Missouri Homeowner Wants Disaster-Proof Home Rebuilt

May 17, 2016

Designed to withstand tornadoes, earthquakes and even bomb blasts, a castle-like southwest Missouri home that was meant to last forever must be torn down and erected again, its owner argues in an ongoing lawsuit.

Pensmore, a 72,000-square-foot home, might not be as invincible as expected because a key ingredient in the concrete was diluted, according to the lawsuit filed by owner Steven T. Huff last year in federal court in Springfield.

Huff said he learned of that in 2014, when a man who said he was an employee of the company that mixed the concrete stood outside the castle’s gates and “doggedly” asked to speak to a representative, the Springfield News-Leader reported.

“He described how he tried to stop the scam, but defendants threatened his job,” the lawsuit said. “Concerned about how he would feed his family, he continued to participate in it, until, as he described it, his conscience would not allow it.”

Construction was halted and tests confirmed the man’s claims, said Gabriel Berg, an attorney representing Huff in the lawsuit.

Huff is seeking $63 million from two companies that helped build the residence near Highlandville, which the Christian County assessor says is worth just under $6 million.

Monarch Cement Co. of Humboldt, Kansas, and its Springfield subsidiary, City Wide Construction Products, routinely cut the amount of Helix mixed into the castle’s concrete and likely sold the leftover material, the lawsuit claims. Helix, an alternative to rebar developed for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is the “key to Pensmore’s exceptional structural integrity design,” the lawsuit said.

Michael Callahan, the attorney for the two companies being sued, disputed the lawsuit’s claims.

“(The companies) are known for their high-quality products and longtime commitment to customer service,” Callahan wrote in a statement. “They will defend their hard-earned reputations against the plaintiff’s allegations all the way through trial, if necessary.”

The physical structure has been finished, Berg said, but it has not been “finally furnished.” The home has two elevators, 13 bedrooms, 14 bathrooms, a billiard room, a home theater, a music room and a 1,600-square-foot library. Blueprints submitted in 2007 show the main level and second story span 44,641 square feet.

Huff wanted it to serve as a sustainable model of disaster- and blast-resistant construction that could potentially last forever, he said.

“He says Romans were pretty good at building structures that last a long time,” Berg said. But instead, he added, Huff wants the companies to “tear it down and build it back up right,” Berg said.

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