American Castles

Happy Friday everyone!

The weekend is finally here and you all have the opportunity to pack a bag and see what's beyond the bend. This fall season, when the leaves turn a ripe sienna red and the air lingers cool in your chest, set off someplace both spooky and beautiful for a very Halloween-esque getaway to an American castle!

We may not have a monarchy in this great country of ours but what we do have is a history of famous millionaires, ambitious individuals, and the freedom to create whatever home we want giving us a fabulous collection of castles right here in the United States. Let's get to touring, shall we?

Bettendorf Castle (AKA Vianden Castle) - Fox River Grove, IL

In 1931, a Luxembourg immigrant to the plains and forests of Illinois began building a slice of home, stacking stone upon stone until the sensational Bettendorf Castle was unveiled after 36 long years of work. Using masonry skills he'd learned as a boy, Bettendorf continued to create his vision, adding on a moat, drawbridge, observation tower, courtyard, and other amazing features. Although Bettendorf Castle is a private estate, the owners welcome groups to schedule tours of the castle and grounds to learn more about the builder, Teddy Bettendorf, and the history of his creation.

 

Biltmore Estate - Asheville, NC

In the ultimate show of wealth and stature, Biltmore Estate is the grand dame of private residences, the largest in America with over 8,000 acres and nearly 179,000 square feet of interior space. Châteauesque in style, Biltmore was the loving creation of the Vanderbilt family between the years 1889-1895, harking to the opulence of pre-revolution France. The house remains in the Vanderbilt family but is open for guests to tour the grounds and even stay in renovated hotel-style suites.  Choose between self-guided, audio, or guided tours of the estate and see the grounds, the winery, the stunning rooftop views, and the many thousand square feet of intensely beautiful Gilded Age imagination and privilege come to life.

 

Castello di Amorosa - Calistoga, CA

Set in the Tuscan-like landscape of California's Sonoma wine country is the medieval Tuscan built Castello di Amorosa, a working winery and vineyard designed to be an authentic replica of a genuine medieval castle. Over roughly 121,000 square feet you'll find a working drawbridge and moat, imported European stone walls, a grand Great Hall complete with a long table and tapestries, knights' chambers, defensive towers, and even an authentic torture chamber with a 300 year old iron maiden from Italy. Tours of the winery and castle include tastings for the over 21 crowd although the castle will be more than enough to keep your attention, strike your fancy, and invoke a feeling that you've traveled thousands of miles and gone back hundreds of years to medieval Europe.

 

Hammond Castle - Gloucester, MA

In the very European Gloucester region of the Massachusetts coastline lies the medieval-style castle of John Hays Hammond, Jr. Built between 1926 and 1929, Hammond Castle was the lovechild of inventor and avid collector, John Hammond, inventor of the remote control. The castle was a wedding present to his beloved wife Irene Fenton as a gift to show his love and is authentically decorated with Renaissance artifacts, Roman and medieval European art and objects collected from around the world.  Tour the house and grounds to see the inventions exhibit room displaying Hammond's patented inventions, the Renaissance dining room, the great hall and indoor courtyard, the War room, and a number of other areas including a secret passageway. Begin by watching a short film in the AV theater to learn the history of the family and even stroll beyond the house to tour the grounds and gardens on the Atlantic shoreline. P.S. Every Halloween for the past 28 years, the castle is transformed into a massive haunted house.

 

Boldt Castle - Thousand Islands, NY

Proprietor of the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City, millionaire George C. Boldt set out to build an incredible construction of his own, a rhineland castle on the shores of Heart Island. Like in the case of Hammond Castle, Boldt Castle was built as a representation of love and affection for his wife, Louise. In 1904, construction on the home was halted when Louise suddenly died and a broken-hearted Boldt decided he could  no longer finish his masterpiece. For years, the house stood vacant and untouched until restoration efforts were put into place in the late 1970s and the house was lovingly restored to its intended glory. Taking up the small island's entirety, the Castle estate includes Italian gardens, a dove cote, a grand ballroom, billiards room, beautiful interiors and, of course, a drawbridge.

 

Hearst Castle - San Simeon, CA

Set along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway, Hearst Castle is a unique and undeniably attractive mixture of Mediterranean Revival, Spanish, and Gothic influences. In 1919, William Randolph Hearst inherited the land upon which the castle sits and began building. By 1947, the Hearst couple had a grand estate with 165 rooms, 127 acres, and the castle had become a national landmark. Today, the estate is a combination of several  large "casas" and outbuildings set on the rugged cliffsides of central California. Tour to see the grand rooms outfitted with lush woodwork and opulent decor, the Neptune and Roman Bath pools, the original Hearst airstrip used as a personal airport, a fully stocked wine cellar, and the many acres of gardens, fountains, and more.

 

Fonthill Castle - Doylestown, PA

Straight from the imagination of archaeologist, anthropologist, and artist Henry Chapman Mercer, Fonthill Castle was built between 1908-1912 as a backdrop to display his impressive collection of acquisitions. With an eclectic and intense mixture of Gothic, Byzantine, and Medieval architectures, Fonthill was built not with imported stone but was one of the first examples of a building created with poured reinforced concrete. After Mercer's heir to Fonthill died, the house was established as a historic house museum and has continued to show museum exhibits and tours since. The Mercer Museum on site is a fabulous place to start and where you'll find all manner of exhibits with roughly 40,000 artifacts on display. The house itself is open for tours and events are regularly held on the grounds including an October special, Mercer's Night Tales, a spooky story telling session.