The Kentucky Castle is located along U.S. 60 at 230 Pisgah Pike, Versailles
VERSAILLES — Most people who live in Lexington have driven by it a hundred times. It’s an architectural oddity in Kentucky horse country: a castle. For years, it sat abandoned as a landmark curiosity of the Bluegrass. But today, it’s one of the most unique places to stay in the state. The Kentucky Castle, along U.S. 60 near Keeneland race track and the Lexington airport, is now a boutique hotel and event venue, complete with a farm-to-table restaurant, bourbon bar, and spa.
“Everybody who lives in Kentucky has driven by here and has been desperate to see inside, for the last 50 years,” says Brian Adkins, one of the five owners. “And until we took over about two years ago, you either had to be wealthy or lucky to be inside. But now we have opportunities for people to come by and have breakfast, have dinner. The restaurant’s open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And we have a hotel that’s open and a lot of special at price points people in the community can really come out and enjoy.”
Kentucky Castle History
Some of the allure of the castle is its interesting history.
“In 1969, a couple named Rex and Caroline (Bogaert) Martin got married,” says Leann Henderson, a hotel concierge and tour guide. “He was a general contractor, and he owned this land. They went on a honeymoon in Europe and fell in love with castles and decided to come back and build a castle. It was going to be their primary residence.”
They got the outside wall constructed, the chalets and foundation for a bit of the wall structure on the outside building. But, by 1975, they got divorced and never finished the castle.
“We’ve heard all kinds of stories on why they got divorced,” Henderson says, unsure of whether living through years of construction was what drew them apart. “All we know is they did get divorced.”
For 30 years, the property sat vacant and unfinished.
Rumors had at different times that actors Rock Hudson, Lee Majors and wife Farrah Fawcett, and William Shatner all wanted to buy it, and that Sylvester Stallone wanted to film a scene for a movie there. None of those things ever happened.
The Kentucky Castle did, however, appear on the Hollywood reality show “Vanderpump Rules” as the wedding site for stars Jax Taylor and Brittany Cartwright in June. (She’s a Kentucky native who grew up admiring the place).
And it does have a lot to admire: hardwood, marble, wood paneling, gold details, chandeliers, a grand staircase, hand-painted murals of cherubs on a gilded ceiling, towers, comfortable beds and turret suites that go for more than $500 a night.
The Kentucky Castle Wasn’t Always So Glamorous
After the Martins divorced, the Martin Castle was unfinished and overgrown. Mystery and urban legend surrounded it for decades.
In 2000, Tom Post, a property tax lawyer and real estate developer from Miami came to Kentucky for a state bar association meeting and saw that the castle was for sale.
Post graduated from Lexington’s Lafayette High School and the University of Kentucky (where he was a math major as an undergraduate before he became a lawyer), and he was looking for a vacation home.
By 2003, he bought it for $1.8 and changed the name to “The CastlePost.” He built it up with 12-foot wooden doors, 30-foot ceilings, stone walls and massive chandeliers. His renovation included a huge dining room and ballroom with Medieval splendor.
But in May 2004, newly installed woodwork and wiring caught fire inside the main building and destroyed most of the structure. Post spent twice as much rebuilding, and at one time employed more than 300 people to work on it. He finished construction in 2008 and reopened it as a luxury bed and breakfast, where rooms were as high as $3,000 a night. Business picked up when he lowered prices by about half.
He lived on the property in a cottage that now houses a spa. His dream included luxury suites, a library, game room, music room, dining hall, grand ballroom, swimming pool, formal garden, basketball court, bar and tennis court.
But he never did much marketing to attract steady clients. He moved back to Florida, and he eventually listed the property at $30 million. Again, it was crickets for a while, and the property remained a vacant and a mystery to many.
The Kentucky Castle Gets New Ownership in 2017
The castle near the Woodford/Fayette County line got new life again when a group of investors bought it in 2017 for $8.7 million.
The new owners wanted to make it more of a Kentucky landmark, so they opened it up to the public with a hotel, restaurant and bar, concierge Henderson explains on the tour.
“There are five guys,” she says. “Three of them are physicians. One is a Jack of all trades. He does interior design. He’s a chef. He does real estate. And the other guy is an IT guy.”
The owners consider themselves stewards of the castle. They got to know it because of medical conferences the doctors had attended, and they saw great potential for the property, says Dr. Brian Adkins, one of the owners.
“Three small-town Kentucky guys with no hospitality experience aside from running medical conferences jumped into this,” he says. “It’s been incredible for all of us. We’ve enjoyed it.” They now have 13 guest rooms, including the four corner turret towers, which are original construction, a thriving restaurant, and a stunning rooftop that overlooks the Elkhorn Creek watershed.
On the evening Local Lexington visited, Adkins was there for a daddy-daughter princess-theme dance, which the castle has once or twice a month. It sets up a room as if it’s one a princess lives in, gives tours and opens the ballroom for dads to dance with their daughters to songs such as Disney’s “Be Our Guest” or Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.”
“This is our first time being here. It’s amazing,” says Todd Payne, of Louisville, who brought his daughter, Cassie, to dress up in a gown, gloves and tiara and be a princess for a night. “She loves Disney princesses. It’s a chance for us to get out and for her to see how a guy’s supposed to treat a lady, while she’s young.”
The hotel gets its share of people looking to fulfill a fairy tale, whether it’s dances, marriage proposals or birthday parties.
“We have mermaid pool parties,” Henderson says. “Somebody dresses up like Ariel.”
They also have yoga on the roof – with goats.
“We have goats,” Henderson says. “We use their milk. We have goat yoga. I thought it was a joke, but it’s a real thing.”
The Kentucky Castle also hosts charity dinners, Harry Potter trivia nights, Game of Thrones parties, weddings and concerts on the roof, which overlooks actor Johnny Depp’s mother’s farm. The Depps are from Owensboro. Mrs. Depp recently died, and the farm is up for sale. The castle wants to one day grow that way with their livestock, Henderson says.
The Kentucky Castle is a Place to Make Memories
When it comes down to it, this is the only place in the state that offers this kind of experience. Most guests are living out that fantasy, Henderson says.
“Sometimes people save and save and bring their kids for this once-in-a-lifetime thing,” she says. “Other times it’s people who just have the money.”
Adkins says they’ve only scratched the surface on renovations.
“One of the things we’re most excited about right now is our new spa,” he says. “It’s a true a wellness spa, so there’s aesthetics and massage, but we also have cryotherapy a sensory deprivation float tank, infrared sauna and certain mechanisms of healing.”
The owners put in a new pool about a year ago, and they’re proud of the farm aspect of the castle. About 85 percent of the food at the restaurant is actually raised on the property, and then about 15 percent of most of the meat is sourced from other local farms, Adkins says.
For him, being a steward of such a unique space makes it worth it.
“It’s a special place,” he says. “People come for the experience of staying in a castle and being on a farm and enjoying all that central Kentucky has to offer and coming away with a memory and some pictures of something amazing that they couldn’t find other places.”
“What we’ve found is once people are inside,” he says, “they want to just keep coming back.”
More Information About The Kentucky Castle
The Kentucky Castle is committed to becoming the world’s greatest farm to table restaurant, boutique hotel, and event space. The boutique hotel was recently named by Architecture Digest as “The Most Beautiful Hotel in Kentucky”, and they are welcoming guests nightly. They also want to be a force for good in the community and a light on the hill.
> The Kentucky Castle Website
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