11 Years of Holidailies!
Visiting Santa Redux

A Castle Made of Concrete


I alluded to this amazing structure yesterday, so it seems like a good idea to tell you about it today!

This is Fonthill Castle. It's made entirely of concrete!

A Castle Made of Concrete
Fonthill Castle

Henry Mercer built this castle in Doylestown, Pennsylvania because:

  • He wanted to live in his very own castle in his hometown.
  • He had the money and the land to do it.
  • He wanted a way to show off his collection of ceramic tiles and prints.

Henry was born in 1856 in Doylestown, PA. As a young man, he traveled all over Europe, courtesy of his wealthy aunt, and fell in love with castles. He was a very talented ceramic artist influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement. He founded the Moravian Tile Works, which produced beautiful ceramic tiles and mosaics.

It took Henry four years to build Fonthill, from 1908 to 1912. He lived there until his death in 1930.

Now, you'd think that the interior of a concrete castle would be kind of drab and sterile. You would be wrong. Henry decorated every one of the 44 rooms with his ceramic tiles embedded into the walls in amazing patterns. Some rooms had ancient cunieform tiles that Henry collected during his travels.

Joe and I took a tour of the castle and we were amazed and agog. There's absolutely no rhyme or reason to the layout. Henry evidently just built the thing rather organically, so the rooms curve and flow, staircases just erupt out of the floor and wind around between the stories and half-stories. Some of them are wide; others are narrow and windy. There's even a steep, narrow staircase named after his dog, Rollo.

Oh, and Henry was also very modern for his time. The castle had several full bathrooms tucked in the weird little nooks and crannies by the guest bedrooms, electric lights (Edison bulbs!), and a neat phone-based system that guests used to call the servants if they needed something. Speaking of the guest rooms, Henry had built-in desks and armoires in them -- yep, concrete!

Henry never married. Evidently he was quite the partier in his youth, because he contracted gonorrhea. He did not want to infect anyone else, so he remained single. So, even though he did behave scandalously, he did have some scruples!