A $35 Million Mansion Fit For A Mad King
10:15 AM EST on November 20, 2021
I've always liked to use my hands to make things. Despite the reality that I spend all day sitting in front of my computer, giving myself carpal tunnel from typing so much and dry eyes from staring at a screen, I love physical labor. I like to cook, and paint, and I imagine that something like brick-laying would be very soothing to me. It's so satisfying when most of your job is ephemeral—shapes on a screen that become words that become blogs—to be able to hold something in your hands after working. I think that's why so many people on this staff like to cook or to garden or to walk in nature and touch mushrooms. At least, that's why I like it.
But lately I have found it hard to do much. Even basic tasks are more difficult. No way am I making a sauce from scratch when I can barely do a dish. For the first time ever this year, I have had to ask for someone to help me plan Thanksgiving. It feels embarrassing and bad to not be able to do things I can normally do without thinking, but that's a story for another time. What I've been doing instead to get my physical labor fix is watching videos of other people doing physical labor on TikTok. You may think this is stupid, but you won't in a second.
One of the physical laborers I have been following for a long time is named Max Randolph. This man looks like a Viking prince. He has long luscious hair that he wears half up. He has a beard so immaculately trimmed that it looks fake. He wears a leather apron, and the project he has been working on for as long as I've followed him is a giant Valhalla Door. This is some kind of Norse thing that I don't understand. I asked Trey, who plays a lot of video games and therefore usually has strange knowledge like this, and he said, "I think it's a big-ass fancy door meant to mimic the entrance to the Norse Hall of Heroes when you die." This seems to be correct so let's go with it. In the videos he posts, Randolph is cutting absolutely ginormous steel beams. He is bending them. He is making complicated locks out of metal. His content is really fun because he seems to genuinely love doing this, and you get to watch him make a huge beautiful door.
Never once, in all my months of watching his updates, have I wondered what kind of person might be paying Randolph to make this door. He keeps saying "his client" and clearly he is being paid for this work but ... who needs this giant door? What kind of space requires not only a giant door but a giant lock?
This week, I was forced to learn because the type of person who needs this door is also the kind of person who built this week's house. You know this house is good because not one, not two, but THREE of you emailed it to me. It is my understanding that this has been thoroughly covered elsewhere, specifically in Dave Pell's NextDraft newsletter, but guess what? It's bonkers enough that we need to talk about it anyway! We HAVE TO really.
This house asks what if you could have everything haunted and drafty and cliché about a gothic manor but with none of the cool gargoyles or ghosts or history? Take a deep breath. OK, here we go.
Here is the outside of the house:
All right. Here we have, as you may have noticed, a castle. It is big. 18,777 square feet, according to the listing. Who measured this? That's too big. Being rich is a moral flaw on its own, and spending this much on a house is egregious (it is listed for $35 million American dollars). But a house this big and this giant also basically requires you to hire a whole staff of people to help you live. What are you going to do, dust 18,777 square feet? No you are not, and while cobwebs do seem apt in a castle, this castle is new. It was completed in 2010.
Interesting, OK. Let's go inside:
First we must walk by these giant statues of lions. Sick. Now there is a metal gate between two turrets. Weirdly, the turrets do not seem to have a guard house in them which I have seen at the only castle I have ever visited in Germany. After the turrets is a bridge which spans a moat. Classic. And then a bunch of big towers that make up a kind of front gate. One thing that is annoying about this castle is that there are no walls. Castles should have walls AND moats in my opinion, and along the walls should be very exciting gardens. The castle also has another aesthetic problem already which is that it is all the same color and that color is gray. Dreary, if you ask me, but in through the big wooden doors we go.
This is an entry hall. Already, I am annoyed. Why is this an open floor plan? I don't think that castles built in 2010 need to have any kind of historical accuracy, but they should be vibe-accurate. The floors, for example, should probably be a sexy wood or a mosaic instead of this tile. The rooms should each be distinct. There should absolutely NOT be ANY inset overhead lighting, which is always sent from the devil himself but especially egregious in this circumstance.
The photos on this listing are both very out of order and mainly of the outside of the castle, but the outside of the castle is just not that interesting! It's a castle! So what!
Let's find the kitchen:
OK, here it is. This flooring, I am more interested in. It excites me. I like all this carved wood. I like these ornate eggs on top of columns. I do not like these elephants but that's only because it seems like I wouldn't be allowed to sit on them. A couple steps forward (where that square on the floor is) a family crest has been painted on the ground. It's got a bunch of patterns on it and something in Latin. If my family had a family crest it would probably be just a plate one of us stole from Cracker Barrel so I'm not really qualified to critique whatever this is.
Here is the kitchen:
Wow there is a lot going on here. Whoever designed this kitchen so that it would be so big but require what seems to be a structurally important column in the middle of the working space, should be tried in court. It is cute that they put spices in it and I bet those shelves spin, but why is this pole here! The wood design is interesting, I guess, but this makes the kitchen a disaster. Two people could not cook in here because the pole is its own person. The vent thingy is so bulbous it distracts from the whole room. The ceiling is pretty. It reminds me of my galaxy lamp that I put on to fall asleep, but actual art. However, the hanging lights above the counter do NOT match! Why are rich people like this!? Hire an interior designer!
Something I don't understand about cabinets is why they always look like shit. These are clearly expensive cabinets, but they still look cheap. Is it because the top part is taller than the bottom part? Is it because I just hate cabinets?
That's enough kitchen. Here is a bathroom:
It was looking at this photo that caused me to realize what I hate about this house: so much of it looks cheap. These curtains do not look luxurious. These tiled walls that match the floor also look like they could be peeled off. Why don't the mirrors have frames? If I wanted a mirror with no frames I would live in literally any poorly constructed overpriced luxury apartment in a newly gentrified neighborhood. In a castle!? There should be gilded frames! The tub does look deep though, so I will take it.
Moving on! There are a couple photos of bedrooms that are boring. They have four-poster beds but no built-in shelves. They all "have fireplaces" in that there are what look like electric fireplaces built into dressers in every room. This should not count, in my opinion. Look at this "fireplace":
It sucks! What's the point in living in a castle if you can't make a real fire in your hearth. What's the point in cosplaying as a rich gothic heir if you don't even bother to hide the televisions a little bit. This room does have some oil paintings, which is good because I was starting to get VERY annoyed that there were not more oil paintings. A good castle should have dozens of terrifying oil paintings. And a family as rich as the one who built this house must be certainly owns some. Go get them! Put them in frames, goddammit.
Very briefly,I would like to poke our heads into this room:
This is the correct amount of trinkets for a giant castle. Ornate! Look at all these rugs. Rugs are expensive. I do not respect the choice to display an Egyptian mummy sarcophagus, but I do respect the attempt to haunt the castle. Let's go find something else to see.
It's a ... music venue? Looks like a music venue. That seems like a stage. There's a disco ball. But why would you want these glass cases in a music venue. Why is the ceiling like this. It's cool I guess but you could have just hired a muralist to paint something sick up there.
I'm getting tired of this not-haunted, not-beautiful castle. But there is one thing that castles have that rules and there must be one around here somewhere. Where is it?
Ah-ha! Here it is:
A tower room!
This is great! I love this! Is that a window down somewhere in the floor? Cool. I like these windows. I like these spooky hung spiral stairs. I like that everything is wood. Outside these big doors is a little patio where you can let your hair down to retrieve a prince to save you. Up the stairs is a big windowed dome to look at the sky. I would like to stand up there at night and see some stars. That sounds nice, doesn't it? Finally, we have found something to love even in this house.
There are a few more photos of details (a door, one stained glass window, a big half circle patio on the back of the house), but I've seen enough. I don't want to look at the castle anymore.
At this point you may be, as I was, thinking to yourself, who the fuck built this thing? I was going to do some research, to find out what brand of rich person owned it, but luckily for me someone else already did. Reader John not only sent me this listing, he sent me a link to my new favorite website, Mansion Global. "I never knew [the site] existed before today, thanks to my sad little life of having a regular job with a salary," John said, which, SAME.
The castle is owned by Christopher Mark, the great-grandson of a Chicago Steel Tycoon, according to records with PropertyShark.
Mr. Mark, who couldn't be immediately reached for comment, reportedly began construction on the castle in 2003, completing work in 2010.
Christopher Mark, I have learned from the website, considers himself a "philanthropist." His "work" seems to include making a bunch of miniatures as a teen that he called a company because he had the money to do so, and owning this castle. Fine. It seems really fucking great to be rich and just like ... build a castle as your life. But thankfully, in the attempt to market the castle, the Marks have created all sorts of content for us to consume. That's philanthropy right there, baby! There is a blog about their camel name Abu complete with this line "Update: Abu's has company now, a bactrian calf named Habibi!" Incredible. There is a nice castle dog who also gets a blog. Last year's Hallmark original movie One Royal Family was filmed at the castle, which makes sense because everything about the castle has the presence of a fairy tale instead of a sick gothic novel.
A young woman named Christina Mark, his daughter, seems to have had a Halloween party at the castle three weeks ago, so it is very much currently occupied. Christina, bless her, loves to create content. This is great news for us, people who love content. From her TikTok I have learned that the castle has a dungeon, that there is a hairless cat, that the kitchen has a robot sink, a hibachi grill, three dishwashers, a sky ceiling, and a secret room. I have learned that what was a four-car garage is now a tropical forest. Having watched every TikTok that Christina Mark has ever made, I am now almost certain that they are not actually trying to sell the castle.
You can rent the castle for events or photoshoots or any number of other things. It feels to me like the Mark family may have just put it on the market to garner a wave of press attention, which does seem to have worked. Why would you build a custom-made castle with a moat and tons of specific family details if you were just planning to sell it? It doesn't make any sense to me, but then again, ultra rich people do things that don't make any sense to me all the time.
This week's house has been listed on Zillow for $35 million dollars for 13 days. If you buy it, please get some oil paintings.