Down an allee of ancient trees in Bucks County lies a ancient looking fairytale arts and crafts castle. This is the last thing you would expect to find in rural Pennsylvania, more fitted to the English countryside perhaps.More bizarre however is the material: concrete. Much like his museum, the Mercer, Henry Chapman Mercer built his own house between 1908 and 1912 out of this versatile material. While not quite to the extent as the museum, the house still incorporates concrete in the roofs (mostly covered in clay tiles made at the adjacent factory), dormers, chimneys, floors, walls and ceilings. Light was Mercer's key concern. Over 200 windows were incorporated into the facade in all shapes and sizes: Most are operable. As a testament to the design, even on cloudy days candlelight (or electric lights) are barely needed unlike the castle's European precedents.The house is truly quirky and enchanting. As it's the brainchild of Mercer, I would expect him to be a fascinating character as well: I'd love to pick his brain over a meal!Color is greatly incorporated into the building, unlike his later museum. While most of the interior pastel colors have faded over the years (another testament to the amount of light received) the window sills and doors are still vibrant shades of red and yellow.
Mercer employed a surprisingly small number of employees in the building of his structures, whom he would personally train. He was a great employer in that he loved that they all took pride in their work and treated them well. Many are commemorated throughout the space, such as the work horse (literally) Lucy; He created a wind vane in her honor.The house is truely an amalgamation of styles and shapes - a working dictionary of forms. From one angle it may appear one way and then after turning the corner, the structure takes on an entirely different shape. Here you can see some examples of the concrete windows - inoperable of course. They were created from the moulds of operable antique wood windows, with the glass set into wet concrete. An unusual technique and one which works well obviously as the windows are original to the structure.
Mercer was lucky to have passed away at his beloved home in 1930. His housekeepers lived in the house till their deaths many years later at which point it became a museum. Of course, stories are passed around about the castle being haunted, but I had no such experience as I did at the nearby Phillips Mill!Don't miss the interiors tomorrow!
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