BEAVER - Smith Treuer isn't afraid to live his fantasy.
Slowly, but persistently, he is building the castle of his dreams on a bluff in this small community five miles northwest of Eureka Springs.
Treuer calls Castle Rogue's Manor, located on his private estate, "America's newest castle." The compound includes a cottage and a great hall, which is under construction.
At night, Treuer (pronounced "troyer") is the host at his restaurant, Rogue's Manor at Sweet Spring, where his domestic and business partner, Debbie Sederstrom, is chef.
During the day, Treuer works on his castle.
Ten years ago, Treuer and Sederstrom bought a house and 20 acres on a bluff. They didn't plan to build, but the bluff at the Beaver site "just begged for a castle," he says. "I did it as a hobby and a fantasy. I just like to create and design." The couple have been building on different parts of the castle for most of a decade. The project includes two guard towers and a cottage, which are finished, and a great hall, still under construction.
Treuer has traveled around the world five times in his 63 years, soaking up various cultures and their architecture. He noticed that many cultures used existing geography to build strategically, particularly with castles in countries like India, Russia and Germany.
To reach his castle from the community center of Beaver, Treuer drives across the Little Golden Gate Bridge, the historic yellow suspension bridge featured in the movie Elizabethtown. His point of land is bound by Leatherwood Creek on the east and the White River/Table Rock Lake on the west.
About 150 years ago, this land was a quarry, where the limestone for the Crescent Hotel was procured. Ten years ago, it was overgrown. Treuer groomed the grounds and built guard towers on each side of the U-shaped drive that dead-ends at the property.
About a year after they bought the property, Treuer started building the Gate Keeper's Cottage, down the path from the house. That's where - in the fantasy - the person who controls the gates would live. For now, it's a guesthouse.
The six-floor cottage is 100 feet tall from basement to the tip of the flagpole. It has many odd angles and measures between 2,000 and 3,000 square feet.
Inside, Treuer points out the panel work, trim and molding, which were all created on site. He used an Oriental carpet design for the walnut floor. It has a border around the edge of the room, with a middle of geometric designs including "Escheresque" whirlpools under two towers. One spiral pattern runs clockwise, the other counterclockwise.
"It's an interesting use of space," Treuer says. "Even though it's tall, it's really not that big. You can see through it in a lot of places." Most of the timber and wood used in the project came from native Arkansas red cedar and black walnut trees, which were harvested green and cured, a weathering process that takes years. Treuer's family ran tree farms, and he hopes the castle will show a "reverence for wood." The project's architecture includes elements of medieval, Scandinavian and Asian styles, as well as contemporary styles and some "common sense" ideas.
EUREKA! A HOME
Treuer, born and reared in Minnesota, has been self-employed most of his life. He has designed and made custom clothing and owned a leather business. He has also studied Oriental textiles and carpets, which are displayed at the restaurant.
He traveled a lot before settling in Oregon in the late 1980s. There, he owned a hotel and salmon fishing lodge on the coast. That's also where he met Sederstrom, who was chef at her restaurant there.
Visiting friends from Minnesota who lived in Eureka Springs, the couple became enchanted with the area. About 15 years ago, they bought a Victorian-era home in Eureka Springs that had been converted to a restaurant.
They renovated the downtown space at 124 Spring St., and opened their restaurant, Rogue's Manor at Sweet Spring, in 1993. They lived in the attic for the first five years, eventually adding four upstairs suites.
After buying the Beaver property, the couple moved. They still live in the main house, which is attached to the great hall under construction. They enhanced the house's exterior to make it blend in. Treuer did some rock work, painted it, built a front entryway and added to the roofline - his friends call his special touch to projects a "Smithification," a play on his first name.
Treuer isn't a trained architect or engineer, and the cottage and great hall are the first buildings he has designed from scratch. Many tradespeople have brought a range of Old World skills to help build the castle.
The cottage and great hall feature post and beam construction, steel beams and glass. There are also many styles of ornamental ironwork; railings are in gothic, old English and Italian balloon styles. The cottage's roofing is complex because of its four octagonal-shaped towers.
Inside the cottage, there's a hand-carved, modern reproduction of an old English throne. Wooden keystones above windows have Treuer's initials overlaid. He exposed the interior of the building up to the gable, using a labyrinth of ladders and walkways. Paintings by Larry Mansker show men in armor jousting.
In one suite, the bed canopy is made of wood from an antique storefront from New Orleans. In another suite, the bed is in the center of the room and the walls are covered with daggers and swords, donated by a collector who recently died.
Outside the cottage hangs a molded rhinoceros head, which Treuer found in a Eureka Springs antiques shop.
The basement workshop in the cottage is where the woodworking - doors, window frames and trim - is done. Dozens of worn gloves are stapled to a beam.
Using dynamite, workers did the major excavation work for both foundations at the same time. The cottage was finished about four years ago. They've been working full time on the great hall for two years and are now completing the roof.
The medieval period, with its romance and simplicity, fascinates Treuer.
"We have evolved out of those times and cultures. And I guess the romance and fantasy of doing this kind of makes it more real and brings a realism to ancient history. Granted, it had to be pretty rough." The castle's buildings are wired for modern conveniences, such as computers and a central vacuum cleaner system.
Treuer has donated use of the cottage for fundraising events and rented it for tours and weddings. He's building the great hall primarily for personal use, but will rent it for weddings and other events. Tours of the buildings and grounds are available by appointment. The suites and hall at the Gate Keeper's Cottage also can be rented. Tour information, rental rates and photos of the construction are available at www.roguesmanor.com.
A GREAT HALL
Part of the reason for building the cottage first was to make a prototype for the bigger, fourlevel great hall. Treuer and Sederstrom developed an overall style that continues in the new building, which is about 100 feet by 60 feet including the wraparound decks.
The top floor will be their apartment, with an office and library on the middle floor and a dining room and theater on the main floor. An empty wine cellar that's functioning as a workroom is in the basement next to a cold stone bluff.
Heavy chains support balconies. Another pair of chains will be fixed to a skybridge leading up to the great hall, bringing in that fantasy of a castle drawbridge.
The glass is mirrored on the outside, to reflect the view and keep the sun's heat from penetrating inside. The birds can't see them as they watch the creatures at feeders near the patio.
The impressive view encompasses the Little Golden Gate Bridge and an old railroad bridge. Treuer believes the bluff has been a strategic location through history for hunting, living and other purposes.
To go with the great hall, Treuer created a great rock, multi-story fireplace. The firebox has an 8-by-6-foot opening. He also designed the damper and flue system. The grate was built from old railroad track, and logs are brought in by a tractor.
"It'll burn for days," he says.
The fireplace has a specially designed mantel featuring art by Mel Shipley. He sculpted four dragon heads and a bust of Treuer in clay, then cast them in bronze. Gemstones from Treuer's travels - Persian turquoise, Sri Lankan moonstone and Indian star ruby - are set into the dragons' claws.
"It's a major piece of work," Treuer says.
Sederstrom is creating steel chain mail resembling dragon skin - Treuer calls it "scale mail" - to trim the sides of the fireplace.
"For decorating a castle, it takes kind of an oversized scale, for the building and everything in it," Treuer says.
On the end of the room opposite the fireplace, there's a recessed space for a movie screen and stage. It can handle "Shakespeare or The Rolling Stones," he says.
A stained-glass window from New Orleans shows two saints and buildings with architectural styles he likes. Behind the man and woman is a castle atop a cliff.
"Details that play into this whole fantasy," Treuer says.
Next to the library are bathrooms and two sleeping rooms. A deck outside the library is made from 50,000 pounds of rocks.
Treuer has learned a lot about building a castle through trial and error.
"There were no blueprints for something of that scale, so I had to learn from the scale of what is available and transpose it," he says.
He looked in old trade manuscripts for information and diagrams of period fireplaces; he found some information on the Internet. He learned about engineering for the steel beams and steel posts needed to carry the weight of the buildings. The rooms inside the great hall are 36 feet wide.
He also incorporated items he has collected over the years. The worn balustrades and columns of carved stone used in the landscaping are retired from the Iowa state Capitol. They were sent to Arkansas and used as models for new ones made from quarried stone.
Several lampposts were made from melted-down beer cans. Treuer turned a copper still into a water feature. He has planted trees and flowers, wired street lights and built pathways to connect the buildings, which include a garden shed and a garage with a rainwater collecting system.
The castle's towers rise above the treeline, and people have been curious as the project has progressed. They want to see it up close and inside, he says, for the buildings and the art collections.
A few years ago, Treuer bought the Beaver Town Inn and General Store on the other side of the bridge. People can call there for tour information and rates: (888) 819-0221.
While he declines to say how much this project has cost, he says he has maxed out his credit cards along the way - which also dictates the gradual pace at which it's being built.
Treuer isn't sure when the castle will be finished. He still has to do all the interior and detail work in the great hall.
"It's kind of a lifetime project," he says. "The end is not in sight."
This article was published 08/07/2007