Built on its own island in the St. Lawrence River, Boldt Castle was commissioned by George C. Boldt, a millionaire hotel magnate, for his beloved wife Louise. Located on Heart Island near Alexandria Bay, New York, work on the castle was begun in 1900. Three hundred workers, carpenters, stonemasons, and artists all worked on the 120-room, six-story castle. Work stopped in 1904 when Mrs. Boldt suddenly died. It lay empty at the mercy of the elements until 1977 when the Thousand Island Bridge Authority acquired it and began its restoration. It is now open to the public.
America's only royal palace, 'Iolani Palace is the former home of King Kalakaua and his sister Queen Liliuokalani. King Kalakaua had it built in 1882 in what is now downtown Honolulu. King Kamehameha III made this site his official residence in 1845, but the history of the site fades into antiquity as possibly the site of an ancient place of worship. The palace grounds also contain the tombs of several Hawaiian kings and others of importance. The palace is open for tours.
George Washington Vanderbilt, the youngest son of railroad and steamboat tycoon William H. Vanderbilt, inherited his fortune from his father. In 1889 he put some of that inheritance to work in the construction of the largest private residence in the United States. The 250 rooms include 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, an indoor swimming pool, exercise room, 65 fireplaces, and covers four acres. Situated near Asheville, North Carolina, it is still a private residence owned by George Vanderbilt's descendants, but open to the public.
John Hays Hammond, Jr., known as "The Father of Remote Control," built his castle from 1926-1929 as a wedding present for his wife Irene, and to house his collection of Roman, Renaissance, and medieval artifacts. Second only to Thomas Edison, John Hammond, Jr. created ideas for over 800 inventions and held over 400 patents. A self-guided tour takes the castle-goer through the great hall, the Renaissance dining room, two guest bedrooms, the inventions exhibit room, kitchens, library, and other parts of the home.
Henry Chapman Mercer was an American archaeologist, anthropologist, antiquarian, and ceramist. He built Fonthill Castle between the years of 1908-1912 in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Serving as his home, the castle is an eclectic architectural mix of Byzantine, Gothic, and Medieval styles. It also houses his collections of prints and tiles. The castle used the poured-in-place concrete style, and has 44 rooms with over 200 windows. It contains many pieces of built-in furniture and many decorative tiles that Mercer made. On his world travels, Mercer collected other artifacts that include cuneiform tablets found in Mesopotamia that date to before 2300 BC. On the National Register of Historic Places, Fonthill Castle is open to the public.
Moultonborough, New Hampshire, is the location of Lucknow, originally the home of Thomas and Olive Plant. Known as the Castle in the Clouds, it sits high in the Ossipee Mountains. Thomas Plant was a shoe manufacturer who became a millionaire when he was 51 years old in 1910. In 1913 he married and set about creating his estate which eventually grew to 6,300 acres. Lucknow is designed in the Arts and Crafts architectural style. As one tours the home, it is as if time stopped in the early 1900s, with period furnishings right down to the vintage clothing in the closets.
On the opposite coast, in Tacoma, Washington, stands a 500-year-old castle that originally was built in England. In 1907, Chester Thorne purchased the home, had it dismantled and shipped to the Port of Tacoma, of which he was one of the founders. It became part of a larger structure built for his bride, Anna. The red brick of the outer walls was imported from Wales, while the doors and staircase were hand-hewn from 500-year-old English oak. Fountains and sunken gardens beautify the grounds surrounding the castle. Although it offers bed and breakfast suites, vacation rentals, and a lovely wedding venue, it has also been featured in several films, including Stephen King's "Rose Red."
Located on the Central California coast, William Randolph Hearst's home is a major California attraction. Begun in 1919, Hearst's "La Cuesta Encantada"- Spanish for The Enchanted Hill, sat on more than 250,000 acres William had inherited from his father George Hearst. The Gothic Study, part of Hearst's private suite on the third floor, was where he previewed his newspaper every evening before it went to press. There are 127 acres of gardens, pools, and fountains. Reservations are recommended for the ever-popular tours.
The story behind Scotty's Castle, located in Death Valley National Park, California, is even more fascinating than the home that bears his name. Walter Scott was a showman and wannabe gold prospector that conned wealthy Chicago businessman Albert Johnson out of at least a couple of grubstakes on a gold mine that no one today is even sure ever existed. Johnson decided to come west and see just what Scott was up to, and fell in love with the stark barrenness of the desert. He decided to build his home there and what followed was the incredible story of friendship and deception. Walter Scott never actually lived in the castle, but numerous guests over the years were given to believe that it was his home, and that the Johnsons were his guests. A pipe organ and piano that play themselves together are among the interesting things you will see during the guided tour.
Otto Hermann Kahn, the inspiration for "Mr. Monopoly," had his French chateau-styled mansion built on 443 acres at the highest point of Long Island, New York. Costing an estimated $110 million of today's dollars, the castle's name is an acronym of Mr. Kahn's name. Its 127 rooms cover 109,000 square feet. After Mr. Kahn's death in 1934, the estate went through several changes in owners, some of whom severely remodeled and painted the rooms, nearly obliterating its former glory. Fires set by vandals were also destructive. It was purchased in 1984 and painstakingly restored, and is now open to the public.