He Huffed and He Puffed Et Voila! Un Chateau Redux

Richard Hurbain is no Bourbon, but with pail, shovel and plenty of true grit, he rescued an old castle from rack, ruin and red tape

Friends wondered why Richard Hurbain wasn't the happiest man in the world — good job, nice suburban home near Paris and a country home on the Brittany coast, three fine sons, a wife who also had a good job. But his suburb was turning into just another featureless, traffic-choked extension of the metropolis. And boyhood dreams of castles and pastoral landscapes kept calling. One day in 1982 he saw an ad offering a feudal castle constructed in the 14th century. The next Sunday he and his family drove 200 miles south to the Indre Department to see the place. They were still several miles distant when all five uttered a collective gasp at the castle's towers glittering in the noonday sun. "One look was enough. I signed a contract within an hour of seeing the property," Hurbain says today.

Richard and his wife, Françoise, sold everything they had, gave up their jobs and took a leap into what has turned out to be many a 12 hour day and many a seven day week spent restoring the castle. It was a wreck — collapsed walls and roofs, rotting floorboards, a moat full of centuries' worth of muck and garbage.

Hurbain has had some run-ins with bureaucrats at the French Office for Historic Monuments because of some paperwork problems, but most everyone else agrees that he has done a wonderful thing. The castle is now a tourist attraction, bringing visitors and restoration volunteers from numerous countries. What about the three sons? They've enjoyed working on the castle, so much so that all three have gone into building and engineering.

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