Saturday, May 19, 2007

For sale : one Castle

GREAT BARRINGTON, Massachusetts -- The Searles Castle has towered over this Berkshire town for 120 years, its seven turrets and blue dolomite exterior creating a fortress at the end of Main Street. It has been walled off from the public as a home to the uber-rich and as a private school, and has opened its gates as a conference center and cultural attraction.

Now, the French chateau-style castle is for sale -- a $15 million property joining a small niche of the world's luxury real estate market.

"People who have everything else want to own a castle at least once in their lives," said Denis Burrus, a sales agent for de Rham Sotheby's International Realty who sells castles in Switzerland. "It shows that they've achieved something in their lives."

Searles Castle is no ordinary mansion. It may not have been designed to keep enemies away from a royal family, but it has all the trappings to make it worthy of Sleeping Beauty.

There isn't a moat, but the seven-floor castle has a dungeon that could be used for a friendlier purpose -- a restaurant, perhaps, or an extensive wine cellar. Thirty-six fireplaces are scattered among more than 40 rooms, one of which once contained a pipe organ and served as a mini-concert hall.

Marble is everywhere -- rising in columns, carved as mantles and in slabs as flooring. Balconies and terraces overlook the property's sprawling 61 acres, which include a T-shaped lagoon, tennis courts and a garden temple guarded by two marble sphinx sculptures.

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