For Architectural Digest, by Jenny Bristol.
With their thick walls and iron-clad windows, most of the world’s castles were originally built to keep enemies at bay. Medieval warfare was a thing of the past, though, when castles started to appear in America. These extravagant structures were built not as fortresses but as temples to wealth and power — often by business magnates. Today some are located far from civilization, while others are in the middle of cities. They range from stately manors to grand civic buildings. Castles in the U.S. may not have as long a history as the great castles of Europe, but their stories can be just as fascinating. Here AD rounds up 13 of the most marvelous castles across the country.
“Castles in the U.S. may not have as long a history as the great castles of Europe, but their stories can be just as fascinating.”
Located in Alexandria Bay, New York, Boldt Castle, built by hotel magnate George C. Boldt for his wife, is tucked away in the St. Lawrence Seaway and now operates as a tourist destination and romantic getaway.
Designed in the Mediterranean Revival style, Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California, built by publisher William Randolph Hearst, contains Hearst’s collection of valuables, as well as a magnificent indoor swimming pool. In 1972, the castle was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
An early example of poured concrete construction, Fonthill Castle in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, was built by American archeologist and designer Henry Chapman Mercer to showcase his decorative tiles and prints.
The Smithsonian Castle in Washington, D.C., housed the specimens and exhibits of the Smithsonian Institution before the museum expanded. Constructed in the mid-1800s, the grand building was designed by architect James Renwick Jr. (who also built St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City).
A Gothic Revival mansion, Lyndhurst Castle in Tarrytown, New York, was owned by railroad tycoon Jay Gould. The exterior of the building was made of the same limestone quarried to create Sing Sing, a present-day correctional facility in Ossining, New York.
New York’s Singer Castle, located on Dark Island in the St. Lawrence Seaway, was constructed by Frederick Gilbert Bourne, complete with secret passageways and a clock tower.
The Cranston Street Armory in Providence — the former home of the Rhode Island National Guard — was labeled as one of 2015’s “Most Endangered Properties” by the Providence Preservation Society.
Onetime home to the Vanderbilt family, the 135,280-square-feet Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, is the largest residence in America. The Châteauesque-style mansion is one of the best remaining examples of the Gilded Age architecture, a time of rapid economic growth in the country.
Now used as a boarding school, Searles Castle in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, was designed by Stanford White and completed in 1915. The building — made of cut granite, fieldstone, and red sandstone — cost $1.25 million to construct (roughly $29 million today).
Inspired by a castle in Luxembourg, Bettendorf Castle in Fox River Grove, Illinois, includes a moat, a wishing well, and a drawbridge. The Gothic-style structure took its owner, Theodore Bettendorf, 36 years to build. The façade of the castle contains stones he collected from local fields and nearby stone quarries.
Long Island’s Oheka Castle, which was completed in 1919 for financier Otto Herman Kahn by architecture firm Delano & Aldrich, includes grounds by the Olmstead Brothers. The castle now operates as a hotel and event space and is a popular location for movie, music video, and television shoots.
Belvedere Castle in Manhattan’s Central Park was created in 1869 by landscape designer Calvert Vaux, who worked with Frederick Law Olmstead on the plan of the park. The folly is used as a visitor’s center, gift shop, and a weather station.
Nineteenth-century architect Richard Morris Hunt took inspiration from Loire Valley châteaus for the design of Ochre Court, the Newport, Rhode Island mansion of real estate magnate Ogden Goelet. The building was donated to the Religious Sisters of Mercy in 1947 and now houses the administrative offices of Salve Regina University.
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