Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Revisiting an Incredible American Castle at Fonthill



One man's dream home is a great American castle. We don't have many of those, but this one is what we imagine when we dream of castles. Towers, great halls, a maze of rooms -- Fonthill Castle has them all.



It all started when he was 13. Henry Mercer accompanied his aunt, who was quite wealthy, his mother, and siblings on a tour of Europe that spurred his imagination -- it was during this trip that he saw and sketched several castles, which influenced the design of the two concrete castles he built.



Years later, Mercer set about building his dream castle -- both a home and a showcase for the tiles created in the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, which Mercer had founded in part to preserve the glazing and pottery tradition in Pennsylvania, are on the castle's floors, walls, columns, and ceiling.



He build his concrete castle built between 1908 and 1912. Fonthill Castle has more than 44 rooms, 18 fireplaces, 32 staircases, and more than 200 windows of various sizes and shapes.



Mercer believed in recycling and reusing, so if he encountered at a sale an old window from an old house or church or other public building that he thought would fit his castle, he bought it and inserted it into his design. Thus, there didn't seem to be many windows alike, and often within a room there would be windows that didn't quite match the others.



His castle seems organic, in that it seemed to have been designed from the inside out. The ceilings are sloped and rounded (all with tiles inserted), and few rooms are square or rectangular.



Mercer really let his imagination loose on the inside. Mercer's furniture, print and book collections, and belongings are still there as well -- it's easy to sense his presence, as if he got up and left the room right before the tour group entered.



In fact, the castle is filled with an extensive collection of ceramics embedded in the concrete of the house, as well as other artifacts from his world travels, including cuneiform tablets discovered in Mesopotamia dating back to earlier than 2300 BCE.



The home also contains around 1,000 prints from Mercer's extensive collection, as well as over six thousand books. Mercer created his concrete castle, filling it with concrete furniture as well, to preserve his collections from fire.



Getting there: East Court Street & Route 313, Doylestown, PA 18901.

Hours: Fonthill Castle is open Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday noon-5 p.m., guided tours only. Last tour at 4 p.m. There is ample free parking at both places.

Website: http://www.fonthillmuseum.org






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Even the floors were exquisitely tiled!


Made possible by Visit Bucks County

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