Couple restore legendary Texas castle

Santa Fe Castle and Ian Dennis (Google Maps,

A native of England found something in Texas that reminded him of home: a historic castle. But it was crumbling after years of disuse, so he and his wife want to fix it.

Santa Fe Castle, located in Santa Fe, Texas, about 35 miles southeast of Houston, is a local legend with mysterious origins. Ian Dennis and his wife Kristen recently purchased the property with the intention of restoring it and turning it into a destination for visitors, reported the Houston Chronicle.

The property, complete with the dilapidated chateau and, of course, a “mini chateau,” was valued at $807,380, but the buyer told the Chronicle he paid more than that. “It’s a high-end commercial property,” Dennis told the outlet.

Or at least it will be, once Dennis’ plans are complete.

Dennis, a Houston-area cosmetic tattoo artist, knows the castle will need repairs to everything from the foundation to the roof. Once the property is operational, the couple plan to use the chateau as commercial property rather than living there. They already envision part of the castle as a museum.

Also known as Pignataro Castle, it has captured locals’ imaginations for decades. It was built in the 1930s, but no one knows exactly by whom or why.

The Santa Fe Historical Foundation believes it was built by the widow of Danish immigrant John Christensen, who owned the first Ford dealership. In one account of the story, Mrs Christensen built the castle as a retirement home for nuns who did not want it.

Another version of the castle’s story says it was actually built in Europe, then dismantled, shipped, and reassembled to Santa Fe at the behest of a wealthy Texan.

The more recent history of the castle is somewhat clearer. In 1970, Franco Pignataro, of Sicilian origin, bought the castle, which he transformed into apartments and added some details such as a swimming pool and a gazebo.

But the property hasn’t been maintained for years, possibly since Pignataro’s death in 2010.

Dennis stepped in to save the castle and has the surrounding community behind him: his “Restoring Santa Fe Castle” Facebook page now has 20,000 followers.

—Cailley LaPara

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