Henry Mercer’s concrete castle, an American treasure
Harvard-educated Henry Chapman Mercer built his storybook stone mansion with its turrets and balconies from the inside out, without using blueprints. Modeled after a 13th-century Rhenish castle, it has Gothic doorways, 32 sudden stairways, dead ends, and 44 rooms, each in a different shape.
The ceilings and walls are embedded with handcrafted tiles from Mercer’s kilns at the adjacent Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, along with ancient tiles from around the world. His collection of books, prints and Victorian engravings are preserved in this 1910 home, whose stark concrete exterior belies the ornate eccentric style of the interior. Fonthill, an American architectural treasure, was recently featured on the A&E program “America’s Castles.”
Mercer, an expert in prehistoric archaeology, a homespun architect and a writer of Gothic tales, built three memorable structures, including Fonthill, the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, and the Mercer Museum, on what’s now known as the Mercer Mile. All were constructed with reinforced concrete, using a technique perfected by Mercer in the early part of the 1900s.
Open daily – by guided tour only
Reservations are strongly suggested
Tiles, tiles and more tiles: Mercer didn’t stint on decorating his 44-room mansion with his own company’s handiwork.
Great Kids’ Stuff
Fonthill’s 200 windows, each in a different size and shape, are fun to look at and out of. Many, of course, are studded with Mercer’s colorful tiles.