By JENNIFER K. BAUER
While it might look like Europe, it’s actually Idaho. The village is Moscow and the castle is one of the area’s more unusual homes. In recent years it has become a popular wedding destination as well as a little-known bed and breakfast. Saturday, July 12 it will be the site for the Idaho Repertory Theatre’s staged reading of “The Lion in Winter” (see accompanying story).
The castle and its arches, towers, balconies and pinnacles are nestled among 50 acres of ponderosa pines and fields southeast of Moscow. It is owned by Ernest and Charlene Brannon, who started work on the home in 1990. At first they planned to remodel a 1,000-square-foot home on the property, explains Charlene Brannon, but her husband, whose hobby is building, had other ideas. At the time, she traveled overseas frequently.
“Every time I left he built another wall,” she says.
Nearly 25 years later, their home includes two wings with multiple floors, a chapel that seats 100 comfortably and a walled courtyard.
A visit to Meadowinds starts at the gatehouse at the property’s edge, built as a playhouse for the couple’s granddaughter. A driveway of brick pavers winds up the hillside to the castle, which is constructed of textured concrete. Copper roofs top several structures. The grounds include upper and lower patios, ponds, a gazebo, and a tea house with a sauna beneath it. Throughout the property one finds sculptures by George Roberts, who taught art at the University of Idaho and was a neighbor of the Brannons.
Locals who visit the property are often surprised, Brannon says. “They say I’ve lived here all my life and never knew this was here.”
The Brannons live in the east wing, where the bed and breakfast is located. Brannon’s mother resides in the west wing. The east wing’s main floor includes a living room, a formal dining room and the kitchen, which features a huge, open hearth fireplace where one can imagine roasting a whole hog on a spit over the flames. Glass countertops made in Seattle are a modern touch under the rustic cedar beam ceiling. Two bedrooms with private bathrooms rent for $100 to $150 a night. Besides a listing on the Moscow Chamber of Commerce website, the
Brannons don’t advertise, finding that the castle “does fine on its own.” They prefer reservations and rarely accept drop-in business, Brannon says.
Hidden passageways and rooms are also part of the castle’s story.
“There are some,” Brannon says. “We’ve had children discover them, but not all of them have been discovered.”
The chapel, with vaulted ceilings, a fireplace, stained-glass windows and a modern sound system, occupies a separate building. Its altar is an antique sea chest from Morocco topped by a Coptic Christian cross from Ethiopia. Weddings with receptions at the property are limited to 150 people and cost $1,600. The bridal suite, located outside the main house with a separate entry, is $200 a night.
Before retiring, Brannon was a professor in the nutrition department at the University of Washington while her husband was a professor of aquaculture at both the University of Washington and the University of Idaho. They established Meadowinds Inc., as a nonprofit in 2005 and opened it for weddings three years ago. All proceeds from events at the castle are earmarked for charitable causes, including a science camp Ernest Brannon is building in his hometown of Port Angeles, Wash.
More information about Meadowinds is available at www.meadowinds.org.
Bauer can be contacted at (208) 848-2263 or firstname.lastname@example.org.