The expression “a man’s home is his castle” has never been more literal than in the home of DeWayne Walker, where the walls of his office look more like a medieval war chest than a Wall Street war room.
Walker, a day trader and history buff, has always dreamed of a place to showcase his love for history and his collection of antique swords. When he and his wife, Trisha, moved to Rapid City in 2003 and built their home, the one thing he requested was a room that would allow him to showcase the collection he’s amassed over the past 40 years.
With 12-foot ceilings and a large amount of wall space, Walker’s special room has become just what he’s always dreamed of. The walls were painted to look like the brick walls of a castle. Just like in medieval castles, the walls are lined with dozens of antique swords and historic flags. Glass display cases hold the most unique swords, as well as antique helmets from around the world.
“It’s what he’s always wanted,” Trisha Walker said. “It doesn’t really feel like a basement. He finally has his space.”
When he invites new people to his office in the basement of his home, Walker doesn’t refer to it as an office. “I don’t tell them I’m going to show them my office, but rather I’m going to show them my museum.”
In the 1960s, Walker was stationed with the Air Force in England. While living there, he bought a book about the history of Britain.
With such a love for history and so much history around him, he would spend every weekend traveling to the different sites referenced in the book.
“I visited every battle site, cathedral or castle I could,” he said. “I’d always stop at little shops and look around.”
While wandering through those little shops he would happen across swords, helmets, flags and gorgets, metal pieces of armor that were used to protect the necks of knights.
He built his collection one piece at a time. Over the years, the values of many of the items have increased significantly. One sword he originally paid $20 for is now valued at about $2,500.
One of his favorite finds was a sword and a couple of umbrellas wrapped in twine. He paid $15 for the items. Walker refers to the sword as his Viking sword.
The antique piece features a Viking-style dragon on the hilt. Photos of the Viking sword have been reviewed by professional historians at the Smithsonian. The experts estimate it is either a Viking-era Chieftain sword or possibly a Renaissance-era sword.
The only way to determine definitively is for Walker to take the sword there for inspection. “They told me it is very rare,” he said. “It could either be 400 to 500 years old or 1,000 years old.”
The displays of swords are arranged by country of origin. The majority of the swords are from the British Isles, but there are some from all over Europe, Japan and even one from the early days of the United States. Among the British swords are a 1660s sword from the era of Charles II, a Cromwellian sword from 1640 and a Revolutionary sword that was used by the British military.
One of the French Napoleonic swords on display is a rare one made by the king of France during the year Napoleon was on the island of St. Alba. His collection also features Japanese samurai swords and a 1550 Italian rapier. Many of the antique swords are one-of-a-kind and were hand-made.
The retired veterinarian used to polish the swords once a year, but a specialist told him it was better for the swords to let the natural patina occur. “That was good news,” he joked. “It sure saved me a lot of time.”
If the wall of swords wasn’t enough of a representation of DeWayne’s passion for history, the rest of his special room is. Antique flags from British Isles, France, Nazi Germany and Prussia serve as backdrops to the swords.
Large bookshelves line two walls. The shelves are packed full of history books, as well as mementos from his military service.
DeWayne is also a nationally ranked power walker. Photographs and awards from his power walking races sit among the history books.
“This is my life, my history,” he said. “It’s me, my military service, athletic prowess and my professional stuff.”
The desk may be antique, but the hardware is anything but. As a day trader, Walker spends the majority of his day in front of the two computer screens and television at his desk. The modern machinery is about the only modern items in the room.
A hand-carved antique chair from the World’s Fair in New York sits in a corner. Another addition to the room is an antique barber’s chair featuring the original velvet.
On the glass display case rest World War I candlesticks made from the hilts of swords. DeWayne said during the war the Germans would cut the sword off and turn the hilts into candlesticks as mementos to present to the parents of soldiers who were killed in action.
Before moving to Rapid City, the Walkers didn’t have a specific room or space to showcase all of the swords, so they were placed in barrels for years.
There may be a couple hanging on the walls here or there, but the vast majority of his collection was tucked away.
Once the house was done and everyone was moved in, DeWayne finally had the room he had always dreamed of. “It’s the most comfortable office I’ve ever worked in,” he said.