Jill M. Rohrbach
This is what saturated the air during my visit to the Ozark Medieval Fortress in Lead Hill, where limestone walls rise from an Arkansas Ozark hillside marking the birth of what will be – in 20 years – a spectacular castle.
While I had the pleasure of a preview, you can enjoy it too beginning May 1, when Michel Guyot and Noémi Brunet, the French couple building the Ozark Medieval Fortress, open their dream fortification to the public.
Workers clad in the authentic garb and using materials and techniques of the 13th century are building the genuine medieval castle in the heartland of America. A team of historians, architectural experts, and passionate builders are constructing the castle with 45-feet-high towers, a drawbridge, moats, and 6-foot-wide stone walls surrounding an inner yard.
Construction, which started in the fall of 2009, will not be finished when the attraction opens. Part of the allure will be watching 30 masons, carpenters, lumberjacks, and stone carvers work to complete the castle with only medieval tools. You can interact with the workers too to learn about their trade. The project is supervised by Franco-American scientists with special knowledge of the Middle Ages. It will not be an amusement park, but an educational, environmental and scientific attraction venue.
This socio-historic project is the brainchild of Michel Guyot, who launched a similar concept in Burgundy, France 10 years ago with great success. The idea to build a fortress in Arkansas was born when a French couple who had relocated to the United States visited the Castle of Saint-Fargeau in central France and met owner Guyot. After discussion, they realized that there were no fortified American castles in the United States and decided to start the castle project, not as a vision of an event in American history, but as a rich and unique educational treasure.
Along with watching the builders, visitors can view other artisans producing tools such as the rope needed for measurement and construction. The fortress also accepts volunteers interested in experiencing and helping with construction. Special events will be offered each year, including demonstrations of catapults starting in 2011. Admission will cost $12 for adults, $8 for kids, and will be free for ages 5 and under.
Lead Hill is located halfway between Springfield, Missouri and Little Rock, Arkansas. Group tours are available. For more information, visit OzarkMedievalFortress.com or call 870-436-7625. The fortress can be followed on Facebook or at usacastle on Twitter.