As mentioned in an earlier post, Tina’s mother Linda is getting married in October and the search is on for a suitable venue. On Saturday evening Tina was working so Linda and her fiance Shawn took me along to Castle Otttis in St Augustine, about 25 miles south of Jacksonville Beach. It turned out to be a remarkable and memorable visit.
We were met for our 6pm appointment by Rusty, the man who literally dreamed up Castle Otttis. The castle is a landscape sculpture in remembrance to Jesus Christ. Rusty recounted the story of the Castle Otttis: after experiencing reoccurring dreams about the castle, he revealed these dreams to his trusted friend and co-worker Ottis Sadler while working on a conventional construction site. Ottis’ matter of fact reply was along the lines of “We will have to build it then”. They started in May 1984, and the the masonry work was done by the men working together without the aid of labourers, helpers, elevation drawings, or models. The materials they used in the exterior were split-face concrete block, steel reinforcement rod, and poured concrete. In the summer of 1988 there was a feeling that the exterior structure was complete. However that was not the end of the construction. Interior woodwork was carried out for a further three years by the appropriately named Lee Carpenter, and what a fine job he made too. Utilising primarily cypress wood and some old southern heart-pine, he crafted eight different examples of staircases in addition to an altar, a pulpit, a Bishop’s chair, a choir loft, and pews. The design of the exterior was deliberately crude to capture the spirit of a 1,000 year old Irish castle, so one’s breath is taken when unexpectedly encountering the simple yet beautifully crafted wooden interior.
The castle had a very peaceful ambiance, and with no glass in any of its windows, enjoys shafts of sunlight which illuminate the interior perfectly. I imagine it would be a very special location for a wedding service.
Rusty took us up on to the roof (the structure is around 50 feet high) which gave good views out to sea, and towards St Augustine. Here we chatted for some while about all sorts of subjects including rising sea levels, recent flooding in St Augustine, and music – Rusty played the bass in a Reggae band. Time flew by and I was surprised to find we had spent two hours at Castle Otttis. It was an enjoyable visit and an awe inspiring one too. It is remarkable to think that two men alone using simple techniques dedicated four years to produce such a wonderful structure which now enhances the local landscape.
I asked whether the general attitude of the locals was a positive one. Rusty assured me that it was during construction and has remained so up to present day. It is a local curiosity, and but for a locked gate, many more visitors would wander into the courtyard, something that is solely by appointment. Somehow I think the NIMBY brigade in Britain would be employing every planning permission rule in the book to object. Thankfully Castle Otttis is likely to be around when we are all long gone.