Historic castle showcases multicultural art

Fonthill Castle museum, formerly the home of Henry Mercer, a tile artisan, displays handcrafted tiles from around the world. (Photo Courtesy of Gina Kramer)

By Gina Kramer
Correspondent

When you hear the word “history,” you typically think of the subject itself and how it pertains to moments in the past — but what if you could reflect on one of these moments first hand, without the books or the recordings? Fonthill Castle in Doylestown, Pa. is both a local piece of history and a culture shock to those who are willing to experience it.

Constructed in 1912, the castle was built as the dream home of Henry Mercer, a locally renowned archeologist, tile maker and scholar. Mercer designed this solely concrete castle consisting of 44 rooms, 18 fireplaces, 32 stairwells and over 200 windows uniquely-shaped and placed to manage the angles of sunlight throughout the castle.

As a tile artisan, Mercer wanted the home to boast his greatest passion. It displayed a vast selection of handcrafted tiles and mosaics from all over the world. The majority of these tiles came from northern Africa, Iran and Turkey, as well as a selection that were made by Mercer himself. Outside of his multi-cultural collection, the overall architecture of the castle incorporates Medieval, Gothic and Byzantine styles allowing for a historic, elegant appearance.

The castle is a lucid representation of Mercer’s love for art, culture and design, and that can be seen in every aspect. From the artwork to the intricately designed rooms with all original furniture and belongings, this hidden treasure is a quick escape from the modern world and an enlightening trip into the past. But be aware, it is rumored that the spirit of Mercer’s housekeeper still lurks in the castle, making it one of the town’s most supernatural locations.

Student admission for Fonthill Castle is $8 with a proper ID. In addition to Mercer’s home, the nearby Mercer Museum showcases a collection of historic artifacts that Mercer gathered throughout the years. The museum mainly consists of handmade objects that had been gradually replaced with machinery. At the time, Mercer realized the extent to which technology was taking over, and wanted a place to preserve and protect these artifacts from the Industrial Revolution. Therefore, he created the Mercer Museum in order to influence and educate generations to come.

If this doesn’t inspire you, check out Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, also in Doylestown. This “working museum” will show you what it takes to create ceramics and mosaics such as those displayed in Mercer’s home and in the museum’s tile work shops.

Whether one wishes to see the original artwork of an ancient village at Fonthill Castle, obsolete handmade antiques at Mercer Museum, or live ceramic making at Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, the treasures are within reach. A scenic 40-minute drive will historically rich towns in Bucks county will definitely provide a worthwhile, intriguing experience. While visiting, grab a Starbucks a few blocks down at the Fountain House, the first tavern in the area.

For more information, please visit www.mercermuseum.org or call (215) 348-9461.