A man and his castle

A man and his castle

It stands to reason that a man who has made his living battling termites might choose not to build his house of wood. But Bill Grizer, an exterminator from Whipple, Ohio, and a member of Marietta-based Washington Electric Cooperative, wanted no ordinary house made of bricks or stone, either. He dreamed of a castle. 

Today, Grizer Castle sits on high ground on Scotts Ridge in Washington County, occupying a site with a defensive position any medieval lord would covet. Polished suits of armor guard the entrance, and the castle’s Great Hall echoes with the joyous sounds of weddings — or it did, before the great plague recalling the Middle Ages temporarily shut down mass revelry.

Castle exterior

Bill Grizer started planning his castle when he was 8 years old. He hopes to develop the surrounding land into a full-scale medieval entertainment venue.

Castle mosaic
Castle hall

With towers rising 50 feet above its hilltop foundation, Grizer Castle is the concrete manifestation of a dream that was inspired, as many are, by Hollywood. As an 8-year-old, Grizer was fascinated by the 1968 film, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and his obsession with castles was launched while watching Dick Van Dyke pilot his flying car over Bavaria’s Neuschwanstein Castle.

Many 8-year-old boys would have fixated on the flying car; Grizer got all wide-eyed about the castle (built by Bavarian monarch “Mad” King Ludwig II in the 19th century). Grizer remembers, “I told my mom, ‘I want that castle!’ ” His mother replied in a way that every mother responds to her son’s pipe dream. “She said, ‘Well, you can’t have that castle, but if you work hard and save your money, you can build your own.’ I decided I would do that.”

Demonstrating a focus not typical among preadolescent boys, Grizer didn’t forget his dream. “I’d see someone was tearing down a house or building something and I’d say, ‘I’m Billy Grizer and I’m going to build a castle.’ They would laugh and give me some of their blocks. My mom was good about it. We had a Ford Maverick and she’d drive me around. We could fit maybe six or eight blocks in the trunk.”

Grizer, now 56, kept dreaming throughout high school, choosing a masonry program at the local trade school so he could develop his construction skills. While he earned his living as an exterminator — building his own company from the ground up over three decades — he never stopped collecting building materials and never stopped dreaming.

He added towers and a stone front to the home in which he and his wife raised their six children. But adding a castellated façade to a suburban-style home just wasn’t enough.

In 2014, Grizer’s castle in the sky began to take shape on 80 acres of family-owned land about 20 miles from Marietta. He’s both a licensed contractor and blessed with friends in the skilled trades, and the structure rose slowly, built entirely by Grizer and his friends and family. Friend Jamie Littleton and brother-in-law Jason Myers helped him with laying 46,000 concrete blocks. An electrician friend, Lonnie Kramer, helped him wire the place. Sons and daughters chipped in labor, and his wife, Barbara, used 11,412 small tiles to create a mosaic in the Great Hall showing the forces of good and evil battling in full armor on horseback. His sister, Sarah Myers, manages rentals and marketing. 

Sometimes, Grizer’s friends also helped him keep his imagination in check. He points to the gleaming wooden ceiling of the hall and admits that it pained him to cut through it to install modern lighting. “My buddy said, ‘You’re not going to be able to hang burning torches inside this place,’ and he was right,” Grizer says. 

The castle, when finished, will encompass about 26,000 square feet of usable space, including the Great Hall, which seats 300. Guests pass through iron gates and a foyer guarded by suits of armor before entering the Great Hall. Off the hall is a warming kitchen, restrooms, and a bridal suite complete with a grilled speakeasy door that allows the bride or her attendants to look out without being revealed. 

The second-floor living areas, where he and his wife plan to settle down to enjoy retirement, remain unfinished, but will include a library and a bedroom with a sweeping view of the surrounding hills and valleys. 

Always the dreamer, Grizer doesn’t plan to stop when the castle is complete. He imagines the surrounding land developed as a medieval entertainment attraction, including a working historical village, rustic camping cabins, and hiking trails. 

“I want this place to be shared by the community,” Grizer says, standing in front of his castle and surveying his estate. “I want people to come out here with their kids, so they can see that the world can be yours — that you can have anything you dream of.”