Francis Ropes Huntington was a 48-year-old banking titan when he began building his mansion in Bexley in 1923, work that took craftsmen three years to complete.

Like a castle, with giant fireplaces, stone arches, steel chandeliers, Hobbitesque wooden doors and towering timber cathedral ceilings, the residence has been a source of curiosity ever since.

A 1995 Decorators' Show House tour of the mansion to raise money for the Columbus Museum of Art drew more than 19,000 visitors during its three-week run, 7,000 more than the previous showcase home in New Albany, which was open three days longer.

Zillow lists the house at 11,482 square feet, with nine bedrooms, eight baths and a three-car garage. Through the decades, the structure – three blocks from the governor's mansion and across the street from Ohio State University's president's mansion – has had six owners, according to county auditor records.

Its latest chapter opened this year when Doug Sadler and his partner of three decades, Dan Good, the former superintendent of Columbus City Schools, bought it for $1.35 million. The mansion had languished on the market for almost three years, dropping in asking price by more than $1 million after a failed bid to turn it into a senior-living facility.

"We were looking to downsize, and we were very unsuccessful there," said Sadler, 53, who manages a country club.

Good, 57, said he encountered the house while searching ads and began to explore the possibility of a purchase.

The two sold their 4,865-square-foot, five-bedroom, five-bath Powell house in December for $610,000. They also sold two vacation homes – one in the Hocking Hills and the other in Florida – and sunk all the proceeds into the Huntington Mansion, Good said.

In doing so, they became curators of a piece of Columbus history.

"That's sort of how we feel about it," Sadler said. "When we're making changes or even adjusting the landscaping, we want to keep to the grandeur of what it was.

"We want the next owner to say, 'They continued the legacy.'"

Huntington, one of the wealthiest Ohioans of his day, didn't have long to enjoy his giant stone and wood creation, a monument to the Roaring '20s.

One of three sons of Columbus banking pioneer P.W. Huntington, who founded Huntington Bank in 1866, "Franz" developed a heart condition the same year the house was completed. He died in the house in 1928, his wife by his side.

The home was designed by New York City architect Alfred Hopkins, according to the Dictionary of Ohio Historic Places.

The large wooden door that leads from the massive living room into a towering chapel was "carved by Spanish monks of the 17th century for their monastery," a 1947 article appearing on The Columbus Dispatch society page says. The living room's stone fireplace mantel "was taken from an old English manor house."

The house is a honey-comb of large spaces and tiny cubbies; winding wooden staircases, big and small; towering windows set against tiny doorways that lead outside to private stone patios and a walled private garden.

"You can tell at one time they did a lot of entertaining here," Good said, adding that he and Sadler plan to carry on that tradition.

"I hope that we can entertain in it and share it with as many people as possible," Sadler said.

"Everybody should see this house – not because it's mine, but because it is beautiful. It is a stunning piece of craftsmanship, as far as I'm concerned."

A hand-powered lift brings firewood up from the basement to the first floor. Doorbell buttons throughout the mansion, no longer working, once summoned the staff, who lived in their own wing in the back.

In addition to the main kitchen, the staff had their own ample kitchen, which appears to have served as an extra food-preparation space during events, with a dumbwaiter to carry food to the first floor.

Good and Sadler are waiting to see what spring brings to the landscaping and its pear trees, magnolias, weeping maples and junipers.

They are planning upgrades to the walled private garden between the house and Drexel Avenue.

"We're still dreaming about what that could be someday," Good said.

Their first day living in the mansion brought a snowstorm. Still unpacking, they shoveled the long drive, Good said.

Despite it being 10:30 p.m., people were out and about, walking their dogs past the front gate and greeting them.

"I thought, 'This is going to be home,'" Good said. "This is a good place to be."

The Columbus Dispatch librarian Linda Deitch contributed research to this story.

bbush@dispatch.com

@ReporterBush