Monday, June 28, 2010

Visited "Fonthill" Modern Castle of Concrete!

To celebrate our anniversary on June 26, we took a trip to visit "Fonthill" - a Modern Castle made entirely of concrete and rebar (metal poles that hold it together) by the founder of Moravia Tile Works (which is next door) that we also visited. This castle is not only unique, but bizarre. Mercer used all of the tiles in his home that his tile works created! Here's the summary from the Fonthill Web page:
Built between 1908-1912, Fonthill was the home of Henry Chapman Mercer (1856-1930). Archaeologist, anthropologist, ceramist, scholar and antiquarian, Mercer built Fonthill both as his home and as a showplace for his collection of tiles and prints. The first of three Mercer buildings in Doylestown, Fonthill served as a showplace for Mercer's famed Moravian tiles that were produced during the American Arts & Crafts Movement. Designed by Mercer, the building is an eclectic mix of Medieval, Gothic, and Byzantine architectural styles, and is significant as an early example of poured reinforced concrete.

Tom and I entered the house in a very dark entry way. Outside we had noticed that the windows were all different sizes and inside there were openings in the house through walls also of all different sizes. Windows and openings were just placed wherever Mr. Mercer thought one should be. Tom described it as "an architect's nightmare" because nothing was square. Regardless, we were both totally fascinated with the building.
It took about 1 hour to go through on an abbreviated tour. The upstairs floors were too hot to tour in the summertime, because there was no air conditioning of course! It's really hard to describe this "house." It really felt more like a castle, but the tiles all over every wall, ceiling and floor in each room were bizarre.
I didn't sense a ghost in the house, just a residual energy of sadness, particularly in the large "library" area. We learned that Mr. Mercer was never married, didn't care for the company of women, was very artistic, loved to travel (he traveled the world doing excavations for his hobby in archeology and collected (and displayed) artifacts from as far back as 3,000 BC), and loved his dogs. (it doesn't take much guesswork to figure out that he was gay, does it?).
He had Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, and the tour guide told us there were about 20 dogs in all! Clearly, Mercer's favorite was his dog Rollo (who is buried on the property). In the house, there are Rollo's pawprints in various concrete stairways, and one is actually labeled (in tiled letters) "Rollo's Stairway." The devotion and love to his dogs was really moving to us as dog lovers. In fact, the day Rollo passed away, Mercer wrote a really touching tribute on paper (that was displayed in the house) saying he looks forward to seeing his best friend Rollo in the afterlife.
Enjoy these photos of this wonderful, bizarre, and interesting place!

These are photos of the Moravian Tile Works. We also took a tour of the tile works and the entire process of making the tiles was explained as we walked through it. Of course, it was 94F, so it was hot in there- and we could only imagine how much hotter it was when the ovens were going and tiles were being produced. We learned that all of the clay used to make the tiles are from local sources.
The tile company became famous when the Pennsylvania State House commissioned Mr. Mercer to completely tile that building. Mercer also tiled many other landmark buildings.
Like Mercer's house "Fonthill," the building of the tileworks was built entirely out of concrete, and was designed in "Mission Style" like buildings in the American Southwest. Combined with Fonthill, the tileworks makes for a great trip!
Bucks County Tourism Summary: The Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, a National Historic Landmark, is maintained as a "working history" museum by Pennsylvania's County of Bucks, Department of Parks and Recreation. Handmade tiles are still produced in a manner similar to that developed by the pottery's founder and builder, Henry Chapman Mercer (1856-1930). Mercer was a major proponent of the Arts & Crafts Movement in America. He directed the work at the pottery from 1898 until his death in 1930. You may still purchase handmade reissues of tiles and mosaics made in the American Arts & Crafts tradition from us.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Gift/Memorial Suggestions

Several of our friends have lost loved ones (human and pets) and we found that one of the best ways to honor their memory is to give to an animal charity.
What better way to recognize a life of love, than by giving another life a chance for love?
We donate to many animal rescues, but because we volunteer with
DC Weimaraner Rescue and Coast-to-Coast Dachshund Rescue, those are our 2 favorites.
Consider giving the chance of life to a dog or cat.

About us

We're two married guys who enjoy the simple things in life, especially our dogs. We volunteer for dog rescues, enjoy splitting dinners, exercising, blogging, helping friends and neighbors, ghost investigations, coffee and tea, Tudor history, weather, superheroes, comic books, mystery novels, traveling, 70s and 80s music, classic country, piano, gardening, writing books on ghosts and spirits, architecture, keeping a clean house, cooking simply, and keeping in shape. You'll find tidbits of all of these things on this blog and more.

Tom and Rob Thinking Hard!

Tom and Rob Thinking Hard!
Wondering what home project to do next