Most young girls dream of one day marrying a prince and living in a castle. But one young Missouri couple learned you don't necessarily have to be Kate Middleton to have the fairy tale.
For Brandon and Kate Smith of Fenton, Mo., they just had to go down the block. For $395,000, the couple bought Stuart Castle, a 7,800 square foot structure in Eureka, Mo., equipped with peepholes, secret passageways and a stone tower.
"I went to high school right down the street and never had a clue about it," Brandon Smith, 32, told ABCNews.com.
The Smith's new castle has four bedrooms, seven bathrooms and eight fireplaces. It sits on six acres of land and is equipped with a gourmet chef's kitchen, an indoor barbeque and a pool.
With wooden floors and granite countertops, it feels like a dream home for the Smiths.
"A lot of it's very modern but it keeps the stone castle feel throughout most of the house," Smith said.
Smith, a mortgage banker, was told about the property years ago by a friend in real estate. At the time, Stuart Castle was priced at $2 million.
"I was 24, 25 and I was like, 'That's really cool,'" Smith said. "I kept an eye on it for years and then long story short, it became available."
The castle was originally built by Wallace Stuart, a now retired dermatologist, who bought 111 acres in the area in 1968. The property was once owned by George Warren Brown, the founder of the Brown Shoe Company, who used it as a summer vacation spot. Stuart Castle encases the 4,500-square-foot summer home Brown built in 1918.
Stuart built the castle for his wife, and high school sweetheart, Joan.
"My nickname for her was 'Princess,'" Stuart, 78, told ABCNews.com. "I asked her what kind of house she'd like to end up living in and she said she wanted a big white house on a hill. I said well a princess should have a castle and someday I'll build you one."
Stuart built the castle by hand with his oldest son Wally, who was 14 at the time. The construction took more than a decade.
"Most people who viewed the construction of the castle saw only piles of rubble," Stuart said. "I saw a castle."
But the castle saw its share of tragedies. When Stuart's marriage ended in divorce in 1980, the castle was vacant for 15 years, during which it was vandalized.
"Word got around in the teenage community as far as southern Illinois," Stuart said. "Kids were coming up there at night, vandalizing, defacing it, and writing on the dry wall with spray paint."
Additionally during the vacant years, Stuart leased the property to a company as a possible storage site for dioxin-contaminated soil. A security guard for the company was watching the property one night when he heard someone on the roof. The guard shot and killed the trespasser. He was convicted of second-degree murder and served five years in prison.
There were also rumors that the ghost of Mrs. Brown haunted the property, Stuart said, although the family never actually saw her.
"One night we were having dinner and it was quiet and everybody was eating and enjoying the meal," Stuart said. "A glass fell over behind a cupboard door. The glass had fallen and broken but the door hadn't opened, the glass just fell over and broke."
Because Stuart was unable to protect the house from vandals, he sold it to another doctor for $126,000 in 1997. The new owner put more than $1 million worth of work into the house.
"He put the arch doors inside and it was really amazing," Stuart said. "I don't know how he got all that marble and tile in."
The doctor put the castle up for sale in 2005 at close to $2 million, but it went into foreclosure. The bank required cash for the home and several offers fell through.
That's when Stuart Castle fell into the Smiths' hands on June 21.
"It was a crazy deal," Smith said. "It's great."
Stuart says he is happy the home has finally sold.
"It's nice that somebody is going to live there and maintain it and take care of it," Stuart said. "But I don't think they realize how big it is for three people, it's huge."
Smith and his family won't get to enjoy the castle just yet. He plans to create two more bedrooms, bringing the grand total to six, for his wife, son and brother Brian, who is in the Navy and reports back and forth to Afghanistan.
"There's a lot of work to get done," Smith said. "We've got to make it our own and sell the house we're currently in."
As for his wife, Kate, she feels far from a princess, he said.
"She's been over there landscaping and doing a bunch of stuff herself," Smith said. "So she doesn't feel like a princess at this point."