On our last trip to the Philadelphia area, we visited and toured Fonthill Castle in Doylestown, PA. This palatial castle was built in the early 1900s by Henry Chapman Mercer and is filled with antique ceramic tiles and thousands of other objects he collected during his lifetime. Mercer was an archaeologist, anthropologist, scholar, antiquarian and ceramist (the Moravian Pottery & Tile Works is on the same land, just behind the castle). They offer a family tour on the first Saturday of each month, though I think the docents are happy to have kids any time. We weren't allowed to take photos inside the castle, so let me try to explain how amazing and unusual the interior was.
Mercer created Fonthill as his home and showplace for his many collections–and it was truly filled to the brim with amazing things! Our docent had wonderful stories about many of the items, but we also spent a lot of time just marveling at the detailed tiles of every color covering the floor, walls and ceilings. During the tour, you walk from the tippy-top of the roof (six stories up!) all the way to the basement, learning how Mercer mixed Medieval, Gothic and Byzantine architectural styles while creating a “Castle for the New World” of poured concrete.
A note–there were lots of skinny and steep stairs. The older folks in our group had a little trouble navigating, and I would definitely recommend wearing sturdy shoes (not flip-flops or anything with a heel).
We marveled at the 44 rooms with over 200 windows–all the rooms were different shapes and sizes–and each had a different specific purpose.
Admission to Fonthill Castle is $14/adults, $12/seniors, and $8/youth (6-17). Kids 5 and under are free. Fonthill Castle is part of the Blue Star Museums program, where active military and their families receive FREE admission from Memorial Day through Labor Day each year. Parking is free.
Learn more at the Fonthill Castle website, and consider a trip to the Mercer Museum as well, which is just a few miles away. We didn't get there during this trip but will do it next time we're up that way. There's a dual ticket you can purchase to do both sites, and the Museum has a traveling Lego exhibit this fall & winter (whoo hoo!).