They Are Among Us
You expect to find castles in Europe. Here, a local author introduces us to five majestic castles right in the Valley
(page 5 of 6)
I hop into my van and head south toward the eclectic Hansel and Gretel-style edifice known as Wing’s Castle in Millbrook. After a short stint up the dirt-and-gravel path, I stumble upon Peter Wing just as I left him six months ago — sitting atop his beloved 1953 backhoe, named “Henry,” as he transports a writhen stone column to its intended destination. “Peter!” I call out to him. “Just how long have you been building this place?” His response: “Oh, for the last 40 years, or so...”
Toni, his stalwart wife, says that Henry belongs in the Smithsonian. In my mind, the whole place belongs in the Smithsonian. Wing’s Castle is a marvel of innovation and artistic sensibility. And Peter is an artist, in every sense of the word.
Those of us lucky enough to take the house tour (offered from early June through Labor Day weekend; $10 adults, $8 children under 12) are witness to Gothic spires, rough-hewn stone arches, a lengthy swimming pool that resides in its own moat, hidden passageways with private staircases that go to who-knows-where, and sculpted stone faces staring out at you. “Angels, griffins, Sisyphus — my wife yelling at me, immortalized in stone,” jokes Wing. A full 80 percent of Wing’s Castle is constructed from recycled materials that Peter has gathered from local railroad yards, factories, water towers, and any other source that will yield fodder for his fertile imagination. “It’s the anti-Martha Stewart,” he says.
“The dome of our small stone Buddha room comes from the bottom of an old water tower that I turned upside-down,” he tells me. “It looks like it’s made of copper, but it is in fact battleship steel, held together with iron rivets.” If this all sounds very industrial and “nuts-and-boltsy,” fear not: there is enough elegant art to soothe the savage beast, from Peter’s stained glass windows to the historic portraits, armor, swords, and figurines that grace the main house.
Forty years, I tell myself. It’s been 40 years of their lives that Peter and Toni have given to building a home for themselves and their children. Beyond that, they’ve also spent the last 18 years working on a two-room addition that will be a bed-and-breakfast when completed (hopefully this year). “I’m not going to be flipping eggs. But the whole idea is, basically, a Grimm’s fairy tale. There are plenty of Victorians to stay in, but there are no castles,” says Wing. “They’re going to feel like they’re not in New York State — or America — anymore.”
Peter Wing’s “invention” takes us on a journey of adventure and discovery, while at the same time connecting us with that fanciful part of ourselves which, these days, is too often suppressed. “Things from the past exist today,” Peter says fervently. “I mean, I have a dinosaur footprint that is 400 million years old — give or take 25 million years.”
A contented grin comes to my face. “You know, Peter, I believe you do.”
Wing’s Castle is located at 717 Bangall Rd., Millbrook. 845-677-9085.
Next stop: Lyndhurst