Want to buy your own castle? Bluegrass landmark is for sale

International interest shown

gkocher1@herald-leader.comNovember 5, 2010 

VERSAILLES — If owner Tom Post can get the right price, the Woodford County castle will be sold.

It's a big if. Post's asking price is $30 million, but that's negotiable.

Charles Martin, general manager of CastlePost and a real estate broker, and Bill Moore, a Versailles attorney who represents Post on a pending legal matter, confirmed Thursday that the castle and its surrounding 50 acres on U.S. 60 are for sale.

Martin said at least two people from South America are separately interested in buying the property. Someone who lives in the Middle East also has expressed interest.

"We haven't got a contract on it yet," Martin said. "If we can get top dollar or a good price for it, we're going to try to sell it."

Post also is interested in selling The Kentucky Mansion, a tourist home on Shannon Run Road diagonally across U.S. 60 from the castle, Martin said. Post paid $3.5 million in 2005 for that property, formerly known as Crescent Hill Farm.

Martin, speaking on behalf of Post, said the castle was advertised for sale on the Internet in September, at the start of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.

At that time, Martin put an ad on the Internet advertising "Kentucky Castle, for sale, $30 million." The ad can be seen at Worldequestriangames.com.

The ad describes the property as "Kentucky's premier luxury tourist inn" on a "50-acre complex" near Keeneland and Blue Grass Airport.

Martin said there has been no local print advertising about the castle because prospective buyers for the property are more likely to come from overseas.

Post is flexible on the asking price, Martin said, should talks move to the nitty-gritty terms of a contract.

"Everything is negotiable," Martin said.

The Woodford County Property Valuation Administrator's Office lists the castle's assessed value at $4.5 million. Its 2010 property tax bill is $27,981.91, said Woodford County Sheriff Wayne "Tiny" Wright.

The castle, near the Fayette County line, has been a Central Kentucky curiosity for more than 40 years.

Lexington contractor Rex Martin Sr. — no relation to Charles Martin — started building the castle in 1969, but it sat unfinished and empty for decades.

Then Post, a Miami lawyer and a graduate of Lexington's Lafayette High School and the University of Kentucky, bought it for $1.8 million in 2003. While it was being restored, a May 2004 fire burned the house.

In 2008, it opened as The CastlePost, a luxury bed-and-breakfast, to guests, who could make use of a swimming pool, tennis court and grand ballroom. It has 16 rooms for overnight guests that range in price from $325 a day for the State Room to $1,250 a day for each of the four "Royal Turret Suites."

Guests at CastlePost have included Saudi Arabia's Prince Turki al-Faisal; Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, president of the Fédération Equestre Internationale; and her husband, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum of Dubai, a leading buyer of horses at Keene land.

CastlePost has hosted several charity fund-raisers for the Salvation Army, the Scott County Humane Society and other organizations. Martin said charities raised $700,000 through events there in 2009 and are on track to raise about $500,000 this year.

Post told the Herald-Leader in an interview in April that helping charities is "one of my greatest feelings of accomplishment."

But the events invited more people and traffic into the area than some residents wanted to see.

Last year, Post and the Woodford County Board of Adjustment were sued by a few neighbors and a neighborhood association, who want a judge to reverse the board's 2009 decision to allow an unlimited number of events at the castle.

The suit is pending in Woodford Circuit Court. Judge Rob Johnson is scheduled to hear a motion on Wednesday that seeks to have Lexington lawyer Bruce Simpson removed as attorney for the plaintiffs.

Post claims that Simpson has a conflict of interest because another attorney in his firm — McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland — represented Post on matters regarding estate planning and the incorporation of companies related to the CastlePost. Simpson said Thursday there is no conflict of interest.

Martin said the lawsuit has nothing to do with Post's willingness to sell. Rather, Martin said Post lives in Miami and wants to continue to live there, rather than be an out-of-state owner of the castle.

Simpson said Thursday that the $30 million asking price "doesn't seem to be a legitimate price to me."

"If you can get $30 million for 50 acres in the rural part of Woodford County, more power to you," Simpson said. "I don't see anybody buying it for that."

Simpson said that Southland Christian Church plans to spend about $30 million, including the $8 million property cost, to demolish the one-story portion of Lexington Mall and then build a 2,800-seat auditorium, renovate the two-story former Dillard's department store, and create a green space with a stream leading to a pond.

But Martin indicated that $30 million is not too great a price for a property that has captured the imagination of Central Kentuckians and visitors alike. Martin said he has told visitors driving east toward Lexington on U.S. 60 that "it's the first castle on the left."

"It's a unique piece of property," Martin said. "It's like buying a landmark."

If the castle does not sell, Post intends to continue operating it as a luxury inn and event facility for charities, Martin said.

But Martin said, "We're going to keep trying to see if we can find somebody willing to pay the price."

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