Pennsylvania might not be the first place you think of when looking for castles, but we have our fair share of majestic architectural experiences that will give you the royal treatment. From actual castles, Gothic-style mansions, and libraries to a prison and a former mill, Happy Travelers will revel in exploring these stylistic feats and learning the history behind 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 Mercer Museum takes guests to a time before the industrial revolution. Fonthill Castle was designed as archaeologist Henry Mercer Chapman’s home and showcase for his exquisite collection of tiles and prints. The Mercer Museum houses exhibits from the arts and crafts movement and tools Mercer collected to preserve the era. Both sites are open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
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 44th New York and two companies from the 12th New York Infantry Regiment. In their honor, the tower stands 44 feet high and 12 feet square. It was also designed by Union General Daniel Butterfield who adapted the music for “Taps.”
3. Stokesay Castle
Type of experience: Fine dining restaurant and wedding venue
Experience a fairytale wedding at Stokesay Castle surrounded by magnificent views, gorgeous stone arches, and flowing fountains. Built in 1931 and restored in 2009, Stokesay Castle was inspired by a 13th century English castle by the same name and was intended as a wedding gift for the newlywed Hiester couple. Today it serves not only as a destination wedding venue but also a fine dining establishment with American cuisine. Fulfill your fairytale dream by indulging in world class food in The Lord’s Dining Room.
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 and was expanded throughout the 1800s into the 22-room castle it is today. Recently renovated by the Brownsville Historical Society, visitors can tour the castle from noon to 5 p.m. on the weekend or seven days a week by appointment.
Other Spots with Castle-Like Inspiration
While these next locations may not have castle in their title, they’re serving up some serious castle-like vibes that will make you revel in architectural wonder and maybe even make you reevaluate your dream house goals.
5. Fisher Fine Arts Library
Type of experience: Library
Built in the heart of the University of Pennsylvania’s campus in the 1890s, the Fisher Fine Arts Library features towering staircases, stained-glass windows, high ceilings in the reading room, and a fortress-like exterior. Today the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been declared a National Historic Landmark. The space is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
6. Buhl Mansion Guesthouse & Spa
Type of experience: Bed & Breakfast
Happy Travelers will marvel at the exquisite detail of the Buhl Mansion in Sharon. The Richardsonian Romanesque mansion was built in the 1890s as a gift from Frank Buhl to his new wife Julia. Today, the mansion runs as a bed and breakfast, and guests reside in gorgeous rooms decorated with the castle’s first family in mind.
7. Glencairn Museum
Type of experience: Museum of religious art and history
Bryn Athyn’s Glencairn Museum is home to more than 10,000 historical objects and is dedicated to educating audiences of all backgrounds about the history of religion. The museum, originally completed in the 1920s as a home for the Pitcairn family, has hosted guided tours, lectures, and concerts since the 1990s. Tours of the museum are available Tuesday through Sunday, and appointments are recommended.
8. Bowman’s Tower
Type of experience: Historical look-out tower
View 14 miles of Bucks County countryside from high above the treetops at Bowman’s Tower. This massive 125-foot-tall tower in Washington Crossing was constructed atop Bowman’s Hill in 1931 to commemorate what may have been a lookout for George Washington’s troops. Visitors can choose to use the elevator to travel to the top of the tower or use the spiral staircase. The tower ticket rates are $7 per person and is open weekly from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
9. Eastern State Penitentiary
Type of experience: Historical prison
Formerly home to Al Capone, Eastern State Penitentiary was the world’s first true penitentiary, and was the largest building in the U.S. when it became operational in 1829. Since the building itself was intended to deter crime, Eastern State was designed to resemble a medieval castle. Today, it is open year-round, seven days a week for guided and audio tours as well as the popular Halloween attraction, Terror Behind the Walls.
10. Woodmont Manor House
Type of experience: Historical estate
Completed in 1894, the 72-acre Woodmont Manor House is a National Historic Landmark operated by the International Peace Mission Movement and dedicated by Reverend M. J. Divine. Guided tours are available on Sundays, April through October and September 10, 11, and 12. Visitors are required to adhere to the modest dress code: no shorts or sleeveless tops and women should wear a dress or skirt.
11. Bryn Athyn Cathedral
Type of experience: Cathedral
Another 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. Guided tours are available Tuesday through Sunday 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
12. Braddock Carnegie Library
Type of experience: Historic library
Constructed in 1888 and restored in 1998, the first Carnegie Library in the U.S., Braddock Carnegie Library, is home to an adult library on the first floor and children’s library on the second. The medieval style was designed by William Halsey Wood and later additions included a swimming pool, gymnasium, and a 964-seat music hall, which is currently undergoing restoration. The library is open to the public Monday through Saturday.
13. Hawley Silk Mill
Type of experience: Repurposed silk mill
Shop and eat as you make your way through Hawley Silk Mill, a 19th-century mill disguised as a castle, now turned multipurpose space. From art and clothing to a cigar shop and furniture store, the mill has redefined itself with weekly events year-round.
14. Grey Towers
Type of experience: Historic Site
Grey Towers was built in Milford by the father of Gifford Pinchot, the 28th Governor of Pennsylvania and first chief of the United States Forest Service. Leading architect of the era Robert Morris Hunt designed the Pinchot summer home to reflect the family’s French heritage. The grounds are open for self-guided tours seven days a week year-round, and guided tours of the mansion are run by the U.S. Forest Service and begin Memorial Day weekend.
15. Bonus stop:
You’ll need a plane to get to this next “Pennsylvania castle.” Located in Dorset, England, Pennsylvania Castle was built by John Penn, grandson of Pennsylvania founder William Penn. The neo-Gothic castle dates to the early 19th century. Today, the castle is available for family gatherings and special occasions.
Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram to stay up-to-date on even more great ideas and places to visit around our state. Don't forget to never miss an update and sign up for our monthly Happy Thoughts e-newsletter.