Mount Airy resident's home is his castle after additions

January 28, 1994|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

Allen Brown didn't set out to build a castle in the middle of Mount Airy.

"It just sort of evolved," Mr. Brown said of his sprawling white home on Prospect Avenue, complete with turrets and a bell tower.

"It started as one thing and ended up as another. I was just building what I liked."

Mr. Brown built a modest two-bedroom, A-frame house in 1964. Over the years, he has designed and built two major additions, transforming the house into a five-bedroom, fairy-tale structure, which has come to be known as "the castle" among Mount Airy residents.

Something of a local landmark, the house is featured on a square in a quilt being made for Mount Airy's centennial celebration in March.

The exterior of the home causes many motorists on Prospect Avenue to blink, but the interior is an eye-opener as well.

Antique knight's armor greets visitors in the foyer. "That's my guard," Mr. Allen says.

Above the knight is the head of a caribou killed by Mr. Allen's father in Greenland. And that's just the beginning.

Mr. Brown and his wife, Claudette, have filled the house with their collection of Victorian-era furniture, figurines, knickknacks and stained glass, amassed from years of attending auctions and scouring antique shops.

"I'm partial to Victorian architecture," Mr. Brown said. "I like the detail. The more carving, the more difficult it is, the better I like it."

An accomplished woodworker, Mr. Brown has paneled walls and built many pieces of furniture.

Nearly all the wood he uses comes from old houses about to be torn down. He keeps an eye out to see where new developments are going in, because it might mean the destruction of an old home with quality wood.

Much of the chestnut throughout Mr. Brown's home came from an old mansion in Germantown.

"The owner basically told me I could have the whole house if I wanted it," Mr. Brown said. "I worked all winter and got the woodwork out of it.

Mr. Brown is particularly proud of his latest project, which involved paneling the walls and floors of a tall, narrow alcove. He used chestnut and walnut, which he got from a farmer who had stored the walnut for 20 years. Most of the decorative borders in the alcove are pieces taken from Victorian dressers, beds and washstands.

The grandfather clock in the foyer that Mr. Brown built includes pieces from an old pump organ, the top of a bed, moldings and two gargoyles from a buffet.

Mr. Brown's talents have earned him a mention and a photo in the book "Salvaged Treasures," by Michael Litchfield.

"We enjoy our home; it's very comfortable," he said. "I enjoy being around the old wood and woodwork."

The Victorian era predominates in Mr. Brown's decorating style, but he's not limited to the period.

The living room of this lifetime Mount Airy resident is done in a style that might be called Mount Airy memorabilia.

Signs from former grocery stores, road stands and snack shops line the back wall. A poster from the old Mount Airy movie theater, which closed in 1953, lists the features: Gary Cooper in "Good Sam," Spencer Tracy in "San Francisco" and Dorothy Lamour in "LuLu Belle."

Perhaps the best souvenir is the original Mount Airy neon theater sign, which still lights up neon green.

When he's not collecting antiques or building furniture, Mr. Brown is occupied with the rental properties he owns in Mount Airy and his work on the town's centennial committee.

Lately he has been practicing the guitar for the reunion of his old band, "The Wishing Well." The country band split up four years ago, but agreed to play at a fund-raiser Feb. 4 for the Mount Airy Flood Relief effort.

And, of course, his castle is still a work in progress.

A kitchen renovation is his next project, and this summer he plans to replace the stone wall bordering the pond in his front yard.

"There are still no plans to it," he said, "other than in my head."

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