http://danvillesanramon.com/print/story/print/2008/03/14/castle-walls-come-tumbling-down


Danville Express

Newsfront - March 14, 2008

Castle walls come tumbling down

One man's quest for medieval romance is apparently over

by Natalie O'Neill

Alamo folks can kiss their royal landmark goodbye.

The 1950s country home that Hemme Avenue owners converted into a 12th century castle will now turn back into a house. A simple peasant dwelling, that is.

This, in part, is because the king hath packed his bags. Alamo carpenter T.J. Baker, who used acrylic limestone and six-foot columns to create the medieval castle, is now in Arizona and can't be reached, according to the female occupant of the house.

"It's coming down. I didn't like it to begin with," she said.

She asked that her name not be used.

It's embarrassing to be known as the quirky Alamo woman with the castle, she said. It will be dismantled before June.

She has been the owner since the castle was put up two years ago, she said, although she wouldn't reveal her relationship to Baker.

Construction crews arrived at the castle last week to take down the large gray crenellated - or toothy - wall, which caught the attention of neighbors and passers-by. Columns in the front yard were also removed.

"I was just getting used to the castle," said one Hemme neighbor, Alicia Watson.

Parents picking up their kids from the neighboring Rancho Romero Elementary School last week slowed their cars to a roll and turned to look at the house while driving.

Other nearby residents, out for a walk, stopped in front of the former castle to stare at the wall coming down. They had mixed feelings about the change.

"I suppose it's good to have a few eccentrics in the neighborhood," said Gwen Langosch, a senior.

In December 2006, Baker said he wanted to transport medieval aesthetics and values to the modern world because romance has been lost. Kids from the school loved his castle, but the adults were not so enthusiastic.

Back then, he planned to finish the castle by the end of 2008, complete with a drawbridge, moat and decorative cannonballs. He couldn't be reached for comment this week.

Neighbors were concerned that the castle didn't fit in with the rest of the single family, one story ranch-style homes.

The female owner of the home also said she wishes people would stop gawking at her half-castle.

"It's none of their business," she said.

Alamo Improvement Association, which advises the county on local planning issues, generally aims to keep structures and homes cohesive in style.

Aesthetics can be a factor in planning for small lots such as this, said Mike Gibson of AIA.

"The bottom line issue is neighborhood compatibility," he explained, summing up regulations on the architectural design of homes on small lots. The demise of the castle, however, had nothing to do with a recommendation from the association.

Unusual homes sometimes have a negative effect on property values, although it's a matter of taste, Gibson explained.

"People buy their houses based on whether they like the neighborhood. Some people wouldn't give a damn. Other people would think 'Oh, my god. I'm not living next to that thing,'" he said.

Roger Smith, who is on the AIA Planning Board, said he thinks of Baker as an artist who likes to stir up controversy.

"My suspicion would be that he's probably onto his next project," Smith said.

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