No need to “hop across the pond” to look for castles when we have our fair share of majestic architectural experiences that will give you the royal treatment right here in Pennsylvania! From actual castles to Gothic-style mansions, libraries, prisons, and a former mill, visit these stylistic feats of castle fancy and learn a bit of the history that lead to their construction.
1. Fonthill Castle and Mercer Museum
Type of experience: Historical museum
Featuring hand-crafted ceramic tiles and majestically painted ceilings, Fonthill Castle and the Mercer Museum are reminiscent of a time before the industrial revolution. The home of noted industrialist and archaeologist, Henry Chapman Mercer, Fonthill Castle was built with reinforced concrete, boasts 44 rooms, 200+ windows, and 18 fireplaces, and showcases Mercer’s exquisite collection of tiles and prints. The nearby Mercer Museum houses exhibits from the arts and crafts movement and tools collected by Mercer to preserve that era.
2. Castle at Little Roundtop
Type of experience: Civil War battlefield
Take in the scenic view of the Civil War battlefield at Gettysburg in the Castle at Little Round Top. The memorial represents the 12th and 44th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiments. In their honor, the tower stands 12 feet square and 44 feet high and was designed by Union General Daniel Butterfield who also adapted the music for “Taps.” Visitors can climb a spiral staircase to the second-floor observation deck of the castle-like structure, but the tower itself is not open to the public.
3. Stokesay Castle and The Knight’s Pub
Type of experience: Fine dining restaurant and wedding venue
You just might feel like you’ve traveled back in time to the days of Camelot and his round table with a trip to Stokesay Castle and its on-premises restaurant, The Knight’s Pub. Enjoy a dinner fit for royalty at this very upscale pub, complete with its immense hearth and fireplace. Stokesay Castle was built in 1931 as a wedding gift, and inspired by a 13th century English castle by the same name. How fitting it is now a prime wedding venue with its magnificent views, gorgeous stone arches, and flowing fountains; you just might think you’ve stepped into a fairytale!
4. Nemacolin Castle
Type of experience: Historic site and museum
Nemacolin Castle, also known as Bowman’s Castle, was originally built in 1789 to house Jacob Bowman’s nine children and his trading post. It was expanded throughout the 1800s into the 22-room castle it is today. Recently renovated by the Brownsville Historical Society, the castle has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places for nearly 50 years.
Other Spots with Castle-Like Inspiration
These next locations may not have “castle” in their title, but they’re serving up some serious castle-like vibes that will make you revel in the architectural wonder and maybe even make you reevaluate your dream house goals.
5. Fisher Fine Arts Library
Type of experience: Library
The Fisher Fine Arts Library was built in the heart of the University of Pennsylvania campus in the 1890s. With towering staircases, stained-glass windows, high ceilings in the reading room, and a fortress-like exterior, the building brings to mind both a castle and a majestic cathedral. Today the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been declared a National Historic Landmark.
6. Buhl Mansion Guesthouse & Spa
Type of experience: Bed & Breakfast
Happy Travelers will marvel at the exquisite detail of the Buhl Mansion. The Richardsonian Romanesque mansion was built in the 1890s as a gift from Frank Buhl to his new wife, Julia. Today, you can get a taste of royal life as the mansion is now an exquisite bed and breakfast, with gorgeous rooms decorated with the castle’s first family in mind. Be sure to book some time to relax and indulge at their luxurious and opulent on-site spa!
7. Eastern State Penitentiary
Type of experience: Historical prison
Housing Al Capone and other notable criminals throughout its long history, Eastern State Penitentiary was the world’s first true penitentiary and also the largest building in the U.S. when it opened in 1829. With its 30-foot, barrel vaulted hallways and tall arched windows, the penitentiary’s interior was built to resemble a church and inspire penitence, while the exterior with its Gothic façade resembling a medieval castle was built to intimidate and deter crime. No longer housing inmates, it’s now open for you to tour.
8. Bryn Athyn Cathedral
Type of experience: Cathedral
A project of the Pitcairn family, Bryn Athyn Cathedral’s symbolic building incorporates the teachings of the New Church. Built between 1913 and 1928, the main cathedral is Gothic style, while some of the adjacent buildings take on a Romanesque style. Take a guided tour to learn about this exquisite building and the 300 local artisans who built this magnificent architectural wonder during the height of the American Arts & Crafts Movement using old world craftsmanship. Please be respectful when visiting; the cathedral continues to be the central place of worship for Bryn Athyn Church and a gathering place for members of the New Church throughout the world.
9. Hawley Silk Mill
Type of experience: Repurposed silk mill
Shop and eat as you make your way through the Hawley Silk Mill, a 19th-century mill disguised as a castle and the largest bluestone structure in the world. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and no longer a functioning textile mill, the multipurpose space now houses art galleries, bakery and coffee shop, fitness center, and variety of shops, and continues to be a centerpiece of the community.
10. Grey Towers
Type of experience: Historic Site
Grey Towers was built as a summer home in 1886 for the family of James and Mary Pinchot — the parents of Gifford Pinchot, the 28th Governor of Pennsylvania and first chief of the United States Forest Service. Designed by Robert Morris Hunt, the leading architect of the era, the Pinchot summer home was built to reflect the family’s French heritage. The mansion and garden are open for guided tours and the grounds for self-guided tours seven days a week year-round.
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