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Dromborg Castle in Fayetteville for Sale — for $9.7M

5 min read

Your home can be your castle — if you have $9.7 million to spare and a desire to live in Fayetteville.

Joan and Bruce Johnson, who translated their love for “a time of yore” into a 12,000-SF “castle,” have put that regal home, which took them four years to build, up for sale.

The Johnsons own and operate White River Hardwoods of Fayetteville, and they also love to travel. During their travels in Europe they developed a deep love for the architecture of classical structures.

When it came time to build a home on South Mountain in south Fayetteville, only a castle would do.

“We were in millwork, and there is a lot of millwork in classical structures,” Joan Johnson said. “We had traveled to France and Spain and Italy and England, and we loved things that were kind of rubbled and ruined. Things that gave a feeling of a time of yore. I don’t think that is the proper way to say that, but we like things that appeared to hold to the test of time. When we started building it, we went to old books and found old details we liked.”

The Johnsons hope now to find someone else who loves the old-stone look of Dromborg (which, the owners say, is an ancient Nordic word meaning “dreams the size of mountains”) after putting it on the market several months ago for $9.7 million. Joan Johnson said she and her husband never expected to make the Dromborg their forever home after they moved in in 2008.

“The house always had something bigger to it than us being the owners of it our whole life,” Johnson said. “It’s a bigger statement; it’s a more unique piece of architecture. We never felt like it was our house forever. We felt at some point it was something very iconic and it has a very long life.”

Selling a Castle

When the Johnsons put the castle on the market, they turned to Joan’s sister, Katherine Hudson of Keller Williams Realty. Hudson put together a team, led by executive broker Daria Coffield, to promote the house nationwide and internationally.

Northwest Arkansas has a robust economy and three Fortune 500 companies, but it’s a tough market to find a local buyer for a $10 million castle, which the Johnsons listed for approximately $14 million a few years ago. Hudson and her team — which includes a technology expert to promote the castle on the internet and an agent in California — believe the key to selling the castle is to get its amenities in front of a larger audience.

“If this castle was in California, it would be $100 million,” Hudson said.

Coffield said the next owner may be from California or Europe, so the selling team has to plan accordingly. The castle is being listed on more than 600 property portals to get as much exposure as possible, Hudson said.

“Over the years it has gotten a lot of interest — human interest, not buying interest,” Coffield said. “We get a lot of calls, ‘We’d like to see it.’ There is definitely a buyer for this property. The house will sell itself to the right buyer. It’s just a fabulous place.”

“In this business you don’t know where your buyer is coming from, so you cast a wide net. I’ve had offers on a house from another continent for a house they’ve never seen.”

It may be a castle, but Coffield stresses that it is also a home. It is 12,000 SF and four stories, but it also has coloring books on a kitchen table and the Johnsons’ grandchildren’s Big Wheels in the 2,200-SF great room.

“It’s a very relaxing home to live in,” Johnson said. “We have grandchildren, and they love to come into it and play. We love to have family gatherings in it.”

The Johnsons have also opened the Dromborg for community events. When Ricardo Martinelli, Panama’s president at the time, visited the University of Arkansas, his alma mater, the Johnsons held a reception for him and 300 guests, and Martinelli addressed the crowd from a balcony that overlooks the great room.

It’s not just bigwigs who have used the Dromborg. The Johnsons have hosted fundraisers for the UA and local community groups.

“It’s a great philanthropic event place,” Johnson said. “It has brought a whole lot of people together for a whole lot of different reasons. I could name off a gob of them. It has been a gathering of people in the community to do good things for the community. It’s wonderful hearing how much people love coming there and love being there, knowing they love it as much as we do.”

Unlimited Options

The Johnsons have used the Dromborg as their private residence since 2008, but Coffield said the castle has the versatility to be recast as a number of different things if the new owner desires.

Coffield said the castle could work as a corporate retreat, a bed-and-breakfast, a destination spa.

“It’s Katie-bar-the-door,” Coffield said. “The options are unlimited. I think this would be a great place to come and recharge. There’s probably a 50-50 chance of a family owning the home. It is so unique.”

The exterior of the castle was erected using 4,000 tons of stone handcrafted and fitted; the base of the walls is 4 feet thick. The castle definitely passes the eye test for someone looking for interior extravagance.

Johnson used a team of Fayetteville architect Rob Sharp, New York interior architect David Pearson and Fayetteville landscape architect Greg Bland for the plans.

The result is a five-bedroom, four-bathroom home with intricate hand-carved wooden beams throughout. Joan Johnson did most of the millwork designs herself and most of the wood structures are Arkansas sourced.

The rooms themselves vary from Tuscan to Corinthian for a gothic feel, but the castle has modern amenities such as an elevator.

“It’s really the type of architecture you never get tired of,” Johnson said. “The design of each room is based on great architecture. The focus point is the molding and the millwork and the wood as opposed to just being focused on couches. It’s highly functioning.”

The Johnsons, both in their 60s, are preparing to downsize. Hudson said selling her sister’s home, which she saw grow from the original plans through the completion, is bittersweet.

“It is an honor, and I have an obligation that is different; it’s familial,” Hudson said. “When you meet people like Bruce and Joanie, you know there is another adventure for them.”

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