Destination Pennsylvania: Fonthill Castle

Destination PA

DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (WJET) — In the heart of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, you’ll find one of the most unique castles in the world.

This was the home of Henry Chapman Mercer, a historian, archeologist, architect, and tile maker. He built Fonthill Castle from 1908 to 1912 in hopes that it would one day become a museum.

“It essentially was a culmination of all of his passions throughout his life,” Dan Miller, program manager at Fonthill said. “All the artifacts he collected, all the tiles that he’s making and generally all these things that are inspiring him and he builds this home not only for himself but for the public as well.”

Inside the concrete walls, you’ll find 44 rooms, 18 fireplaces, 30 staircases, and over 200 windows.

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“Every room is different,” Lisa Crawford, a donor to Fonthill said. “Every corner you go around, it’s another wow experience.”

Around every turn, thousands of tiles from Mercer’s businesses are displayed from floor to ceiling.

“Mercer thought tiles were a great art form to be able to tell stories,” Miller said. “And you see that love of storytelling show in the tiles all throughout the house here.”

And speaking of stories, you’ll also find Mercer’s collection of over 6,000 books.

“One of the interesting things is we know he read a lot of them,” Miller said. “We can tell this because what he’ll do is he’ll write notes in reviews in the margins.

“One of his infamous reviews was Ernest Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms. He called the book ‘as convincing as a tapeworm and as charming as a bottle of dead flies.'”

While he may not have liked every book, we know he truly loved preserving the past for future generations by leaving behind a museum with tens of thousands of unusual artifacts from around the world.

“You can come back to Fonthill 60 times,” Crawford said. “And every time you’ll find something different to be amazed by the tiles, Henry’s books, etc. I could go on and on.”

 A breathtaking and massive collection of American and ancient artifacts that are truly a must-see.

 Said Miller: “It’s one of the most unique buildings to visit, not just in Pennsylvania, but within the country itself.”

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