Frustrated in their search for a small farmhouse in the south of France, Karina and Craig Waters drove 500 miles in one day to arrive at the gates of Chateau de Gudanes, a centuries-old, ramshackle estate in the Pyrenees mountains.
Inside, the couple had to wear hard hats, and for safety reasons could walk only into a handful of rooms. Still, Karina and Craig saw ample evidence of former glory. "We fell in love with this chateau and the region,” Karina remembers.
During a prolonged period of neglect, several portions of the roof had collapsed into the building. Several floors had caved in too. Trees were growing inside, and everywhere there was dirt, rotten wood, rust, mold and mushrooms.
Karina and Craig concentrated more on the details that suggested the chateau's rich history—centuries-old stained glass, painted frescoes, gilt-framed mirrors, ornamental plaster, and woodwork carved by long-dead artisans.
Vestiges of Opulence
After a long negotiation, the couple finally bought the 96-room, 43,000-square-foot chateau, which dates back to the mid 1700s. It was designed by the most prominent architect of the day and built on the site of a medieval fortress.
Karina and Craig thought nothing remained of the fort that'd once stood on the site. It was believed to have been destroyed in the French Wars of Religion. But once workers began digging, they uncovered two of the fort’s towers.
A Sustainable Future
Today, the Waters family are working with pros to "give the Chateau a sustainable future." The plan, still fuzzy, includes making house to the public. Only one thing is certain: "The Chateau won’t be a pretentious museum piece."
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