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When Welmoed Sisson and her family first saw the property an hour north of Washington, DC, her kids yelled "It's Redwall!" -- referencing the wooded, red castle in the " Redwall" young-adult book series. The name stuck and became a theme for the 1939 Tudor-inspired castle made of brick and wood.
They bought the 5,526-square-foot home in 1997 and got to work renovating the property, which was in need of a knight in shining armor. The wood floors were coated with dirt, which turned out to be a "saving grace" because it protected the floors, Sisson says. Once restored, they shined anew.
But even when the renovations were complete, something was missing on this fairy-tale property.
"My husband said, 'We're in a castle, we need a dragon,'" Sisson recalls. So they commissioned a steel dragon sculpture that breathes propane-fueled fire at the push of a remote button. The "Redwall" series has a distinct lack of dragons, so they named their steel monster Falameezar, a guardian dragon in the " Spellsinger" fantasy books. Falameezar is currently in need of repairs, but Sisson says they're going to get him back to his fire-spewing self.
"We're the oddest family in a neighborhood in the middle of suburbia," Sisson says with a chuckle.
Sisson says the home's "Redwall" theme is more of a philosophy than a literal adaptation of the castle. But the house has some similarities to the popular series featuring anthropomorphic animals. Like the series' fictional guardians, Sisson and her husband consider themselves "stewards" of the property rather than the owners. And the property is a connecting point between two wooded conservation areas, so it's "a highway for all the critters that go between them," she says. "It's very peaceful and very calming."
The five-bedroom home features four fireplaces, a carriage house, a 108-solar-panel array, a three-car garage, a ballroom area, and a media room behind a trick bookshelf in the basement (the family added the secret room in 1997). Outside is a Chartres-style labyrinth (for when you're feeling meditative) and a garden that yields blueberries and asparagus.
The home has become a "defacto community center" for the city, which has developed rapidly over the past couple of decades, Sisson says.
The home also comes with a spell to ward off telemarketers. Answer phone calls with "Redwall" and telemarketers will think they're calling a business and leave you alone, Sisson says.
Sisson says they're looking for a buyer who's just "as weird" as them, who would "think it's fantastic to lay out in the middle of the yard and watch the meteors." It's also a prime spot for a family -- after all, her kids liked it, right?
"Oh my god, growing up in castle? Are you kidding? They thought it was the best thing ever," Sisson says.