By Michael Raab
The beginning of Blossom Ferry Road in Castle Hayne is smooth and maintained. In the middle, it becomes broken pavement and eventually an uneven dirt road that leads you on a rambling route through the woods to Walkerworld. Not exactly down the rabbit hole, but Walkerworld bears more than a passing resemblance to Wonderland, and Allen Walker has more than a hint of the Mad Hatter about him, especially if the Hatter could handle a hammer like he does.
From the very beginning, “fun” was what motivated Allen Walker.
“It was fun putting it together and working on it was fun. Creating it within itself was fun. Everybody has to do something, and I knew I wasn’t going to make a million dollars, but at least I could build a crazy house on the river for my kids to have a great time,” Allen explains. “The guts of the original building were about 700 to 800 square feet. Just the middle part was here and I basically expanded left, right, east, west, high and low. I turned it into what it is now. This place is singular in its existence. It’s like this place is coming from a different place of higher thinking for more different minded people.”
The building rests on the edge of a Cape Fear tributary where Allen has a boat for visitors. “Everybody wants a fancy boat to see, and they want to be seen on a fancy boat. This is the least fancy boat anyone has ever seen. People get to see the river on it.”
Then there was the time he put a piano on the boat.
“I’ve always had grandiose, eccentric ideas about simple tangible things. We had a French novelist, Frederique Deghelt, who had found our place through Airbnb. She came with her husband, and they both playedpiano. I had a thought, ‘why don’t I put one on the boat?’ I didn’t mention it to the others but we put it on the boat and covered it up with a sheet. We went up the river about sunset with a big open fire pit on the boat and I pulled the sheet off. She immediately started playing the piano five miles up the river, while the fire was going and someone was cooking on the grill. It was the most amazing evening ever.”
Having a couple from Paris was nothing unusual for Walkerworld. Guests come, Allen says, from all around. “South Africa, Tokyo, Russia, China, Australia and every country in South America you can think of. One lady from South Africa came with a beautiful dog, and when she went to return home she couldn’t get the paperwork straight for her pet to board the plane. I said ‘Oh my gosh, I love dogs, I’ll take her.’ So we have had her for three years, ever since that lady left, and I send her pictures of her dog every so often. We go with whatever comes.”
There’s fun at Walkerworld for children, but (as expected!) not the usual approach to entertaining youngsters.
“Everybody always asks, ‘What kind of games do you have for kids?’ One of my favorite lines to say is, ‘I allow kids to find themselves while finding themselves.’ I let the kids go and I try to encourage not having a lot of formal things for them to do. Just free play, lay on the floor, draw, pencil, go hide and seek, and swing. Elementary things to do.”The loopy ambience attracts many different events, like cooking camps. “Women and kids come out. We cook up a storm on the back porch where we have set up tables. We make pasta every day. We have days where every day we do a different meal from a different country. Then the kids go out to the river. I tell the kids do whatever you like, making the people feel at home. Every now and then there are women who want everything perfect. This is not a perfect place. I’m out here living my life without any expectations. It works out better for that very reason.”
How about a Grateful Dead weekend? “I had a friend who begged and begged to do this. We had seven or eight bands to play for two days on and off.”
And, of course, weddings. “This is a place for couples who are looking for something completely different. They look around and their mouths drop. Everybody is entertained by the place so when the wedding is here it takes some of the heat off the couple.”
The marvel that is Walkerworld came out of a low point in Allen’s personal life.
“I was married forever with one woman, never kissed another woman. She told me she didn’t love me anymore and broke my heart. That’s kind of how this place came to be to this degree.” Allen fell into the bachelor life but realized that wasn’t what he wanted. “I finally found a gal I’m crazy about and I’m just raising my three kids.”
When asked, “Should we mention this lady in the story?” Allen responds with a smile, “If you mention her it would probably help me. In all sincerity, she would be flattered.”
Allen is a Wilmington native. “I’ve lived here and there. I lived in Montana and loved it out west. I lived out in Pitt County in a tobacco barn when I went to art school at East Carolina. But I was born and raised here and I’m not going anywhere.”
But what happens when Walkerworld is complete? Allen replies with a smile, “I never expect it to be finished.”