Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Castles in the United States

Grayskull

I immediately think of that cur Skeletor trying to break into Castle Grayskull when I hear someone talk about a castle; while most people’s thoughts would turn to a large fortified stone structure from long, long ago which housed nobility. We think about the Royal families who were entrusted with these buildings. We think of the fortified castles surrounded by a mote sitting on huge expanses of land in England, on the rolling countryside in Scotland, or even in Colorado? So America isn’t exactly on the location list when you imagine a ‘castle’ huh? Well you would be surprised at the number of castles there are here in America. So you know what I do…I make a list. So I have put together Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Castles in the United States.


 

Honorable mention: Bannerman Castle, Pollepel Island, NY –

Construction stopped on Bannerman Castle after the death of its owner, military goods supplier Francis Bannerman; but it was the explosion, a fire, and having been left to the elements for many decades that has led to the castle being labeled as unsafe due to the decaying walls and ‘buried hazards’. The castle is only located 50 miles north of New York City, but it’s up to you whether its worth the trouble of kayaking over.

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10. Belvedere Castle, New York, New York – 

Originally designed in 1865, the castle was built to be nothing more than a folly inside of an already beautiful location. The castle was built inside New York’s scenic historic Central Park. The architectural hybrid of Gothic and Romanesque styles serves many purposes since it has served as a weather tower for the National Weather Service, as well as the interior housing a nature observatory.

9. Gillette Castle, East Haddam, Connecticut – 

Known for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes on the theatrical stage and in a 1916 silent film (that was famously thought to be lost but was recently found in 2014); but it is my guess that he is best known for his Castle. Known as Gillette Castle, the stone castle sits on a bluff overlooking the Connecticut River. The off-beat actor designed the outside to appear to be a medieval castle, while the castle’s interior is more modern and riddled with strange features; like a surveillance mirrors and 60 paintings that pay tribute to his cats…all 17 of them.

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8. Fonthill Castle, Doylestown, Pennsvylvania – 

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972; the concrete, 44 room castle was completed in 1912. The castle was the home of archeologist and tile maker Henry Chapman Mercer. The castle, as well as other facilities owned by Mercer, are now opened to the public to showcase his collection of pottery and art.

7. Gresham’s Castle (aka The Bishop’s Place), Galveston, Texas – 

The elaborately built Victorian-style 19,082 square feet house was finished in 1893 by Galveston architect Nicholas J. Clayton for lawyer and politician Walter Gresham and his family. After the death of Clayton, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Galveston purchased the house and it was the residence of Bishop Christopher Byrne until the diocese office moved to Houston. After that the diocese opened the castle to the public in 1963 and gave the proceeds from the tours to help fund Catholic students at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

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6. Castello di Amorosa, Calistoga, California – 

From a distance, you would think that you had been transported to 12th or 13th century Tuscany but in all actuality you are in the Napa Valley. Construction actually began in 1995 on this 107 room structure and everything from the hand chiseled stones to the hand made nails to the hand-painted frescoes that are sprawled throughout this 121,000 square-foot castle. The historically accurate castle is the perfect place to feel like royalty; as you sample the best wine that Napa Valley has to offer.

5. Bishop Castle, Beulah, Colorado –

When Jim Bishop started building a cabin out of locally sourced stone in 1969; he had no intentions of building a castle. It was only after a friend told him that it looked like he was building a castle; so he did just that. Bishop hand built the 3 story, 160-foot-tall castle by himself. And because no medieval style castle would be complete without a dragon; Bishop built a metallic dragon that juts out from the roof and on special occasions shoots real fire and smoke through its nose.

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4. Boldt Castle, Heart Island, New York – 

Before being purchased by the Thousand Island Bridge Authority in 1977, George Boldt (owner of the luxurious Waldorf-Astoria Hotel) purchased one of the Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence River and started constructing a castle. The six-story castle was built in honor of his wife, Louise. Louise suddenly died in 1904 before the castle was completed. Boldt was broken hearted over his wife’s death and never returned to the island. Until the Thousand Island Bridge Authority purchased the castle, restored it, and opened it to the public; the castle sat abandoned.

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3. Iolani Palace, Honolulu, Hawaii – 

There is only one castle in the United States that can claim to house royalty. That United States royal palace was built for King Kalakua and Queen Kapi’olani. Finished in 1882, this luxurious and elaborately decorated with koa wood, ebony furniture and even was complete with a throne room. Kalakaua was influenced to build the elaborate castle to immolate the majestic palaces that he had seen on his journeys. The Iolani palace had the most modern amenities at that time. The gas chandeliers were replaced with electric lighting five years; which was only seven years after Edison invented the first practical incandescent bulb. The palace also had the newly invented telephone installed. Sadly when the US government overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893, Queen Lili’uokalani was dethroned. She was actually imprisoned in the beautiful, amenity advanced palace for many months. The Iolani Palace was renovated in the 1970s and was opened to the public in 1978 after being restored to its original glory.

2. Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California

Before Hearst Castle and the estate “La Cuesta Encantada (“The Enchanted Hill”) became a California State Park in 1954, owner of the largest newspaper chain and media company Hearst Communications; American businessman, politician, and flamboyant newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst built himself a residence that matched his larger than life personality. In its heyday, the castle was the location for socialites, Hollywood stars and the political elite to party. The likes of Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, Charles Lindbergh, Joan Crawford, Jimmy Stewart, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and many other high profile guests would drive in, use the estate’s personal airfield to fly in or would use the private Hearst-owned train car in from Los Angeles. The Hearst Corporation donated the estate to the California State Parks but made sure that the stipulation would be that the family would be able to use the facility whenever they wanted. And who could blame them?

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1. Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina – 

Known to be the largest privately owned home in the United States, the Bitlmore Estate was the home of one of America’s most prominent families: the Vanderbilts. The Vanderbilts amassed a huge fortune and George Washinton Vanderbilt II was the favorite of his father. The Chateauesque-style mansion is a prominent example of the Gilded Age and still stands today as a beautiful piece of history. The house took 7 years to complete and the final brick was cured in the facilities kiln in 1896. The 135,280 square feet of living area inside the Biltmore House are waiting for you to come and tour.


Images:

Featured Image – Bannerman’s Castle on Pollepel Island from the left bank of the Hudson River by User:Leonard G. – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2417637

Castle Grayskull credit to Mattel and Filmation – Fair use.

Belvedere Castle in Central Park, New York City by Captain-tucker – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5553491

Fonthill Castle, Doylestown, PA by Andrearamirez – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21552746

Castello di Amorosa front by Oleg Alexandrov – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36814168

Heart Island, Fair Use – https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=242469

Iolani Palace By Cliff from Arlington, Virginia, USA – `Iolani Palace, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56821183

The Bitlmore House on the Biltmore Estate by and attributed to Ken Thomas – KenThomas.us (personal website of photographer), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10314274

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