Ever been on the way to Slidell, looked out the window to the right, and thought “What’s with that random white castle in the middle of the marsh?” Glad you asked. The “Irish Bayou Castle” (aka “Fishermen’s Castle” aka “Chateau Villemarette”) was designed and built in 1981 by Simon Villemarette after his fishing camp burned down a few years prior. A silhouette that looks like it would be more at home in a Monty Python film, than in annals of Louisiana iconography, the castle is nestled just a stone's throw from Lake Pontchartrain, and has caught the interest, curiosity, and bewilderment of thousands as they travel to and from the crescent city along I-10 for decades. When asked what inspired the design of what is arguably, “The Most Interesting Fishing Camp In The World”, Villemarette, a carpenter from Aribi, said he wanted to build something himself and always had and affection for 14th century architecture. But his main reason for the puzzling design was that he was simply “...tired of building things rectangular and square” and “...wanted to build something round for a change.” So that’s exactly what he did. The two bedroom, one and a half bath “Fishermen’s Castle”, adorn inside with medieval accouterments, has stood for nearly forty years. All that time, surviving the floods and winds of Katrina, Issac, and nearly everything else nature and man has thrown its way.
It was Villimarette’s hope to turn the castle camp into a tourist attraction befitting the 1984 World’s Fair, but due to illness and other circumstances his hopes were never realized and it was sold to Charles Kuhl in 1995. Over the years due to poor upkeep, and the aforementioned catastrophic acts of nature, it began to deteriorate. There were a handful of talks among Kuhl and the Irish Bayou community to renovate the beloved Castle, and possibly turn it into a bed and breakfast, but none were seriously realized. It was purchased by an investment group based in Harahan in 2014, who remain the current owners.
It has since apparently gone through major renovations, but currently remains closed, with only rumors circulating on it’s Facebook Page, other message boards, and local news about its future. Of course that hasn’t stopped people from driving by, or stopping, sometimes daily, for photographs and to take a gander at the inexplicable castle on a bayou. Hopefully, it will open up soon now that it’s hopefully been made “battle ready” again and continue to stand into perpetuity. Its lone battlement surveying and guarding the nearby lake, bayous, marshes, and the city in the distance. Forever, poised to take on the winds, rains, floods, swarms of mosquitoes, gnats, nutria, and maybe even a charging force of ironclad soldiers in pirogues. Chateau Villemarette, as its creator called it, stands tall and proud. It’s white facade, a bright beacon illuminating the culture and history of the unique and wonderful people who call the Irish Bayou home.
Image pulled from Facebook.