Top 10 oldest castles in the United States
Top 10 oldest castles in the United States

While fairytale castles may be more associated with medieval Europe, the USA is actually home to many beautiful chateaus, mansions and palaces – you just need to know where to find them. We round up the most enchanting, oldest and beautiful American castles, from the grand Biltmore Estate in North Carolina to California’s Hearst Castle.

The List of top 10 oldest castles in the United States

10. Hammond Castle, Massachusetts

9. Thornewood Castle, Washington

8. Lyndhurst Mansion, New York

7. Smithsonian Castle

6. Fonthill Castle, Pennsylvania

5. Castello di Amorosa, California

4. Bannerman Castle, New York

3. Bishop’s Palace, Texas

2. The Breakers, Rhode Island

1. Bacon’s Castle

What are the oldest castles in the United States?

10. Hammond Castle, Massachusetts

Photo: Hammond Castle Museum
Photo: Hammond Castle Museum

Hammond Castle is located on the Atlantic coast in the Magnolia area of Gloucester, Massachusetts. The castle, which was constructed between 1926 and 1929, was the home and laboratory of John Hays Hammond, Jr. He was an inventor who was a pioneer in the study of remote control and held over four hundred patents. The building is composed of modern and 15th-, 16th-, and 18th-century architectural elements and sits on a rocky cliff overlooking Gloucester Harbor.

At present, the castle operates as the Hammond Castle Museum, displaying Hammond's collection of Roman, medieval, and Renaissance artifacts as well as exhibits about his life and inventions. The Great Hall contains a large pipe organ which has been used for concerts and recordings by many famous organists including Richard Ellsasser and Virgil Fox. Unfortunately, as of 2004, the organ is no longer functional. Tours are both guided and self-guided. Visitors may explore ten living areas (including a dining room, library, study, exhibit rooms, kitchen, and guest bedrooms), an inner courtyard, the northern towers and the Great Hall.

John Hays Hammond Jr. engaged the Boston, Massachusetts architectural firm of Allen & Collens in 1923 to design Hammond's dream residence, a medieval style castle. The original castle was to be a tower house built on his father's Lookout Hill compound. Hammond's close friend, Leslie Buswell, who would soon begin construction on his own nearby home, Stillington Hall, warned Hammond he was trying to recreate Chartres Cathedral, almost matching the 121' high nave of the cathedral. In 1924, Hammond called for a more modest redesign which would reduce the height of the structure from 120' to 87' and a footprint of 43' by 30', but maintain the tower house style. After being ordered from the Lookout Hill property by his parents, Hammond moved to purchase a new site a mile to the south near Norman's Woe Reef. A complete redesign was developed which resulted in a shorter castle (81') but larger footprint (142' by 70').

9. Thornewood Castle, Washington

Photo: Unique Moments Photography
Photo: Unique Moments Photography

The historic Thornewood Castle in Lakewood, Washington not only has a long and rich history, it is also called home to several resident ghosts.

This magnificent three-story manor home was built by Chester Thorne, one of the founders of the Port of Tacoma. Taking almost four years to complete, the 27,000 square foot manor was finally ready in 1911. Only the very best went into the building of the manor, including 400-year-old bricks from an original English castle.

Designed by the famous architect, Kirkland Cutter, the crystal windows were made in England and the stained glass panels date as far back as 1300. The English Tudor/Gothic mansion, having 54 rooms, including 28 bedrooms and 22 baths, is one of the few genuine private castles in the United States.

8. Lyndhurst Mansion, New York

Photo: Aqueduct
Photo: Aqueduct

The Lyndhurst Mansion was an architecturally brilliant design for a Gothic Revival mansion. This once private residence was passed down through multiple people and families. It was often used as a summer home until Anna, the Duchess of Talleyrand-Perigord came into possession of the beautiful estate. When the Dutchess died, she donated the Lyndhurst to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Lyndhurst Mansion survives and thrives as a taste of the 19th and 20th century. The mansion stayed intact mainly because it was used as a country home. The Lyndhurst Mansion reflects the three major families that lived there and the five major owners that had lived there before it was donated. Lyndhurst offers a Classic Mansion Tour perfect for first-time visitors, and two specialty tours recommended for visitors returning to Lyndhurst for a closer look at the site’s unique and unseen spaces.

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7. Smithsonian Castle

Photo: Washington Post
Photo: Washington Post

The Smithsonian Castle looks like it should housing exotic treasures. But it doesn’t really–at least, not many and not any more. The Smithsonian now sprawls across 19 different facilities, but this is the original building. And as you enter through the Mall entrance, you’ll pass the crypt of James Smithson, the institution’s founder, on your left.

There are some items on display there, especially in the West Wing, but for the most part the building serves as the administrative headquarters of the Smithsonian Institution.

It was completed in 1855 and designed by James Renwick Jr in a Gothic Revival style replete with the distinctive castle turrets. And research in recent years has revealed that its distinctive red bricks were quarried by slaves.

6. Fonthill Castle, Pennsylvania

Photo: Adrienne Matz Photography
Photo: Adrienne Matz Photography

Built between 1908-1912, Fonthill Castle was the home of Henry Chapman Mercer (1856-1930). Archaeologist, anthropologist, ceramist, scholar and antiquarian, Mercer built Fonthill Castle both as his home and as a showplace for his collection of tiles and prints. The first of three Mercer buildings in Doylestown, Fonthill Castle served as a showplace for Mercer’s famed Moravian tiles that were produced during the American Arts & Crafts Movement. Designed by Mercer, the building is an eclectic mix of Medieval, Gothic, and Byzantine architectural styles, and is significant as an early example of poured reinforced concrete.

Upon his death in 1930, Mercer left his concrete “Castle for the New World” in trust as a museum of decorative tiles and prints. He gave life rights to Fonthill Castle to his housekeeper and her husband, Laura and Frank Swain. In accordance with Mercer’s Will, Mrs. Swain resided in the house and conducted occasional tours until her death in 1975.

Upon her death, the Trustees of the Mercer Fonthill Museum determined to operate Fonthill Castle as a historic house museum and contracted with the Bucks County Historical Society to provide professional care and management. In 1990, the Bucks County Orphans court appointed the Trustees of the Bucks County Historical Society as the permanent Trustees of the Mercer Fonthill Museum thus solidifying the commitment to professionalism at the site. Fonthill Museum remains a separate legal entity from the Historical Society.

From 1976 to the present, Fonthill Castle has evolved into a unique professional museum that provides a full range of museum programs related to Mercer and his collections while maintaining a strong commitment to the preservation and conservation of the building and its collections.

5. Castello di Amorosa, California

Photo:  castellodiamorosa.com
Photo: castellodiamorosa.com

Castello di Amorosa is a winery located near Calistoga, California. The winery opened to the public in April 2007, as the project of a fourth-generation vintner, Dario Sattui, who also owns and operates the V. Sattui Winery named after his great-grandfather, Vittorio Sattui, who originally established a winery in San Francisco in 1885 after emigrating from Italy to California.

The winery property was once part of an estate owned by Edward Turner Bale. In 1993, Sattui purchased 171 acres (69 ha) for $3.1 million, then spent another $40 million to construct the castle, outbuildings, and the winery inside the castle; construction work began in 1995.

During the Glass Fire that began on September 27, 2020, the farmhouse suffered major damage, the entire 2020 vintage of the wine Fantasia was lost, but the castle was left unharmed.

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4. Bannerman Castle, New York

Photo: The roadtrippers
Photo: The roadtrippers

If you’ve ever taken the Metro-North along the Hudson line, you’ve likely noticed a petite and desolate land mass in the middle of the Hudson River, just a few miles north of Cold Spring. Known as Pollepel Island, it measures just 6.5 acres and isn’t home to much: There’s just one structure, a decaying building that’s hidden amid the trees and other foliage that have overtaken the island.

This is Bannerman’s Castle, a 19th-century relic that has been slowly crumbling into its surrounding environs. And while Pollepel Island and the castle itself are largely cut off from the public, they’re accessible for tours throughout summer and fall, and a fantastic reason to take a day trip upstate. (Of note: Tours are not wheelchair accessible, unfortunately.)

Though the structure may look like it was once a rich family’s enormous estate, its origins are actually a bit more humble. In the decades following the Civil War, it was the center of entrepreneur Francis Bannerman’s northeastern retail empire. Bannerman, who was born in Scotland but raised in Brooklyn, accumulated and sold surplus military goods from a young age, and began his catalog business following the war.

Construction began in 1901, and was never quite finished. Bannerman died in 1918, and a massive explosion damaged the edifice in 1920. Decades of decline, plus a huge fire in 1969, left the structure in ruins by the 1990s, when the Bannerman Castle Trust was established. Neil Caplan, a Beacon resident, founded the organization—today, he’s one of several guides who lead regular tours of the island, and has a hand in planning the special events that take place there.

3. Bishop’s Palace, Texas

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

The grand 1886 Bishop’s Palace was designed by noted architect Nicholas Clayton for prominent politician, businessman and former Confederate Col. Walter Gresham. The Galveston Houston Diocese of the Catholic Church later purchased the house for Bishop Christopher Byrne. The American Institute of Architects designated Bishop’s Palace as one of the 100 outstanding buildings in the United States. A National Historic Landmark, Bishop’s Palace is also listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is considered one of the country’s most significant examples of a Victorian residence. Boasting a dramatic turret on the southeast corner, the mansion features an exquisite interior, with marble columns, 14-foot ceilings, an octagonal mahogany stairwell, spectacular stained glass, woodcarvings, and decorative plaster ceilings and walls. Bishop’s Palace is open to the public for several tours throughout the week offering varying degrees of access to the rooms.

2. The Breakers, Rhode Island

Photo: Lost New England
Photo: Lost New England

Of all the extravagant mansions built in Newport in the late 19th century, The Breakers is considered the most impressive. Once you enter the massive gates on The Breakers mansion tour, you’ll see exactly why! The Breakers mansion in Rhode Island was not just the treasured Vanderbilt “summer cottage,” but also showcased their power and influence at this time in America. Join us as we take you through The Breakers, and show why it’s the best mansion tour in Newport RI.

The original Breakers mansion was built in 1878 by tobacco giant Pierre Lorillard IV. Unfortunately, shortly after Cornelius Vanderbilt II purchased it the property burnt down in 1892. Yet, it wouldn’t be long before the Vanderbilts built a grander mansion on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean in Newport.

Completed in 1895, The Breakers Vanderbilt mansion was immediately a showstopper in Newport. Designed by famous architect Richard Morris Hunt, The Breakers is a 70 room Italian Renaissance-style mansion. The palaces of Turin and Genoa provided Hunt with inspiration. The Vanderbilts owned the mansion until 1972 when it was sold to the Preservation Society of Newport County.

1. Bacon’s Castle

Photo: Prologue Systems
Photo: Prologue Systems

Bacon’s Castle is the oldest brick dwelling in North America and was built for Arthur Allen and his family in 1665. Originally known as Allen’s Brick House, it earned the moniker “Bacon’s Castle” in 1676 when several of Nathaniel Bacon’s men occupied the home for four months during the uprising that became known as Bacon’s Rebellion.

Bacon’s Castle is a rare example of High Jacobean architecture. The home features a reconstructed 17th-century English formal garden restored by the Garden Club of Virginia. Several outbuildings also survive, including an 1830 slave dwelling.

Preservation Virginia acquired Bacon’s Castle in the 1970’s at auction and meticulously researched, restored and furnished the house in the 1980’s.

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