If you ever thought castles are found only in Europe, think again. You don’t have to fly all the way across the Atlantic to see one — in fact, you’ll find some of them here in the US! But we’re not talking about the Disneyland castle, so we’ll leave it out for a while.
Sure, these American castles are not nearly as old as the castles in Britain, Scotland, Germany, or France, and they are not nearly as magnificent. But at least the architecture and design of the American castles are inspired by their European counterparts and this fact alone makes them worth your visit. While royals may not have lived in these castles, the American nobility — mostly pioneering business tycoons — built these massive and grand structures as their homes or maybe as an answer to their whimsical fantasies.
Located on the Heart Island in the Thousand Islands in of Saint Lawrence River, New York, the Boldt Castle was built in 1900 by hotel tycoon George Boldt to realize his dreams of creating a dream summer house — or a castle. Some areas of the 120-room castle remain unfurnished, while others are fitted with a mix of period and modern furnishings. It also features beautiful Italian gardens. Now a popular tourist attraction, the Boldt Castle is only accessible by water transportation such as a ferry or a private boat.
Why travel all the way to England to see medieval-style castles when you’ve got one in New England? You may have seen the Hammond Castle in passing, but it’s about time to do some serious visiting there. Situated in Gloucester, Massachusetts, Hammond Castle was built in 1925 by inventor John Hays Hammond Jr., credited for his contribution to the remote control. He also used the castle as his laboratory.
The castle now functions as a museum which features an assortment of Roman, medieval and Renaissance antique collections as well as exhibits of about Hammond’s life and his inventions. Some of the features of this castle include the Great Hall, indoor courtyard, library, and secret passageways.
Located on Pollepel Island in New York’s Hudson River, the Bannerman Castle actually used to be a storage area for military surplus — not a flattering use for a castle. It was built by Francis “Frank” Bannerman VI, a Scots-born immigrant to Brooklyn, New York, where he started a military surplus business. As his business grew, he needed a place to store his supplies. So in 1900 he eventually bought the Pollepel Island and constructed a warehouse there, built in a mock-Scottish castle style. This was the first of several developments that made the Pollepel Island perilous.
In 1969 a fire ravaged much of the castle, leaving it in ruins. Following the fire, the island was declared as off-limits to the public. What’s left of the ruins is the exterior walls, but they continue to be damaged by several factors: storms, vandalism, neglect, and continual decay. Some parts of the castle even collapsed in 2009. Despite warnings that visiting the Bannerman Castle could put tourists at great risk, the castle is still open for guided boat tours.
Archaeologist and tile maker Henry Chapman Mercer built this 44-room palace that he made as a home as well as a museum for his collection of tiles and prints. His most famous work, the Moravian tiles, were of course included in his exhibit. Mercer’s other properties, the Moravian Pottery, and Tile Works and the Mercer Museum are also located just less than a mile away from Fonthill Castle.
Somewhere in California’s Wine Country, there is a massive 13th-century style Tuscany castle that is otherwise a modern-era structure. Construction of the castle started in 1994, and in 2007 it was finally opened to the public. The Castello di Amorosa will surely live up to its name by satisfying your love for fine wines, excellent cuisine, and fantastically authentic-looking architecture — this winery is complete with drawbridge, moats, and fortress towers. This is like stepping back in time. Castello di Amorosa operates daily for tourists and also offers wine tastings.
Perching high over the Connecticut River, the Gillette Castle was once the home of actor/director/playwright William Hooker Gillette as part of his estate which is called Seventh Sister. It was built in 1914. While the exterior of the castle looks like it is left in ruins, inside the castle features some innovative furniture such as sliding tables. The estate used to have a railroad for visitors.
Hearst Castle was built by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. He had dreams of creating his own retreat which he formally dubbed “La Cuesta Encantada” (“the enchanted hill”). Construction began in 1919 and ended in 1947. Located in San Simeon, California, his castle is quite grandiose and beautifully adorned in every corner. It has 56 bedrooms, two ornate swimming pools (one indoor and one outdoor), a movie theater, gardens brimming with exotic varieties of flowers, lavishly decorated ceilings, and most of all Hearst’s vast art collection. It is open to the public daily.
The castle was designed by architects Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wesley Mould in 1865. It was originally meant as a “folly” (a structure primarily built for ornamental purposes) in the midst of Central Park, New York. However, in 1919 the castle was chosen by the National Weather Service as a weather tower, and it has been used since. The building also features an observation deck.
Bishop’s Palace is a grandiose house in Galveston, Texas. The castle’s original name was Gresham Castle, named after lawyer and politician Walter Gresham and his family. Some sources say that Gresham and architect Nicholas J. Grayton worked together to design the castle, although other sources state that it is only Grayton who designed it for Gresham. The castle was built from 1887 to 1892.
The castle later also functioned as a bishop’s residence, thus earning its more recent name. The Bishop’s Palace’s architectural style is usually categorized as Victorian, but it has an eclectic range of styles and materials used.
This mansion was built in 1913-14 by shoe magnate Thomas Gustave “Tom” Plant as a present to his second wife. The property is also called Lucknow Estate. This lovely house looks over Lake Winnipesaukee and the Ossipee Mountains, and its elevated location may have attributed to its name.
Castle in the Clouds’ architectural style is a fine example of Craftsman Style, which gives strong emphasis on building harmony with immediate surroundings. The castle may be smaller than other castles on this list, but it boasts several modern innovations such as a self-cleaning oven. It is open every day to the public and is accessible by taking a trolley up to the mountains.
The Lyndhurst Castle is located at a park by the Hudson River. It was designed in 1838 by architect Alexander Jackson Davis, one of the notable figures associated with the Gothic Revival movement. As expected, Davis applied this style to this sprawling and ornate country house. Among the notables who have lived in Lyndhurst Castle include William Paulding Jr. (NYC mayor), George Merritt (businessman), and Jay Gould (oil tycoon).
The Loveland Castle is also known as the Chateau Laroche. It was designed and built in 1929 by WWI veteran and medieval history expert Harry D. Andrews, who had a lifelong dream of building a castle. Built as a folly, the Loveland Castle now serves as a curiosity museum. And speaking of curiosity, the materials of the building also merit some interest: Andrews would obtain stones from nearby Little Miami River, and when he ran out of stones, he would mold his own bricks using cement and milk cartons.
Andrews, who was also a Boy Scout troop leader, died in 1981. His troop Knights of the Golden Trail (KGOT) inherited the castle from him and since then have maintained and renovated it throughout the years.
Grey Towers Castle is a building designed by a young architect Horace Trumbauer for sugar magnate William Welsh Harrison. The castle was constructed between 1893 and 1898. The Grey Towers Castle features an eclectic mix of styles from different periods, including the French Renaissance. The castle was later acquired by Arcadia University so it is now part of the campus grounds. Visitors can conduct self-guided tours whenever there are classes.
Oheka Castle is situated on the North Shore of New York’s Long Island. The mansion is also referred to as the Otto Khan Estate. It was built between the years 1914 and 1919 for banker and philanthropist Otto Hermann Khan.
The estate was ultimately closed in the 1970s and was left in almost complete disrepair from vandalism, fires, and neglect. Fortunately, extensive and painstaking repairs over the next two decades have restored the Oheka Castle to its fantastic old glory. It now serves as a luxury hotel and venue for several events such as weddings and conferences.