A Tudor-styled home, typical of the late medieval and early Renaissance eras, sits on 52 acres nestled in the hills of Rockland Township along a dirt country lane. What made this home stand out were dragonheads with arched necks mounted above doorways. These heads are just the beginning of the kind of details Jerry and Kathleen Anderson built into their home.
Anderson, 72, and his wife moved to Pennsylvania about 13 years ago when Kathy got a job offer here on the east coast. They left California behind to start a new life in medieval times.
“Most women wouldn’t want to live in a dark dungeon like we live in a medieval, castle-type, Tudor-style building, but that’s her thing, too,” said Anderson.
When the realtor took them through the home, Anderson thought it looked like it just needed a lot of work. He preferred to build from scratch rather than work with redos, but said the taxes are so high when building from scratch out here they decided to remodel the old stone house into something from the medieval era. Anderson said it has taken about 10 years to see his design take shape.
“Everything is designed in my parameters of what I feel is the old world style in which somebody would have made something back in those days,” said Anderson. “It’s a period I’ve always been interested in.”
Much of the information Anderson researched for his medieval theme came from movies, books he had found at garage sales, and inspiration from Renaissance fairs. Part of Anderson’s vision included the magic and enchantment associated with many medieval movies and books.
Once you got past the open-mouthed dragon above the entryway, a three and a half foot tall character cloaked in dark fabric stood just inside the mudroom. It had a big nose, large rabbit-like ears, a long gray beard and it peered at guests from under a set of bushy eyebrows. Evidence of Anderson’s blacksmithing handiwork hung throughout the rooms from iron sconces with candles to swords and daggers he crafted from something as simple as a car’s coiled spring. The sheepskin covers on furnishings were some of the touches they had found to add to their décor. Anderson and his wife are also avid archers and brought that into their design with a wall where archer’s hats and quivers hung.
There was a wall-sized framed mirror with little copper pots lining it. Anderson said he made that frame the way they would have back in medieval times. Anderson lit the candles in the sconces and showed how one could be removed from a chandelier and used like a torch to find your way if needed.
Dragons of all shapes and sizes were also part of the design throughout their home. There were even dragons etched into the leaded glass windows.
“Well, we’re into dragons and I want to build a sculptured dragon out of steel and whatever and I’ve been running that process through my mind for years, but I’ve never attempted it yet. I want to get enough detail into it to make it look really nice,” said Anderson.
When Anderson started this project, he tore all the plaster off of the ceilings and walls. Tim Miller, T. Miller Masonry, repointed all the old stone and then converted a fireplace into a two-way fireplace tying the summer kitchen to the main house. He also installed a third fireplace on the second floor. Miller had installed Rumford fireplaces typical of the 1700 to early 1800s. According to Miller these fireplaces were designed to throw off more heat.
Miller said the stonework project was done in stages over a 10-year period. Although his interests had always been with the 1700s and 1800s, after working with Anderson, he developed a newfound interest in medieval history.
“It made you feel like you actually stepped way back in medieval times,” said Miller.
It took all of Anderson’s skill sets to craft his home with a medieval design beginning with blacksmithing, a skill he learned back in his 30s, but developed in more recent times with the help of YouTube.
“I made every hinge on every door and in every window in the place. I’ve made fireplace stuff, utensils, bracketry for hanging shelves, but mostly hinges though,” said Anderson.
It took two and a half hours for each hinge he made. He pointed to a window and said there is a quarter pound of material in that hinge. When Anderson moved in, he had to put doors and windows on all of the outbuildings. He fitted his barn with heavy wooden doors that are supported by sculpted metal brackets spanning the width of the door. There was a round door pull held in place by a matching sculpted bracket. Anderson said he would go up to the scrapyard to purchase supplies for making these brackets.
Anderson used his woodworking skills to put in doors and windows, build furniture, and added decking on either side of his home featuring steps with a medieval theme in the design. Furniture and frames he crafted featured drive-through pegs typical of the era. The view from Anderson’s woodshop windows looked out over a grassy slope where spring frogs could be heard chirping from the nearby pond. At the back of the barn, Anderson had built his own sawmill. It was too big and heavy to fit in his barn so he left it outside and built a roof. The room in the barn where he originally was going to put his sawmill ended up being converted to a guesthouse.
Another skill needed in medieval times was the ability to make leaded glass windows. Anderson, who had been crafting leaded glass since the age of 25, used a diamond pattern to match the design of that period. Anderson said it was a three-day process for each window. When he bought the place over 10 years ago, he had to create openings in his barn on the second floor so he would have light for his workshop.
“It goes with the history of European homes because they didn’t have big sheets of glass so they came up with the process of making leaded glass so they could use small pieces,” said Anderson.
Anderson had put in leaded glass windows throughout their home and barn to keep with the theme. Even the kitchen cabinets are being fitted with leaded-glass doors.
When not working on their home, Anderson and his wife are avid outdoor enthusiasts and body builders. They enjoy an active lifestyle from working out, ziplining on a line Anderson installed, archery, hiking, or searching flea markets for new treasures. Anderson even has an experimental plane he hopes to get back in the air in the near future. He had taken lessons and got his certificate to fly an ultralight craft.
“It’s a very exhilarating feeling. You’re in this little thing, you know, you just go forward, and you come off the ground, you’re flying up there and it’s just so cool,” said Anderson.
Anderson said the old arthritis is really kicking in and is decreasing his ability to do some of the things he’d like to do, but he still does them, just slower. He had worked on his home seven-days-a-week, eight-hours-a-day over a 10-year period. He said as long as he can do it, he’s going to do it.