Her dream castle remains just that
RON GOWER/TIMES NEWS These old walls are intended to be included in Rosemarie C. Peiffer's new castle that she's hoping to build.
Most of us are familiar with the proverbial expression, "A man's home is his castle."
A former Tamaqua area woman is hoping to create and build a miniature castle of sorts of her own in Jim Thorpe, on the site where a real castle once stood many years ago.
Although she has been planning the project for several years, Rosemarie C. Peiffer's dream is fading "further and further away."
Jim Thorpe Borough Council may have the deciding vote on the project when it meets at the Memorial Park building on Oct. 31. It's listed as "an appeals hearing for the revocation of a sewer permit that was issued for the property located on Hill Road in Jim Thorpe."
Borough officials stressed it is not a zoning hearing. No variances are needed with the project Peiffer has proposed.
At the hearing, the council will have to decide whether to allow Peiffer to place an on-lot sewage system on the site or if she will be required to connect to the borough's central sewerage system, as mandated in the borough ordinance.
Peiffer was born in Nesquehoning during a January snowstorm that was so severe, it took her parents seven days to get back to their farm in South Tamaqua. Her grandfather, Jacob, was a coal miner who immigrated to the Tamaqua area from Eastern Europe.
She graduated from the Reading Hospital School of Nursing in 1956. Although she moved from the area after her marriage, she still returns regularly for family functions and to visit the graves of family members of friends.
A castle once stood off Hill Road in Jim Thorpe, which runs behind the historic Mauch Chunk Opera House. It was owned by Dr. Bertine S. Erwin, who was well known for his large collection of Indian arrowheads.
One story had the castle being destroyed by fire.
According to another account, it suffered irreparable damage from the powerful runoff water, since it was built at the base of a large hill.
The only remnants today are some stone walls.
The castle walls have generated curiosity for years. One rock group even used the castle on its record album. Photos appear on the Web site "Weird U.S."
In 2007, Peiffer purchased the 3.5 acre tract that contains the castle remains. She said she can't construct a full-size castle on the site, but envisions building a small cottage, resembling a castle, for herself. She would utilize the existing walls for the construction of her home.
"After studying history and collecting as many old photos as we could, we designed a little cottage that would look like a castle," she said. "We are keeping a promise we made to residents who asked us to please not knock down the remaining walls."
The walls, she said, are marvelous.
"It is so positively beautiful," Peiffer said. "It energizes me and my family when we stand there and dream about our little home."
After purchasing the land, Peiffer immediately went to work planning the house. She hired an engineer, had an architect design the house, and contacted borough officials. She received permits for construction and had discussions with the zoning officer.
At council meetings, she assured the officials that any project she undertook would not create water runoff problems.
She thought things were going fairly smoothly even though there were some bumps in the plans. She fired one engineer who didn't satisfy her goals and immediately hired another.
After being told by a sewage enforcement officer that she would have to construct an on-site sewage system, she thought the project would receive the green light.
Then came a setback.
"I received mail that all the permits have been revoked," she said.
"We have worked totally in compliance with the statutes," she said. "I've been to council meetings. This is frustrating."
Borough Manager Wesley Johnson said the permit she was issued by the sewage enforcement officer was withdrawn. He said the SEO had apparently been given incorrect information from someone in the borough.
He added a borough ordinance mandates that all residencies within the town must connect to the central sewage system. Peiffer has two options for the connections, and both will be expensive.
Johnson said he doesn't feel comfortable with an on-lot system, considering that the property is located on such a steep hill.
He said the council will have to decide in the hearing at the end of the month whether to allow Peiffer an exemption to the ordinance and install an on-lot system or whether she must make a sewage system connection.
While Peiffer had some other setbacks during the course of the project, it's this permit situation that could be a dream-ender.
When the project was first conceived, she said some excavation was required and the borough told her to pile the rock and dirt at a location at the top of Hill Road. All the fill disappeared.
"Five truckloads of stone and two truckloads of fill were stolen," she said. "We wanted to check for artifacts."
The house that Peiffer is envisioning would be less than 2,000 square feet and have just one bedroom. Work was already done on the existing walls so they could be used in the new construction. She was told by an engineer that "the walls were refortified to last 500 years."
"We were calling it a seasonal cottage," she said. "I purchased the property with my son. It was a project so I could go home. Nesquehoning is where I was born."
It was hoped that actual cottage construction could begin in the spring of 2012, but that's not going to happen.
She said the latest delay makes it unlikely her dream will come true.
"I'm frustrated," she said. "We've gone through hurdles. Now to come to this point ... if we don't have sewage we don't have a house.
"Rosemarie is probably not going to go home."