Me at Hearst Castle, 2019


When I started this blog in 2019, I was in my senior year of high school. I had been accepted to attend Temple University in the fall, and was planning a cross-country road trip for the upcoming summer. I had the arrogance and ambition that only an overly-romantic 18 year old coming off of a mental breakdown could possess. 

My last semester had made me especially restless, and I began to search for places in my home state to explore before I moved moved on. In the depths of Atlas Obscura, I stumbled upon Castle Mont Rouge. Its story was like a dream -- Robert Mihaly, a sculptor with nationally renowned work, had built a fairytale castle, in the woods of rural NC. He was a mad man, a creative, a visionary. But in the commotion of other projects, Mont Rouge fell into disrepair, and became the backdrop for teen flings and graffiti art. 

I had heard of people building castles before. I watched Citizen Kane for the first time my freshman year, and it affected my sense of self profoundly. I was obsessed with the true story behind it, the villain Hearst who built an extravagant castle on a hill, lived in luxury and descended into madness. But I had never heard of a real person doing it, a person in my home state, who wasn't an evil capitalist, and who had a twitter where he posted about poetry and politics. 

When I discovered Mont Rouge, Mihaly had begun the process of restoring his castle so that his children could enjoy it before they were grown. I read everything I could about it, and learned that a documentary crew had been following his work. I fantasized that I could have been part of the project, with Mihaly as my mentor teaching me everything he knew. Mont Rouge and Hearst Castle were my muses. I wanted to be the person crazy enough to build something beautiful and fail and start again. 

But I had no architecture experience. No money, no resources. So I started a blog, built it up from a dated bare-bones template, and called it my castle. I posted twice, and then left it dormant for more than a year. I visited (trespassed is probably more accurate) Castle Rouge Mont that year, and visited Hearst Castle that summer during my trip. It felt amazing, but daunting, to stand where the creators I admired had once stood. Maybe that pressure is the reason I gave up for a while. I realize now how fitting it was to let my castle be forgotten for lack of time and inspiration.

I returned to this project when everything else in my life had begun to fall into place and slow down, and I'm glad that happened when it did. I'm not building this again because I want it to be remembered or visited for decades. It's here for me, to be a sanctuary for my thoughts and ideas. Just like Mihaly, I've begun again, this time with new purpose and fervor. 

My site's logo is based off of the symbol on the sled from Citizen Kane. In the context of the movie, it represents a time where happiness was true, before life was polluted with money and power. To me, it represents the bliss of having a place to exist and create. 

If you want to check out Castle Mont Rouge and the documentary on it that will be released this year, click here or here.

Thank you for coming along for the ride, and listening to me be over-sentimental.

-Celina Carra

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