Tomahawk man is king of his castle

By Joel Waldinger | September 6, 2022


Secluded in the Northwoods of Oneida County there is a dirt road that takes you back to the Dark Ages. At the end of the drive is a Do-It-Yourself project like no other. The Medieval building rises out of the forest floor near Lake Killarney. In the Middle Ages or Modern Times, the dimensions are staggering. It stands 35 feet tall and weighs 5,000 pounds per running foot on the outside wall. It’s all handmade.

Pete Kelley’s dream of building a castle started in 1987. He is an electrician by trade with no architectural training. For nearly four decades, each year, little by little, brick by brick this castle has taken shape. For Pete it is more about the journey than actually getting it done, “People always asking when you’re going to get done. And I had said it’s like being a farmer. It’s not something that you ever finish.”

Today Kelley Arms Castle towers over the landscape with its corners fortified by turrets. It’s all built from Wisconsin red granite. The bricks are reclaimed tombstone scraps. The castle is only about 75-percent complete. The only access is on foot across a narrow walking bridge. Pete hauls supplies one load at a time.

Kelley Castle opens its doors only once a year to visitors during the Tomahawk Harley Ride. Pete often gets inquires about what it takes to build a castle, “I’ve said, don’t build a castle because you want one, you better enjoy building it because, that’s going to be your life and I don’t regret it.” Ask Pete if he is the King of his own castle and he will reply, “I don’t see him very much.” Sounds like a Northwoods fantasy just waiting for a fairytale ending.

Joel Waldinger

Joel Waldinger

Joel Waldinger is a reporter for the “Wisconsin Life” project and considers a sunset over the “big island” on Manson Lake to be a perfect ending to a day of fishing and fun in the Northwoods. 

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