Busboom’s dream house has more than medieval theme
Depending on the dreamer, the phrase “dream house” means different things. To Bruce Busboom, construction superintendent in the Facilities and Services Division, it meant a castle – complete with a drawbridge and a pair of gargoyles spouting water 30 feet down into a moat. Nestled in dense woods north of Mahomet, Busboom Castle is a symbol of one man’s perseverance and ingenuity at bringing his dream to life – with the help of his friends.
In the late 1980s, Busboom decided it was time to build his own home, but the designs he looked at “were somebody else’s ideas. If I were going to build a dream house, what would it be? A castle? A spaceship?”
Busboom’s initial design, a 15,000-square-foot fortress with four round towers and a central, open courtyard, was “out of this world” when he estimated the construction costs, and was scaled back to a 4,800-square-foot castle with two square towers and a 50-foot-long great hall with a 22-foot-high ceiling.
In 1987, Busboom purchased a neglected overgrown 5-acre plot along a blacktop road between Fisher and Mahomet.
Before beginning construction, Busboom spent six years stockpiling materials in the garage and attic of his Fisher home. “If what I needed wasn’t on sale, I’d wait three months, six months, until eventually it was on sale. That was the only way I was going to be able to afford to do this,” Busboom said.
And if accoutrements, such as the oversized carriage lights on the front of the house, were too expensive, Busboom designed and built them himself. With reusable molds that he’d constructed from Formica and plywood, Busboom mixed, poured and cured concrete for 100 consecutive nights until he had the 400 pieces he needed for the crenellations – the squared notches at the roofline, the windowsills and the window casings.
When he finally was ready to begin construction, Busboom sent out invitations – with $100 bills enclosed – to 14 friends. They gathered one Saturday morning – “one of the best Saturdays of my life,” Busboom said – to erect the framework, which they finished by 2 p.m.
In all, 51 friends helped with construction. And even some strangers, who’d heard about the castle, donated medieval-themed items, sometimes anonymously leaving things in the driveway.
The castle’s walls are 16 inches thick, with a veneer of split-face, 70-pound concrete blocks. Six concrete piers and a poured concrete foundation 5 feet deep and 3 feet wide at the bottom support the massive walls.
The crowning glory is a 10-foot 3-inch-high, 600-pound drawbridge, designed and built by Busboom himself. The drawbridge has a 700-pound wood portcullis – or grill – for a counterweight, which plays a trumpet fanfare as the bridge is lowered.
“The other great fun I had was designing and building the elevator,” which plays music while in use, Busboom said. Another unique detail is a “G”-shaped, walk-in shower with rough stone walls in the master bathroom.
The crosshatch construction of the wood portcullis mirrors the design of the 13-foot-tall entertainment center on the great hall’s opposite wall, where a 12-foot diagonal screen for the projection TV pulls down from the ceiling.
Whimsy abounds in unique touches such as mirrored window casings, a suit of armor that stands inside the front door, and, in the backyard, a pirate ship with a crow’s nest – surrounded by fins of “lawn sharks.”
Busboom plans to add a rooftop deck someday, build a chandelier to hang above the century-old, 14-foot claw foot table in the great hall and install ceramic tile flooring in the kitchen.
As architect and builder, Busboom knows his home intimately, down to the numbers of stainless steel bolts in the drawbridge (180), concrete blocks in the walls (8,040) and balusters lining the second-floor gallery (151, each created in a 32-step process).
But even in a castle, life is no fairytale. Someone stole the first pair of gargoyles from the rooftop. And the mortgage has prompted Busboom to begin renting the four-bedroom, three-bath, handicapped-accessible castle for overnight stays and events.
Busboom, who plans to retire Dec. 31 from the UI, is preparing to open a shop called the One of a Kind Store in an empty bank building that he purchased in Paxton. A longtime musician, Busboom also plays bass guitar in a three-piece rock band called the Buzztones.
Asked if he has another dream home in mind, Busboom sketched the ill-fated Titanic cruise ship, upended, half submerged. The porthole windows would be round, of course, and the floors would be level despite the structure’s exterior angles, he explained.
“Fun is what it’s all about, isn’t it?” Busboom said. “If you’re not having fun, then you ought to change something.”
‘Home Sweet Castle’
Bruce Busboom and his castle were featured on the HGTV series, “Look What I Did!” The segment, titled “Home Sweet Castle,” is scheduled to be rebroadcast at 4 p.m. Jan. 11.
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