Vilano Beach has a Castle!

Castle Ottis
by Linda

If you take a drive up A1A north from the Vilano Bridge, you will see a very interesting structure on the west side of the highway. It is our famous Castle Otttis. Yes, it is spelled correctly as the name comes from a stone mason who helped the designer and owner build the structure. Castle Otttis has a fascinating story.

 It was created as an original landscape-sculpture (defined as a structure built to adorn or to view the landscape), done in remembrance of Jesus Christ. The castle is an impression of an Irish castle of 1,000 years ago and the interior was created under the guidance of historians from the Catholic Diocese of Northeast Florida to suggest the atmosphere of an Abbey (early Christian church) in Ireland of that time. It was created as an expression of art and never intended to be a residence, a commercial building, or a tourist attraction.

 The project was begun on May 1, 1984, with the exterior considered complete in 1988. The materials used in the exterior were split-face concrete block, steel reinforcement rod, and poured concrete. All of the masonry work was done by two individuals working together without the aid of laborers, helpers, elevation drawings, or models. The owner, designer, builder stated, "The building seemed to exert its own insistent will." Engineering data was employed to ensure structural integrity. It is over 50 feet in height, and the building's weight is conservatively estimated at more than 7 million pounds.

 The interior took an additional 3 years to complete (1988-1991) and was fashioned by a third individual (a woodworker). It contains primarily cypress wood and some old southern heart pine. The interior has eight different examples of staircases in addition to an altar, a pulpit, a Bishop's chair, a choir loft, benches (pews), and includes spiritual and historic related symbolism throughout. There is no glass in any of the 88 window openings, so the interior is open to the elements.

 It is interesting to note that this structure is located on the same latitude as the Great Pyramids in Egypt (30° North Latitude). The building also received an award from The American Institute of Architects in 1992 for “the creation of a new landmark” in the United States. The Castle is privately owned and has no formal connection with any group or organization. It is available by appointment to schools, churches, colleges, universities, institutions, and community groups for academic and spiritual purposes. It also provides a unique setting for small, intimate wedding ceremonies.

 So even if you don't get to tour this remarkable structure, you will know its history as you pass by it on A1A or even stop for an exterior view.

 Just a short drive from this iconic Vilano Beach structure is the nineteen-unit Marina hotel - the Inn at Camachee. You can enjoy beautiful waterfront marina views from most of the suites and a peaceful stay as you explore St. Augustine and Vilano Beach. Do you want to bring your fur baby with you? If so, there are pet-friendly rooms available that welcome small, well-behaved dogs and cats for a separate fee.