FONTHILL CASTLE & MERCEL MUSEUM
Fonthill Castle was built between 1908 and 1912 by the American Henry Chapman Mercer, an archaeologist, artifact collector and tile maker. Its architecture is an eclectic mix of various architectural styles; medieval, gothic and byzantine.
Mercer pioneered the design of three poured reinforced concrete buildings at a time when it was mostly built with wood: Fonthill Castle which was his home, The Moravian Pottery & Tile Works and the Mercer Museum.
The castle has 44 rooms, more than 200 windows, 18 fireplaces, 10 loos and a boudoir. The interior is a spitting image of his peculiar world, his eccentricity and his obsession with collecting, there is an extensive collection of ceramics embedded in the walls of the house, as well as other artifacts from his travels around the world, including cuneiform tablets discovered in Mesopotamia. dating from more than 2300 B.C.
“The house was projected by me, room by room, entirely, from the inside, without regard to the outside until all the rooms had been imagined and sketched, after which clay blocks representing the rooms were stacked on a table. , were placed together and modeled in a general outline. After many changes in the profile of the tower, roofs, etc. a scale plaster model was made and used until the building was completed.”
The castle also contains around 1,000 prints from Mercer’s extensive collection, as well as more than six thousand books, almost all of them annotated by Mercer himself.
Among the Mercer collection at the Mercer Museum are tools and other artifacts from the 18th and 19th centuries, gears from a watchmaker, items from a tortoiseshell comb maker, antique butcher’s implements, a whaler’s boat, and even a fake vampire hunting gear.
On his death in 1930, Mercer left his castle in trust as a museum of decorative tiles and prints. She gave life rights to Fonthill Castle to her housekeeper and her husband, Laura and Frank Swain. According to Mercer’s will, Ms. Swain resided in the house and made occasional tours until her death in 1975.
Photo SI @carlfinkbeiner