At 373 FM 1903 in Greenville — about forty-five minutes east of Dallas — there’s a real, honest to goodness castle with a backstory as interesting as the house.. pardon, castle, itself.
Everyone in town knows about the 6,000+-square-foot castle. It’s a landmark. The current owners, Helen and Foy Varner, said whenever anyone finds out where they live the response is always the same. “Oh, the castle, I’ve always wanted to see inside it!!” And now is your chance. It’s currently up for sale and almost 100 percent completed.
The Varners have done the lion’s share of the work. It’s structurally sound and we’ll get to that. They’ve lived there for seven and one-half years and loved every minute of it.
Foy purchased it for his dear wife Helen, a hobbyist and a collector who creates incredibly detailed figurines and dioramas. Think Dungeons and Dragons figures, miniature castles, that sorta thing.
“I basically live in a museum,” Foy tells us. Every house they’ve lived in has been filled with hand-painted, intricate works of art. Over the years they’ve purchased increasingly larger homes to house her collection and the one in Greenville finally did the trick.
They’re older now and it’s time to move on, but before they do, Foy was kind enough to give us the history of this elaborate estate and it almost eclipses the structure itself.
Foy said every good castle needs a sad story and 373 FM 1903 is no exception. In 2004, Jimmie Hart laid the foundation. He was building the home for his much younger girlfriend.
“He loved castles and decided to build one for her with huge rooms, crenelated walls, gothic windows, fancy fireplaces and stairway, and solid mahogany doors and cabinetry.”
The house is basically a tank. “It’s built on a massive engineer-designed foundation and the outer walls and two firewalls are made of autoclaved aerated concrete blocks that are fireproof, waterproof, and mostly soundproof.”
The soundproofing comes in handy due to the proximity of a nearby speedway. Foy said the house is so quiet even during races you can barely hear the cars whizzing around the track.
Well, as is common with a grand gesture, Hart went bankrupt and never completed his vision. His girlfriend left and the castle sat incomplete and vacant for three solid years.
Foy said the misfortune doesn’t end there. The partially completed castle was sold as a foreclosure to another couple, the Zooks. They started in on the completion, but apparently, it was too much for them to tackle. Obviously completing a castle is a bit of an undertaking and the Zooks lost interest or moved on.
A tragedy is never a tragedy without a third act and that was the case for Hart. In 2009, the same year the Zooks took ownership, Hart was in an automobile accident and became a quadriplegic. He owned a commercial building within eyeshot of the castle, so he converted part of that space to his living quarters. Not only did he lose his girlfriend, his hopes and dreams, and his castle, he was now forced to watch the castle continue to deteriorate.
During their ownership, the Zooks never met Hart, but when the Varners bought the home in 2013 and took over, they got to know him quite well. They gave Hart the triumph he had to have been searching for — a couple that loved and cherished his home as much as he did.
Foy said they’ve done a ton. There are still a few things that need to be completed and updated, but overall the home is “very structurally sound and functional.”
Since it’s been on the market, there has been a tremendous amount of interest. People have wanted to make it a destination, an entertainment center, a wedding venue, a house divided where two families would live and share the common areas, and on and on. The potential is there. The possibilities are endless and with the right vision — and financial backing — this house could become even more legendary than it already is.
Foy said he and Helen have lived in many places. They’ve visited all 50 states and traveled the world, yet they’ve never encountered a town as friendly as Greenville. If that’s something you’d like to be a part of, reach out to At Home Texas Real Estate’s Gwyn Washington or Monette Spradling. They have the three-bedroom, four and one-half bathroom, 6,131 square foot home at 373 FM 1903 in Greenville listed for $649,000.