Couple Restores Legendary Texas Castle

The Santa Fe Castle and Ian Dennis (Google Maps, Scalpp.com)

The Santa Fe Castle and Ian Dennis (Google Maps, Scalpp.com)

An England native found something in Texas that reminded him of home: a historic castle. But it was crumbling from years of disuse, so he and his wife want to fix it up.

The Santa Fe castle, located in Santa Fe, Texas, about 35 miles southeast of Houston, is a local legend with mysterious origins. Ian Dennis and his wife Kristen recently bought the property with plans to restore it and turn it into a destination for visitors, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The property, complete with the run-down castle and, of course, a “mini castle,” was assessed to be worth $807,380, but the buyer told the Chronicle he paid more than that. “It is a high-end commercial property,” Dennis told the outlet.

Or at least it will be, once Dennis’ plans are complete.

Dennis, a cosmetic tattooist in the Houston area, knows that the castle will require repairs to everything, from foundation to roof. Once the property is up and running, the couple plans to use the castle as a commercial property rather than one to live in. They already envision part of the castle as a museum.

Also known as the Pignataro Castle, has captured locals’ imaginations for decades. It was built in the 1930s, but no one knows exactly by whom or why.

The Santa Fe Historical Foundation believes it was built by the widow of Danish immigrant John Christensen, who owned the first Ford dealership. In one telling of the story, Mrs. Christensen built the castle as a retirement home for nuns who didn’t end up wanting it.

Another version of the castle’s history says that it was actually built in Europe, then dismantled, shipped and reassembled in Santa Fe at the behest of a wealthy Texan.

The castle’s more recent history is somewhat clearer. In 1970, Sicilian-born Franco Pignataro bought the castle, which he converted into apartments and added some niceties like a pool and gazebo.

But the property has not been maintained for years, possibly since Pignataro passed away in 2010.

Dennis has stepped in to save the castle, and has the surrounding community behind him: his “Restoring Santa Fe Castle” Facebook page now has 20,000 followers.

— Cailley LaPara

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