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Some people live in houses. Some people live in mansions. Some people live on estates and others live in castles.

Richard Garriott: Renaissance man.

Then there’s Richard Garriott, a video game mogul accomplished in so many realms — on Earth, in space, in cyberspace — that only a manor will do.

Make that a manor filled with secret passages, gargoyles, stained glass and a dungeon lined with macabre collectibles.

Well, make that three manors, all of them named Britannia.

The original Britannia Manor I was located in New Hampshire, where Garriott was raised after moving to the United States from the United Kingdom as a child. At Britannia Manor I, Garriott commenced his Halloween tradition of tricking out his manor for epic spook-fests.

After becoming a millionaire at age 17 thanks to his creation of the uber-popular and ground-breaking Ultima series games, Garriott decamped to Austin, TX. There, the son of an astronaut who also became an astronaut built Britannia Manor II.

The West Austin home at 8207 Two Coves Drive, which is now for sale for $4.1 million, was designed by Garriott, whose creativity and drive appears to have no bounds. The place is so special, so unique and has attracted so much international attention, it has its own page on Wikipedia.

The game that made Garriott a millionaire at age 17.

“The name comes from the castle of Lord British, ruler of Britannia, the setting of the Ultima computer role-playing game series, which (Garriott) created. Britannia Manor is situated atop a large hill near Austin. The home was featured in a 2007 episode of the HGTV television series, “Secret Spaces,” on “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” and on “MTV Cribs.”

But with unflagging energy and vision, Garriott’s high-octane vision of high-living could not be contained by Britannia Manor II. So, in between space launches, game development, adventure travel to Antarctica and philanthropic enterprises, Garriott has for the past decade been building Britannia Manor III.

The eccentricities and novelties of Britannia Manor III are said to be surreal, including underground swimming pools that connect the entire house, swiveling walls to allow beds to move from room to room in the middle of the night and a five-story observatory complete with planetarium.

The new Britannia Manor III should be completed within the next 18 months, so in anticipation of the move, Garriott has listed his “old” digs for sale. The listing on the Austin real estate market gives a glimpse of what some lucky dungeon-loving buyer has in store.

“Britannia Manor II, the captivating and magical estate of Richard Garriott, aka, Lord British, is seeking new stewardship. Situated high on a level 3.99-acre hilltop overlooking downtown and a 3,000-acre preserve, this home offers amazing architectural details and intrigue plus an “off the grid” energy realm,” writes listing agent Robin McCall.

Behind the iron gates, the manor’s features “include a 360-degree-view observatory w/ telescope atop the approx 4790-sq foot home, pool, grotto, waterfall, detached studio, separate guest quarters, a/c’d barn, lagoon and lighted running track.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mM109_EbMcs[/youtube]

McCall said Garriott has been a tremendous citizen of Austin, a community-minded philanthropist who continued his long tradition of staging elaborate Halloween tours of his home, proceeds of which go to charity.

“He opens up his home at great expense for a benefit, ‘Scare for the Cure,’ ” McCall said.

Among Garriott’s many interests, his commitment to solar energy at Britannia Manor II is extensive. “He generates enough electricity for the property and enough to sell back energy to the city of Austin,” McCall said.

Garriott earned the right to be lord of his own manor. Born in the United Kingdom, Garriott moved to the United States as a child, then followed in his astronaut father’s (Owen Garriott) footsteps to become the only second-generation American in space. That took place in 2008, when Garriott launched the Russian Soyuz TMA-13 spacecraft to the International Space Station and became the sixth private citizen to fly in Earth’s orbit. For Garriott, it was $30M well spent.

In early 2009, Garriott was awarded a Sir Arthur C. Clarke award for individual achievement. The prizes are set up to recognize UK achievements towards advancement in space exploration.

But for all of Garriott’s stellar and stirring achievements, he has a reputation for being a stand-up guy. And for all the unique qualities and quirky decor Garriott has brought to his Austin digs, listing agent McCall said Britannia Manor II is very livable.

“It’s a home you can wake up in and enjoy a cup of coffee,” she said.

Or, for the space travelers among us: Tang.

 

About the Author

Laura Vecsey is a former sports columnist, news reporter and politics writer and has worked for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Baltimore Sun, Albany (N.Y.) Times-Union and Harrisburg Patriot-News. She was also a regional editor with Examiner.com. She is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College.

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