Magical Woodstock Castle in Connecticut On the Market for $45 Million
FlightboxHD.comUpdate: Christopher Mark is selling his kingdom … or at least his castle. The Woodstock residence, which looks like something out of a Disney fairytale, has been placed on the market for the royal sum of $45 million.
The eight bedroom, 18,777-square-foot house is located on 75 wooded acres that feature a 30-acre private lake. The property is being listed by Randall Realtors, and the interior photos of the castle included in the listing may be the first publically available images of the castle’s interior.
According to the New York Post the listing realtor John Pizzi said of the castle, “It looks like a real castle from medieval times, like something you’d see at Walt Disney World or in Ireland.”
The move by Mark to sell the property is surprising, as the castle seemed a labor of love for him. He had it built to his grandiose specifications and primary construction was completed relatively recently in 2009. The story below was originally published in December of 2013 and details some of the strange tales that have surrounded the property since construction began on this surreal looking castle visible from a quiet stretch of road in Woodstock.
Check back for further updates. Meanwhile,see our original December story on the castle, below.
The turrets of the castle appear suddenly between the trees and even when you’re expecting them, you do a double take. What on earth is this doing here? It’s a giant 35,000-square-foot-plus Disneyesque castle with stone walls, towers, a moat and what appears to be a drawbridge. Ornate and surreal, the castle looks like a set for a sword-and-sorcerer movie, or a misplaced Las Vegas resort. Stranger still is the fact that it is plopped down in the middle of an otherwise normal neighborhood of moderate-sized homes.The castle sits overlooking a serene lake in Woodstock, on a quiet road in a quiet town near the Massachusetts border in Windham County. The 20-room edifice is on a 354-acre gated parcel that also includes another smaller house. Exotic animals—including at one time a zebra, emus and camels—are kept on the property, too.
The site’s been attracting attention since the castle walls went up.
“People are constantly running up and down the road to look at it and when they get there they say, ‘My god, it’s a real castle,’” says Terry Bellman, a Woodstock building official who toured the castle several years ago and can attest to its structural soundness.
Who built it? Why and for what? The answers involve a tangled tale of failed business attempts, acrimonious divorce proceedings and even allegations of child and animal abuse that remind usall that although we tend to remember the happy ones, many fairytales are grim . . . .
Unhappily Ever After
The castle was built by Christopher Mark, with primary construction completed in 2009 at a reported cost of $4.1 million. Mark comes from a royal line of steel tycoons, and is the great-grandson of Chicago industrialist Clayton Mark Sr., one of the pioneer makers of steel pipe and who in 1888 founded Mark Manufacturing, once the fourth-largest steel company in the country. In court documents, he has been described by his now ex-wife, Mary Galt, as “impulsive, eccentric and colorful.”
Perhaps it was those characteristics that initially drew her to him but public details about their courtship are scarce. Surprisingly, considering they built an attention-grabbing castle as a home, Galt and Mark seem to do what they can to avoid the public eye. Mark is notoriously press-shy, and the number at which Galt was listed has been disconnected; her lawyers did not return multiple phone calls seekingcomment for this story.
Court documents show the couple was married in 2001 in Las Vegas and quickly had two children, born in 2002 and 2003. If money could buy happiness Mark and Galt certainly would have been an able to afford it. According to divorce filings, Mark, a manufacturer and importer/exporter, grosses $21,000 a week, or more than $1.1 million annually. According to Woodstock tax records, he is the highest noncommercial taxpayer in town and third-highest taxpayer overall, trailing only fragrance and body product company Crabtree & Evelyn, and Laurel Ridge Inc.
Yet even with the riches of royalty, two young children and a literal castle for a home, Mark and Galt were not destined for a happy ending.
In May 2010, Galt filed for divorce. Hundreds of pages of documents in relation to the divorce are housed in the Putnam courthouse. These documents are rife with bitter allegations detailing the couple’s troubled relationship.
While the divorce was being argued in court, Mark fathered a child with girlfriend Marina Isakova. When Mark and Isakova broke up she also took Mark to court in an attempt to get him to pay additional child support. That case was handled in New York and was covered by the New York Post. Andrew Black, Mark’s lawyer in that case, says “we settled according to statutory guidelines in New York State.” He adds that child-support issues are “pretty much statutory in New York State, so there’s not a lot to fight about.”Mark and Galt’s divorce was not handled so easily. In a sworn affidavit on July 27, 2010, Galt said she was “greatly concerned for the emotional health and safety” of the children. She alleged Mark was trying to turn the children against her and attempting to spread false stories “all with an intention of manipulation for a custodial advantage.” Later in the affidavit, she charged that Mark had “a long history of mental-health issues and has been diagnosed as bipolar, manic-depressive, dyslexic, ADD and has a history of mental-health hospitalizations.”
For his part, Mark accused Galt of abusing the children. Due to these allegations Mark was temporarily granted full custody, and for a time Galt was only allowed visitation under supervision at KIDSAFE, an organization that works to prevent child abuse.
The animals on the castle property also came up in the case. Mark has long run a nonprofit refuge for exotic animals called Wilderness Kingdom, Inc. Since 2004, the property has been licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a traveling zoo.
When a camel died in 2010, both Mark and Galt alleged the other was neglectful. In a motion filed on June 25, 2010, Galt claimed “the animals are not being properly taken care of” and “a camel on the property has recently died.”
In an email to Galt written on July 3, 2010, Mark countered that “when you sent the workers home and animals were not fed for 4 days, the camel lost a lot of weight since and died last week.”
Magical Woodstock Castle in Connecticut On the Market for $45 Million
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The divorce has not provided the only intrigue surrounding the castle. About six years ago Mark began exploring operating several businesses on the property. He created a website, castle-models.com (long since taken down), that advertised the castle was available to rent for $125 an hour to serve as a backdrop for photo shoots.
Delia P. Fey, Woodstock’s town planner and zoning enforcement officer, wrote to Mark regarding the website. “There were (a few years ago) advertisements for websites indicating that he wanted to have a business there,” Fey says. “He didn’t have approval for that so he was required to take the websites down.” Mark also complied to her request to stop advertising the castle in association with any businesses.
Mark has also explored getting approval from the town to use the castle commercially as a banquet hall for themed parties or weddings, and looked into getting a bed-and-breakfast license. Again, he wasn’t successful as Woodstock has a height maximum of 35 feet for nonresidential buildings, “or about two-and-a-half stories,” explains Fey, adding that the castle is “clearly taller than that.” Mark applied for a variance to that regulation, but was denied.
Lord of the Realm
The number Mark is listed at does not work, nor does a number and email provided by Black, Mark’s attorney for the New York child support case. Hoping to connect with Mark himself, I decide to storm the castle gates (figuratively, of course).
I arrive on a recent rainy and chilly fall afternoon. The castle can be seen from the road through evergreens and mist, making it seem simultaneously mysterious, majestic and almost comically out of place. I approach the wrought-iron gate. Through it I can see there are multiple cars parked in the driveway including a limousine and a fire truck. There is a number posted on the gate. I call; there is no answer, so I leave a message on a generic voicemail. I wait a few minutes, then leave.
Later that day my phone rings—it’s Mark. He is polite and even friendly, but tight-lipped.
“I designed it and manufactured a lot of the components, it was a struggle building,” he says of the castle. But he’s clearly reluctant to provide more information about his unusual home. He asks if he could have someone cowrite the story with me. He says, “I’m worried because there’s been so much BS written about it.”
After I say no to a cowriter, he says he’ll call me back. He doesn’t. Three days later I try him again. Mark answers and again is friendly without providing details about the castle. He says he will have someone call me back later. Two days pass. I call again. No answer. About a week later I call one more time, a woman answers and says Mark will call back, he doesn’t.
Though Mark has not broken his silence about the castle, many of the issues surrounding it seem to have been resolved. In February 2013 his divorce with Galt became official. In March, Mark and Galt jointly moved to retain Sidney Horowitz, Ph.D., as a consultant to counsel both parties and as managing psychologist for the family.
Town officials in Woodstock report there are no current indications that Mark is violating any zoning issues. First Selectman Allan D. Walker, Jr., says “I really haven’t heard much about [the castle] lately. As a matter of fact, I kind of forgot about it.”
Bellman, the building official for Woodstock, says Mark deserves the same consideration as any other homeowner in Woodstock. “He’s just using it as his personal residency, so it’s just like any other house in town,” he says of the regal castle on the lake. “He’s got a right to his own privacy.”
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