Castle hunting may be a popular summer pastime for travelers backpacking through Europe, but stateside wanderers should get to know the majestic medieval-inspired estates in remote locations across the U.S. as well. From a Napa Valley vineyard with an onsite, Tuscan-style castle to an extravagant island hideaway in New York, the U.S. is home to a surprising array of structures complete with turrets, moats and dramatic stairways. Step into a real-life European fairytale with a visit to these five properties.
Sitting atop a bluff overlooking the Atlantic, Hammond Castle appears to come straight out of a tale of brave knights and royal courts. Scientist John Hays Hammond Jr. designed the castle to house a large collection of artifacts he collected during his travels, including a massive, 8,400-pipe organ which took a team of builders ten years to design and construct. Today, the castle’s stone archways, wooden facades and antiquities transport the trappings of Old Europe to northeast Massachusetts, less than 40 miles from Boston. For the complete medieval experience, visitors can opt for a candlelit tour of the property on Thursday nights.
Alexandria Bay, New York
After amassing a fortune over the span of two decades in the late 19th-century luxury hotel business, millionaire George C. Boldt began construction of bayfront Boldt Castle in 1900 as an extravagant tribute to his wife, Louise Kehrer Boldt. But when his beloved suffered an untimely death four years later, shortly before the project was complete, Boldt ceased all construction and the castle sat abandoned to the elements for 73 years. In 1977, the six-story Rhineland castle was acquired by a public benefit corporation and preserved to reflect Boldt’s original blueprint. Its Italian garden, Playhouse Tower and grand rooms are open for self-guided tours from mid-May through mid-October.
Thornewood Castle Bed & Breakfast
Flanked by fir trees and lush Northwestern foliage, this residence was built in 1908 and fashioned after English Tudor and Gothic architecture. But it’s not just the design that harkens back half a millennium – Thornewood’s structure was built using pieces from a deconstructed, 400-year-old English manor purchased by its namesake founder, Chester Thorne. Today, Thornewood lives on as a bed and breakfast and popular wedding venue located 40 miles south of Seattle. Guests may also recognize the castle from its many film and television appearances, including the 2007 Oscar-winning film, There Will Be Blood.
Castello di Amorosa
Not all 13th-century Tuscan castles were built in the Italian Middle Ages. Construction of Napa Valley’s Castello di Amorosa might have started in 1994, but only medieval building methods and materials used 700 years ago were employed to construct this 107-room, eight-story castle. Having cultivated a fascination for medieval architecture during his European travels in the early ‘70s, entrepreneur Dario Sattui returned to the U.S. and re-established his great-grandfather’s St. Helena vineyard in 1972. Two decades later, he purchased another 171-acre vineyard in nearby Calistoga–16 miles from Santa Rosa–with the construction of Castello di Amorosa beginning onsite one year later. Among the castle’s most distinct features are a moat, drawbridge and, of course, a wine cellar.
Dating back to the early 18th-century, Fonthill Castle was originally built to be a home that would double as a private hand-crafted ceramic tile museum for archaeologist and antiquarian Henry Chapman Mercer. The museum, which is located just 35 miles from Allentown and attracts over 30,000 visitors annually, is not only known for the medieval, Byzantine and Gothic tiles and prints that fill it – it’s also one of the earliest examples of a structure built using reinforced concrete. Visit the castle when it re-opens next month to see its forty-four rooms, more than two hundred windows, and eighteen fireplaces for yourself.