Bill and Linda Cundiff have spent the past three decades waiting. They needed the right time, the right place, the right conditions.
They figured they’d get only one shot at building the home of their dreams and they wanted to do it right. After all, building a 14th century gothic manor is no small task.
Although it’s not a typical dream home, the Cundiffs always wanted to live in a castle that mimics the gothic architecture found in England during the 1300s.
And after more than 30 years of planning, they finally made their dream come true at the end of 2005.
Shared goal. Bill and Linda had talked about building an English manor ever since they began dating. They spent countless hours at Stan Hywet Hall, a 20th century Tudor manor in Akron that became the inspiration for their own home.
By 1974, the pair was so captivated by the idea of living in a gothic manor that they began working on the round-top doors they hoped to use in their future home. However, it wasn’t until 1997 that they finally got the opportunity to start making their dream come true.
That year, Bill and Linda bought a tree farm in East Rochester, Ohio. They’d already visited England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales to study original gothic architecture and they had 1,500 pictures to guide them in building their own manor.
They knew exactly what they wanted and after 30 years of planning, it took them only 30 minutes to sketch the design on paper.
Patience. When the couple broke ground for Stone Gate Manor in 1998, they hoped to have their home ready by the time the new millennium rolled around.
In 2005, they finally finished.
Construction moved slowly because Bill and Linda were more interested in being economical than how fast they could build the home. Their goal was to salvage 95 percent of the material needed to create the manor.
They started by cutting down about 200 trees on their property and sawing them into boards with a portable sawmill. They also collected hundreds of stones from their land to build the walls.
Old barns provided slate for the manor’s roof and lumber for trim work and flooring. The windows are salvaged, as well. Some are stained glass, some are not, but all were either built by Linda from recycled glass or recovered intact from old churches.
The granite and marble used for countertops and fireplace surrounds were recovered from local demolition sites.
They also saved thousands on labor costs by doing most of the work themselves.
In addition to salvaging the materials to make their home, the Cundiffs also turned to recycled items to furnish the manor. About 70 percent of their desks, lamps, tables, chairs and other furniture items were either salvaged or purchased at auctions, flea markets and yard sales.
After all that salvaging, Bill and Linda say they qualify as professional curb surfers and Dumpster divers.
Woodwork. Thanks to a background in woodworking, Bill made gothic cabinetry from the chestnut, walnut and red oak lumber recovered from the barns. And anyone with a real eye for detail may notice that some of Bill’s gothic tracery looks oddly familiar; he copied the style from a Harry Potter movie.
Gothic architecture is ornate and difficult to create, but Bill and Linda are fascinated by its “mysterious Old World flavor.”
“We wanted to create another world for us to come home to,” Bill said.
One of most noticeable features inside the house is a gothic fireplace mantel, which is rumored to have come from the set of an Alfred Hitchcock movie, although the Cundiffs haven’t figured out which one.
Even the walls inside the 3,800-square-foot manor add to the atmosphere of the home – they’ve been painted and textured to look like they weathered the past 600 years.
The couple said they never would’ve been able to buy a home like this, “but we could use our skills or learn skills to build this house,” Bill said.
Of course, that came at a different kind of cost. Bill and Linda worked on their home 14 hours a day, seven days a week for more than seven years.
“We promised ourselves we wouldn’t take a vacation or do anything until it’s done,” Bill said.
The Cundiffs kept at it, even when they didn’t want to, hoping their dream would eventually become a home.
After 30 years of planning, the couple had pretty precise expectations of how the manor should turn out. So, did they meet their own standards?
Absolutely, Bill said.
Would they do it again?
Challenges. Building Stone Gate Manor was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the Cundiffs. Besides the actual length of the project, the couple also faced other kinds of adversity during the construction.
Early on, they installed stone entry gates at the end of their driveway. To add to the 14th century atmosphere, Bill and Linda included crossbow slots on the stones at either side of the gate. Unfortunately, the crossbow slots look similar to an upside-down cross and some took that as a sign of Satanism.
As a result, the Cundiffs faced nightly theft and vandalism. The media picked up on the story, causing further outrage from locals. A rumor even circulated that shock rocker Marilyn Manson was building the home.
Bill and Linda knew they had to put a stop to the chaos. And fast.
They decided the best way to cope was to tell their story. They went public with their home, opening it for weekend tours and encouraging reporters from local newspapers to visit.
Last fall, the couple took about 2,400 people on tours of their Carroll County home and the manor has also been used to host several fundraising events.
Bill and Linda explained that the crossbow slots at the gates were used as a form of defense in the 14th century. When castles were protected by archers, they often carved a horizontal slot and a vertical slot in the castle walls. Archers could then put their arrow through the slots to get a better aim at approaching enemies.
After hundreds of tours and hours of education, the Cundiffs have discouraged any further problems at their home.
And with the manor now finished, Bill and Linda have the chance to sit back and enjoy their curved beams and English-panel walls. Because after 30 years of waiting, they have finally found the right time and the right place to live their dream.
(Reporter Janelle Skrinjar welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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