Montgomery County

Amsterdam Castle sold, owners keen to move on

Castle owners are a unique group.
The Amsterdam Castle, which dominates the landscape of the city’s south side was sold late last month.
The Amsterdam Castle, which dominates the landscape of the city’s south side was sold late last month.

Castle owners are a unique group.

Generally they need healthy finances and, according to Susan Phemister, a flair for the dramatic. Sting is a good example. The musician enjoys castle life in England.

Phemister herself lived in a castle until a few weeks ago, although hers was in Amsterdam and technically a decommissioned armory.

“You need a modicum of whimsy to buy a castle,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of people get scared off by the heating costs. Yes, but you get to live in a castle.”

Phemister sold her bed-and-breakfast known as the Amsterdam Castle late last month, citing a desire to move on to other renovation projects.

Phemister’s husband, Manfred, labored away Monday afternoon, cleaning and moving the massive stock of used movies and records accumulated through his online business. Before the sale, thousands of cased discs lined the walls of a basement-level indoor shooting range. It can take a while to move out of a castle.

“We’re excited to be moving on,” he said. “There was a lot of interest.”

That interest, however took a long time to generate an official sale.

Phemister bought and renovated the 36,000-square-foot former National Guard Armory back in 2005 for the selling price of her Brooklyn three-bedroom house — a bargain, she said, for the turrets that dominate the city’s South Side.

For eight years she relished what she called the “cool factor” of living in such a building, but got restless.

A few years ago, she listed the property for $2.5 million. It was a good price, she thought at the time, for a fully renovated mansion and functioning bed-and-breakfast. Then the economy took a downturn, and aspiring castle-owners presumably opted for smaller living arrangements.

Late last year, she re-listed the property for $1.25 million. Months later, the place sold for $825,000, according to a deed filed June 28 in the Montgomery County Clerk’s Office.

Phemister declined comment on the diminished sale price, except to say she does not regret her investment.

“In the end, I lost money,” she said, “but I’m wealthier in other ways. I loved playing with my three kids in our personal gym. I loved meeting all the interesting people. I loved kicking back with a glass of wine and watching the sunset.”

In short, she loved living in a castle.

The new owners, Ferydoon Ghotbi and Leslie Ashley of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., did not wish to comment on their property, but Phemister said they plan to perform a second renovation and re-open as a bed-and-breakfast.

“We did a lot,” she said, “but it’s a historic building. There’s always something to be done. I think they’re going to replace the heating system.”

Phemister said she wants to buy and renovate an old church next, but not for a few years.

“I need to get my kids through middle school,” she said. “We’ll be living in a regular house until then.”

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