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The 12 Most Beautiful Castles in the United States

Picture of Helen Armitage
Updated: 1 March 2018
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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 12 of the USA’s most enchanting castles, from the grand Biltmore Estate in North Carolina to California’s Hearst Castle, for you to discover.

Hearst Castle, California

Perched high on a hilltop overlooking the Californian town of San Simeon, the Hearst Castle Estate was built between 1919 and 1947 – according to designs by noted architect Julia Morgan – for newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. Hearst nicknamed the estate ‘La Cuesta Encantada’ (‘The Enchanted Hill’) and by its completion, Hearst Castle comprised of four buildings, 165 rooms and 127 acres of beautiful terraced gardens. The gorgeous Casa del Mar guesthouse boasts panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean while the Gothic Study in Hearst Castle’s main building features a dramatic vaulted Spanish ceiling dating back to the early 1400s.

Hearst Castle’s Neptune Pool

Biltmore Estate, North Carolina

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains outside Asheville, North Carolina, the six-year-long construction of the Biltmore Estate, began in 1889 after George Vanderbilt visited the area and became enchanted by its beauty. Architect Richard Morris Hunt designed the 250-room French Renaissance chateau, while acclaimed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted envisioned the beautiful grounds surrounding the castle, including the beautiful 15-acre Azalea Garden, as home to some of the finest native azaleas in the nation. Today, the estate has its own vineyard and winery which produce award-winning wines and tours of the chateau – including its stately 70-foot ceiling banquet hall and bowling alley.

Boldt Castle, New York

Tucked away on a tiny isle in upstate New York’s Thousand Islands region, hotel magnate George C. Boldt began building his Rhineland-inspired castle in 1900 for him and his beloved wife Louise to enjoy as a summer home. Sadly, Louise died mere months before Boldt Castle was completed and a devastated George abruptly halted its construction. The castle sat unoccupied at the mercy of the elements for more than 70 years until the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired it and restored the castle to its current glory. The beautiful island estate includes the 120-room castle, its own drawbridge and the pretty Alster Tower.

Boldt Castle

The Breakers, Rhode Island

Another Vanderbilt family creation designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt, The Breakers is one of Newport’s most beautiful summer homes built in the late 19th century back when the picturesque Rhode Island coastal town was the playground of America’s wealthiest families. Taking inspiration from the Italian Renaissance palaces of 16th century Genoa and Turin, Hunt designed the 70-room mansion to include the grand Dining Room, with its dramatic freestanding columns and gilded cornice, and drafted in contemporary talents like Austrian-American sculptor Karl Bitter to create relief sculptures and Parisian interior design firm Jules Allard and Sons.

The Breakers
© Tony Kent/Flickr

Bishop’s Palace, Texas

Also known as Gresham’s House, Bishop’s Palace is located in Galveston’s East End Historic District and was built in the late 19th century for attorney and entrepreneur Colonel Walter Gresham and his family. Frequently cited by architectural historians as one of the USA’s most significant structures, Bishop’s Palace was designed by famed local architect Nicholas Clayton who built the beautiful Chateauesque mansion from steel and stone – a sturdy mixture that saw it endure the Great Storm of 1900 that destroyed much of Galveston. The mansion’s opulent interior features a dramatic mahogany stairwell, many stained glass windows and decorative wood carvings.

Bannerman Castle, New York

A tiny island 60 or so miles up the Hudson River from New York City is the setting of the beautiful ruins of Bannerman Castle. Built in the early 20th century by Scottish-American munitions merchant Francis Bannerman not as a home but as an arsenal, the castle was designed to resemble the medieval fortresses of Bannerman’s birthplace. Following his death in 1918, Bannerman Castle fell into disrepair and much of the structure was destroyed by a fire that broke out in 1969. Today the island is overseen by Bannerman Castle Trust who offer summertime island tours and host events including barbecue picnics and concerts.

Bannerman Castle

Castello di Amorosa, California

Located in the northern reaches of California’s wine country Napa Valley, the beautiful Castello di Amorosa can be deceiving: while at first glance it looks like a 13th century castle straight out of Tuscany, it was actually constructed over a 14-year period and officially opened its doors in 2007. Designed by owner and fourth generation winemaker Dario Sattui as a winery, Castello di Amorosa is surrounded by acres of vineyards producing award-winning Italian-style wines. Featuring 107 rooms, most of which are used for winemaking, Castello di Amorosa includes a drawbridge, a great hall with replica Italian frescoes and even its own dungeon and torture chamber.

Fonthill Castle, Pennsylvania

The former home of archeologist and ceramicist Henry Chapman Mercer, Fonthill Castle was constructed between 1908 and 1912 in Doylestown, Pennsylvania as a means of showcasing Mercer’s extensive collection of tiles and prints. Designed by Mercer himself, Fonthill Castle is pastiche of Medieval, Gothic and Byzantine styles and comprises of 44 rooms, 18 fireplaces and over 200 windows and was donated by Mercer as a museum following his death in 1930. On the same grounds as Fonthill Castle are the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, built by Mercer in 1912 and where many of Fonthill’s tiles were made.

Iolani Palace, Hawaii

Iolani Palace, Hawaii’s official royal residence, was built in 1882 in downtown Honolulu by King Kalakaua as a means of strengthening the then Kingdom of Hawaii’s prestige as a modern nation overseas. When the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown in 1893, Iolani Palace served as the capitol building until it underwent extensive renovation and reopened as a museum in 1978. Taking design inspiration from European palaces, Iolani is said to be the sole example of ‘American Florentine’ (a mixture of Italian Renaissance and native Hawaiian architectural styles) and is the only royal residence on US soil.

Lyndhurst Mansion, New York

Located in on the edge of the Hudson River in Tarrytown, New York, the Lyndhurst Mansion is the creation of acclaimed architect Alexander Jackson Davis who built the beautiful mansion in 1838. Said to be one of the finest Gothic Revival mansions in the nation, Lyndhurst has had several noteworthy residents since its construction including New York City mayor William Paulding and railroad tycoon Jay Gould. Tours of Lyndhurst Mansion – including its Art Gallery, home to paintings including French artist William Bouguereau’s 1866 work First Caresses – are available on Fridays and weekends.

Thornewood Castle, Washington

Though it was built just over 100 years ago, Thornewood Castle – nestled on the edges of American Lake in Lakewood, Washington – actually dates back much further. Chester Thorne, a local prominent banker and developer, dreamt of building a Tudor Gothic home and after buying a 400-year-old English manor, had it painstakingly dismantled, transported and reconstructed with the help of architect Kirtland Kelsey Cutter. Now an inn, guests at Thornewood Castle have access to the estate’s private dock and lakeside beach and the beautiful sunken ‘Secret Garden’ designed by the famous Olmsted Brothers, sons of Frederick Law Olmsted.

Thornewood Castle
© Joe Mabel/WikiCommons

Hammond Castle, Massachusetts

Inspired by his time living in England as a child where he fell in love with its castles, American inventor John Hays Hammond Jr. built the beautiful Hammond Castle between 1926 and 1929 overlooking Massachusetts’ scenic Gloucester Harbor to act as his home and laboratory. Constructed from a mix of local stone and various Roman, medieval and Renaissance era artefacts Hammond had collected during travels to Europe, Hammond Castle is now a museum with visitors free to tour its enchanting rooms like the beautiful inner courtyard, partly made from medieval storefronts Hammond found on a trip to France.

Hammond Castle
© Stilfehler/WikiCommons
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