By T. Jensen Lacey

Fairhope residents Dean and Pagan Mosher seem to lead a life that’s only found in storybooks. Maybe that’s because they live in a house that looks as though it came out of a storybook.  Enter the world of these two, and you will find yourself feeling as though you are in a kind of fantasy life.

Pagan Sheldon Mosher is the second of three generations of Fairhope residents. The first were her parents, Craig and Annie (“Butch”) Sheldon (more on the nickname later). Craig Sheldon came to Fairhope from Monteagle, Tennessee, although Craig first visited this Utopian city via a bay boat (known back then as the Mobile Bay Steamers) in 1922 when he was just a small child. 

“They married in 1940 in Florida and moved here,” Pagan explained. “After World War II, they started what became known as the ‘Sheldon Castle.’ They wanted to live on a piece of land from the Single Tax Colony. Craig had lived in Alaska and built the house like an Alaska-style cabin.”

Craig built and added on to the cabin, and eventually built a shop which is now a Bed & Breakfast. When he was serving in the Marines, he sent a letter home with a drawing of the tower he eventually added to the dwelling. 

Long before the phrase “reuse, reduce, and recycle” was coined, Craig Sheldon used many materials that he found on the beaches after storms, or discarded items left on the curb and incorporated them into the structures he made. 

Looking at the walls of the “Sheldon Castle,” visitors can see bottles, rocks, and a variety of debris which might have looked to others like something to discard, but was part of a beautiful castle to Craig Sheldon. “It’s funny,” Pagan Mosher reminisced, “But we never called it a castle but the people of Fairhope called it that.“

Pagan and Dean Mosher are multitalented. For 40 years, Pagan co-managed and directed the downtown Creative Outlet Dance Center with business partner, another talented Fairhope resident, Gina Lanaux. Dean is an accomplished and award-winning artist and author and is currently working on a book about his friend who became his father-in-law, Craig Sheldon. 

“I first came to Mobile from Niagara Falls,” he said. “That was in the 1960s during the Civil Rights era, and it was a bit of a culture shock.” He said that his father’s job is what brought him here. “My father helped develop the molecular sieve used in refrigerators, freezers, and many other uses, and his company built a plant here.” Dean was later accepted to the Harris School of Art in Nashville, which taught Rockwell art technique. 

“Dean knew Dad before I knew Dean,” Pagan remembered. “He taught Dean carpentry and more.” Dean and Pagan first met at Fairhope Arts and Crafts, and their first date was with her parents. “We went to St. Peter’s Fish Fry in Bon Secour with my folks; that was our first date,” she said. It must have been love at first sight, for Dean proposed on their second date. 

Dean continued working on and adding to Craig’s castle, and it was a natural thing for him to do. Pagan said, “Dean’s always been fascinated with Medieval times and the castle is his outlet to do that. He just finished adding a Gothic arch structure, and the house next door, also in the style of the Mosher castle, is known as the Boom Hobbit Castle.” They call the land on which  the castles sit the “The Shire.”

They started their AirBNB called Storybook Castle five years ago. They were one of the first homes featured on HGTV Extreme Homes. “Local media, print, and TV all showed up to film us,” Pagan recalled with a laugh, “and it was a fun day.” 

Dean Mosher’s artwork is on permanent display in The Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, and the University of Virginia. One of his latest artworks is a painting of the four little girls killed in the Birmingham church bombing, which was commissioned by the Alabama Department of Travel and Tourism and will be unveiled soon.  

His artwork is mostly of historic events, such as renditions of the Battle of Fort Mims, the Wright brothers’ flight, and Admiral Farragut in the Battle of Mobile Bay. The Moshers’ presence and home in Fairhope lend an additional air of fascination to this already fascinating town.  

Now for the note on Annie’s nickname as “Butch”: “When one Marine would meet another Marine but didn’t know their name,” Pagan said, “they referred to them as either ‘Mac’ or ‘Butch.’ Although my mother only weighed about 80 pounds, a tiny lady, my dad gave her the nickname of ‘Butch.’ Many people who had known her for about 60 years came to her funeral service, and told me, ‘We never knew her real name was Annie.’”

You can check out Sheldon Castle and his art at Dean Mosher Studio.

Dec 13, 2023
Artsy Side Of Life

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