Whitehall Castle to open soon as B&B

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Roark Merrill and Liz Carnes outside of the Whitehall Castle in December 2021. The building has received a new roof and soon will be running on solar.

Whitehall Castle has been receiving some attention from new owner Roark Merrill for the past couple of months and he is excited for the summer season that is fast approaching. The castle is now going to be a bed and breakfast and more.

“Everything is going well, and we have been very busy,” he said.

One of Merrill priorities is to decrease and combat the building’s large offset of carbon emissions by installing solar panels as the main source of power. He said that solar panels will be a way for the castle to help its future.

“The roof is brand new, and we have couple of estimates on the solar panels which is going to be a big ticket,” Merrill said. “I have already bought the panels and it’s still going to be $150,000 just for the labor of installation.”

Along with the installation of a new roof, there will be a changeover of the boiler system to electric boilers. Merrill said it’s important to him to have a building that will not only be environmentally friendly, but he hopes to offset the historic building’s carbon footprint. He also is looking into air conditioning to help keep the building in good shape.

“It’s $150 to $200 a day to own it and I have to keep the moisture out this summer which means we will need air conditioning, because we just spent $25,000 having the ceilings redone because they were peeling,” he said.

The total cost of the solar panel project is estimated to be around $240,000.

“I am hoping that people catch on and start doing solar on their homes,” he said. “Right now, oil is over $4 a gallon and that’s crazy. We filled our 10,000-gallon tank and the 8,000-gallons we needed cost us $17,000 to $18,000,” he said.

Something else that is important to Merrill is maintaining the authenticity of the building. He finds that there is already a lot of beauty in the building that he doesn’t want to change.

“I don’t want to change anything about that castle. It’s like finding your 1959 Corvette and saying ‘let’s cut the dash and add a stereo.’ You don’t do that,” he said.

Furniture will be brought to Whitehall. Some of the furniture sought by Merrill is not only antiques but pieces made of oak.

“I have a lot of furniture to bring out and a good friend of mine out here drove with me the last trip I made out there in March. I think we’re going to do it again because the beautiful oak antiques are practically free here out on the west coast,” he said. “We’ll be bringing back beautiful tiger oak dressers and oval mirrors. Now, I’m looking for big pieces.”

As for the space and event hosting, Merrill said there have already been some bookings for this summer and there are more to come. Merrill has also been using the Whitehall Castle’s Facebook page as a place to stay in touch with the community and help get information and events out to them that are happening locally.

“What Liz (Carnes) and our friends who have come out to visit Whitehall have done is we have brought the possibility of something more,” he said. “Anybody can make a difference and it’s going to take everybody to make a difference.”