January 28, 2016

Castle Wyvern

As a child I saw its outline on the hillside.  It was hidden from view the majority of the year due to foliage. This made it more of a mystery and even made it more intriguing to me.  I knew the basic history of the castle.
Every time I drove past it my curiosity grew. It was there in my memory for 40 years as I drove that back road in rural Crawford County. Yes I said Crawford County Wisconsin and castle in the same breath, I am not talking about jolly old England.
I first remember seeing it while I was in high school in the early 70s.  It looked weathered way back then. The Army called me away from my hometown for a few years.  I was stationed in Germany for six years.  I can remember telling some of the guys I was stationed with about the castle in rural Wisconsin.

Ways lead on to way and I decided to research the castle and see who made it and the history behind it.  My first stop was to a friend that I thought owned the land.  His name was Mark Drake.  I talked to Mark for awhile about the building.  He told me his brother was the architect and the builder.

  I was sad at first because I knew his older brother Duane had passed a while ago and I wasn't going to be able to talk to him. Mark told me that his oldest brother Charlie was the builder and mastermind behind the castle. Charlie was retired and lived in Gays Mills and I should go speak to him. I didn't even know there was an older Drake sibling.  We were too far apart in age for me to know him.

I knocked on Charlie's door this morning.  We talked for a while and he shared some old photos of the castle with me. Charlie had moved away from Gays Mills in 1960. I was three then so that explained me not knowing him.

Charlie moved to LaCrosse to go to Technical School there for woodworking and liked the city so well he stayed there. Charlie was always really good with his hands and even founded a Wood Carving Club in LaCrosse that has existed for over 2 decades.

When I started talking about his castle is when the conversation started to liven up.  I asked why on earth build a castle in rural Crawford County?  His ancestors were from Worcester England and he was always fascinated with castles and England. He asked me if I had seen his family crest in the rear window.  I said yes I had seen the dragon stained glass window.  I didn't get dragon out of mouth before he said it was a Wyvern not a dragon.  Wyverns have two legs and dragons had four.
  Charlie's forty year quest to construct Castle Wyvern began in 1960. There was a first building that didn't last long because of a fire.  Charlie saved the stained glass windows from the first project and put them in Castle Wyvren. Charlie had taught himself how to make leaded stained glass.  Charlie made a few for local churches also years ago.

The building process of the castle was stretched out over forty years.  There were a few years in there that he didn't even make the trek from LaCrosse to see it. He worked on it when he had the time and had that whimsical mindset that a Wisconsin castle builder needs.
I thought with all the ancestry research he would have gone to the country of his driving passion and see a couple castles.  He has never been to England.  He didn't feel the need to because he had one that he owned right here in jolly old Crawford County Wisconsin.
Through the years many times he had climbed the stairs in his spire tower and look out the windows and imagined himself in England. There was many a day he sat in his comfortable chair there and read and enjoyed the sun setting through his windows.  The mystery of England waned through the years.  His view of the sun setting in rural Wisconsin rivaled any sunset from anywhere in the world.
I had to ask why he wasn't living in his castle now.  He told me Castle Wyvern was a young man's quest and he built it through the years as a hobby and without much foresight. He tried to live in there when he retired.  He had let it get run down through the years and the roof leaked and putting any more money in it was impractical.

The twinkle in his eye when talking about his castle still burned brightly. Castle Wyvern still sports it two stain glass windows and the castle spire looks over the Kickapoo Valley. Castle Wyvern is now in disrepair and fading away into the hill side setting.

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