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Meet the king of a modern castle

Andrew Gosline has reinvigorated a Berkeley Springs landmark and offered to open it to nonprofit groups

Andrew Gosline has reinvigorated a Berkeley Springs landmark and offered to open it to nonprofit groups

October 10, 2004|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Andrew Gosline's castle is his home - a stone mountainside retreat with soaring ceilings, turrets, tapestries, a knight's shining armor and panoramic views of scenic Berkeley Springs.

"I fell in love with the charm of the castle. The view is second," said Gosline, who has completed extensive renovations to the historic site since purchasing the nearly 120-year-old Berkeley Castle on Warm Springs Ridge off W.Va. 9 in July 2002. After reading about the castle's auction in the Wall Street Journal, he bought Berkeley Springs' crowning real estate jewel and about 50 surrounding acres. He'd visited the town only once before.

"I was looking for a unique piece of property. When I saw the castle, I was just fascinated with it," said the retired data processing business owner from New Jersey. "I knew a bit about the castle's history before I bought it, but I really delved into it afterwards."

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Col. Samuel Taylor Suit, a wealthy businessman who fought in the Civil War and served as ambassador to England under U.S. presidents Grant and Hayes, began building Berkeley Castle in 1885 to fulfill what legend holds as his marriage pledge to the much younger Rosa Pelham. Suit paid about $100,000 to build the half-scale replica of England's Berkeley Castle from hand-cut Oriskany sandstone, according to information from local historians Jeanne Mozier and the late Fred Newbraugh. Suit and his new wife lived together in their not-yet-complete summer "cottage" for only a few months in 1887 before Suit fell ill and returned to his home in Washington, D.C., Mozier said. He died in 1888. "Queen Rosa" Pelham Suit oversaw the castle's completion, and for years threw lavish parties there with money from an inheritance that ran dry by the time she was about 50, Mozier said. Deeply in debt, Suit was evicted from Berkeley Castle in the early 1920s.

Mozier said local businessman George Cunningham bought the property in 1923, leasing it out for purposes ranging from a tea room to a summer camp. Ward Kesecker added a large addition of living quarters to the castle after buying it at a tax sale in 1937. Walter Bird took over ownership of Berkeley Castle in the early 1950s, turning it into a destination for house tours for nearly half a century.

"It really hasn't been a home since Rosa's day," Gosline said.

Portraits of Col. Samuel Taylor Suit and his young bride now hang in the castle's dining room near a portrait of Gosline and his beloved Doberman pinscher, Tanya. Gosline splits his time between the castle and homes in North Carolina and Florida. Though the castle is not open for public tours, its owner opens its doors to such local nonprofit groups as the Morgan Arts Council and Morgan County Historical Society for fund-raising events. He also has partnered with Coolfont Resort & Spa in Berkeley Springs to offer weddings on the property.

Gosline said the marriage of one of his two sons, Matthew Gosline, at the castle on Oct. 2 spurred the property's accelerated renovation schedule. Just days before the wedding, masonry workers and grounds crews were scrambling to complete landscaping and outdoor stonework.

"I don't think the place had been landscaped in almost 100 years," Gosline said. "We had to bring in some really big equipment to chop into the rock" to carve out space for additional parking and level yard space at the front of the castle. "We had to chisel into the mountain. That took a lot of time - and money."

Gosline also hired crews to repoint the castle's stonework, refurbish its Georgia pine walls and hardwood floors, rebuild stairs and banisters, upgrade the electrical system, replace windows and repair damaged plaster ceilings.

"I didn't know it was going to be that much work or that much money," he said. "It's a lot of work, but it's fun. I love it."

He's filled the first two floors of his kingly abode with furnishings that are both comfortable and suitable for a castle - throne-like velvet chairs, a leather sofa, massive wood dining room table - while outfitting the third-floor living space with such modern amenities as a big-screen TV, sauna, whirlpool tub and futon. And he's decorated his space with an eclectic collection of artwork, including knight's armor from Spain, a metal dragon sculpture from England, multiple Chinese dragon dogs and a Byzantine-style portrait of St. Andrew and yin-yang turret ceiling painting by Berkeley Springs artist Sean Wang.

"I don't consider myself a collector," Gosline said. "I just buy what I like."

In addition to the castle and surrounding acreage, Gosline also has purchased commercial property in downtown Berkeley Springs - an investment he considers sound.

"Berkeley Springs was a great resort town. It still has a lot of charm to it. The people are absolutely fabulous," Gosline said. "I think that in the future, Berkeley Springs will do very well."

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