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November 1, 2007

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Living in a historic home exacts a price beyond the cost of the structure. There is all that history – and the ghosts of owners past – demanding to be heard, respected and occasionally lived with. Fortunately for Berkeley Castle, its newest owner measures up to the task.

Rosa Suit, the young Victorian beauty for whom Berkeley Castle was built, would have approved of Andrew Gosline, not the least because he keeps her portrait hanging in his private suite.

In 2002, “I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about a castle for sale in West Virginia,” says Gosline, a former New Jersey businessman. “I was surprised. A castle in West Virginia? I came to Berkeley Springs, a place I’d never heard of, to see it.”

A month later, Gosline returned for the auction with his two grown sons. He never planned to buy, but got caught up in the bidding. “My oldest son turned to me and said ‘Dad, I think you just bought a castle.’” 

In the five years since, Gosline has spent more money putting his castle in order and adding suitable acreage than he did buying it.

“There had been daily museum tours for almost 50 years,” says Gosline. “I needed to make it more livable as a home.” The effort accelerated last year when Gosline married Gabriela George and brought her to live there, with their young son Mark and her teenage daughter Rebecca.

Colonel Samuel Taylor Suit of Maryland began “laying the foundation of his cottage” in 1885 according to the local newspaper of the time. Two years earlier, Suit had married Rosa Pelham, daughter of an Alabama congressman and 30 years his junior. Work progressed on what the paper called “one of the finest residences in the state,” and it was occupied by Suit, Rosa and their three young children in August 1887. 

The “cottage” was one of more than two dozen splendid structures in the chic “cottage” community of Berkeley Springs. By September 1888, after a brief illness, Suit was dead. Rosa spent the next decade hosting elaborate parties in the place that was never again known as anything but a castle.

More than a century later, new owner Gosline began his restoration with the exterior.

“There was a tremendous amount of stonework to be done,” he says. Decades of haphazard uses for the castle – from tea room and artist retreat to site of the Monte Vista Boys Camp – resulted in a hodge podge of patching on the stone walls. Century-old mortar was replaced. Two terraces were added on both the north and south sides of the second floor – the one on the north holds a hot tub. Gosline expanded the gardens, adding an outside waterfall and his trademark touch – stone gargoyles posed among the crenelated battlements.

“I have enough work planned to keep stone contractor Dino Pretruci busy for years,” he says. One of the biggest jobs was putting on a new roof, which was uneven, inadequately drained and covered in accumulated layers of tar paper.

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November 1, 2007

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