. We had a brick chimney on our old house in Massachusetts, and had to have the bricks repointed twice in 25 years. I hope he's also up for the maintenance on all those brick structures.

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    1. Twice in 25 years? Wow, that's surprising. Guess I better keep an eye on our brick chimney!

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  4. As I was looking at the pictures, I was thinking that, if someone down this way created a structure like this, the building code enforcement people would be all over him. So I guess Washington isn't that different after all. But he gets to keep the structures in the back, right?

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    1. I believe so, he only mentioned having to take the very front down to 3ft.

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  5. What a strange and wonderful place, thanks for sharing!

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    1. Strange and wonderful pretty much sums it up!

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  6. Goodness our planning authority officer would have a field day with that!

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    1. Makes you wonder if it was a classic case of do it and then ask for forgiveness, rather than seeking the necessary approval first.

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  7. What a fun and unusual place. I love it when people just go with their vision!

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    1. I kind of wish he were my neighbor.

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  8. Some of this I really love, other parts, not so much. I'm surprised there aren't more fights with the city and/or neighbors.

    Reminds me of The City Museum in St. Louis, except nobody lives there AFAIK. http://www.citymuseum.org/site/

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    1. Thanks for the link...that looks like a lot of fun!

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  9. Oh, that's too bad he had to take them down. Those turrets are beautiful. But maybe too tall for that area? Maybe he should build a wider but shorter tower in the back or maybe a brick archway into the garden from the street? Cool!

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    1. Yes the ones along the front are too tall, the others get to stay.

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  10. Wow...that is amazing...sad they're making him take the front part down :-(

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  11. Crazy, wacky and I'm sure annoying to many people. But I tell you what, I love it! So much creativity and individualism. Far better than the faux Tuscan mini mansions you see everywhere. One thing is missing though: SUCCULENTS and BAMBOO!

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    1. Oh god, yes! So much better than those. As for the succulents and bamboo, it is Zone 5 after all. Some sempervivum and sedum would be very happy in those bricks. Bamboo though? I only know one person who was successful at growing it there and hers were knocked back to practically nothing every winter, barely regrowing in the summer. Are there bamboos that would be happy there?

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  12. The photos alone are unforgettable, let alone seeing it in person! Wonderful and fun yet serious in thought and construction.

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    1. Glad you could see the serious part too. It really was so well done, not just some crazy runaway project.

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  13. This is really something: a Spokane version of the Watts Towers! It seems this fellow is also quite a mason, as well as a welder. Darn city codes: they have a way of weaseling into everything...

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    1. That's what I was thinking as I toured! (the Watts Towers comparison)

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  14. Oooh...this made my day. I have always been drawn to these kinds of passion projects. I have a book called 'Handmade Houses' from the Hippie days when many people were taking to the woods and crafting their own fantasy dwellings.

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    1. Oh that book looks like fun! Someone else mentioned it to me as well, guess it's time to pull up the multnomah county library site...

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  15. Wow-ee. I usually have o go to Spokane on business once or twice a year, and the company that I do business with is Jensen Distribution Services..I wonder if this dude is related to that family ? What a place..I would love to see it in person !

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    1. Let me know next time you're headed that way and I'll tell you exactly where it is. You'll need a car though as I see Jensen Distribution Services is west of Spokane and this is east, out in the Valley.

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  16. Thank goodness for artists, can you imagine how boring life would be without them?

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    1. Yes ma'm, and that's why I married one.

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  17. Lucky you to get a personal tour. Did you encourage him to eliminate that English Ivy before it covered his creation?

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    1. Haha, no...I try not to be too preachy in other people's gardens.

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  18. I love this a lot. Thanks for sharing it, and thanks for having such a great celebratory editorial viewpoint with it!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it LeLo, I feel lucky to have been there.

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  19. Wow, that takes courage! Fascinating.

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